What international laws impact Australia’s national security laws?

International security law has impacted greatly on the way national security law is implemented in Australia. International security laws are part of the international community’s coordinated response to mitigate and prevent threats to global security particularly with respect to terrorist acts.


The following list of instruments have been ratified and implemented into Australian law:

  • 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
  • International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (New York, signed in 2005)
  • International Convention for the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purposes of Detection (Montreal, signed in 1991)
  • International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (New York, signed in 1999)
  • International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (New York, signed in 1997)
  • Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation (Montreal, signed in 1988)
  • Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (Rome, signed in 1988)
  • Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Rome, signed in 1988)
  • Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Vienna, signed in 1980)
  • International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (New York, signed in 1979)
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents (New York, signed in 1973)
  • Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Sabotage) (Montreal, signed in 1971)
  • Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (The Hague, signed in 1970)
  • Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft (Tokyo, signed 1963)


To understand some of Australia’s international obligations in relation to global security, we have provided a brief summary of some of the previously listed international instruments.


Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Sabotage convention)

The Sabotage or Montreal convention aims to prohibit and punish behaviour that may threaten the safety of civil aviation. State parties must attribute criminal liability for the following conduct if a person intentionally:

  • Performs a violent act against a person on board an aircraft in flight;
  • Destroys an aircraft in service or causes damage to an aircraft in such a way which renders it inapplicable to fly;
  • Places or causes to be placed a device or substance which is likely to destroy an aircraft;
  • Destroys or damages air navigation facilities or interferes with their operation;
  • Communicates information which he/she knows to be false.

All these acts amount to an offence if it is likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft.

Australia has made legislated criminal provisions with respect to such conduct under the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991 as required by its obligations under the Sabotage convention.


International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (Hostages convention)

The Hostages convention expressly forbids the taking of hostages. Such an act is considered an offence of grave concern to the international community. Accordingly any person committing an act of hostage taking must be prosecuted or extradited.

The Hostage convention says that hostage taking is an offence if a person:

  • seizes or detains; and
  • threatens to kill, injures or continues to detain a hostage(s);
  • in order to compel a third party, a State, an international intergovernmental organisation, a natural or judicial person, or a group of persons;
  • does or abstains from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of a hostage(s).

The provisions of the Hostages convention have become Australian law through the enactment of the Crimes (Hostages) Act 1989.


International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (Terrorist Bombings Convention)

The objective of the Terrorist Bombings convention is to enhance international cooperation among States in adopting practical measures to prevent acts of terrorism, and compels state parties to make jurisdiction and punishable such acts under their national law.

A person commits an offence within the meaning of the Terrorist Bombings convention if that person:

  • delivers, places, discharges or detonates an explosive or other lethal device;
    • in or against a place of public use, a State or government facility, a public transportation system or an infrastructure facility;
    • with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or extensive destruction likely to result or resulting in major economic loss.

Australia has implemented the Terrorist bombings convention into domestic law through the Criminal Code Amendment (Suppression of Terrorist Bombings) Act 2002. The substantive hostage taking offence is contained in division 72 of the Criminal Code 1995.

Other international instruments have become law in Australia through:


International sanctions

Sanctions are another way of limiting the adverse consequences of threats to global security. Sanctions are generally defined as measures not involving the use of armed force. It may include a complete or partial interruption of economic relations. Australian sanctions law comprises of sanctions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and its own autonomous sanctions regime.

There are different types of sanctions measures which include:

  • Export and import restrictions on sanctioned goods and services.
  • Prohibitions on dealing with a ‘designated person or entity’.
  • Restrictions on dealing with a ‘controlled asset’.
  • Travel bans for declared or designated persons.

For example, export and/or import restrictions apply, to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Russia and North Korea.

These sanctions apply to activities conducted in Australia and to activities by Australian citizens and Australian-registered bodies corporate overseas. Furthermore, serious criminal offences such as contravention of sanctions measures without a permit carry significant penalties. The penalties include substantial fines or a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment.


Key takeaways

Australia has obligations to adopt global conventions, protocols and amendments into domestic law, in the interest of international security. Some notable international instruments that have been adopted into Australian law relate to hostage taking, terrorist bombings, sanctions and the safety of civil aviation.

Nyman Gibson Miralis advises and represents individuals and corporations dealing with international and national security investigations and probes, interviews, administrative decisions and related court proceedings. 

Contact us if you require assistance.