See my full report on the Australian Government's Magnitsky Inquiry, including submission analysis: 'Sanctioned Targets'.
The Parliament’s Inquiry into “targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses” or ‘Magnitsky sanctions’, is an appalling example of narrative management and selective ‘evidence gathering’. This Inquiry makes one thing abundantly clear: targeted sanctions have nothing to do with human rights.
Magnitsky sanctions use fundamental human rights as both shield and cudgel - a coercive foreign policy tool behind a facade of altruism, implemented despite collateral damage to human life. Research by the Targeted Sanctions Consortium revealed sanctions resulted in unintended negative humanitarian consequences in 44% of cases, results reflected in a 2019 report published by the International Peace Institute: “Those implementing the sanctions often lack sufficient understanding of—or are not willing to acknowledge—how sanctions regimes harm humanitarian action, in particular given the shift to more targeted sanctions… Sanction regimes can delay or block import of humanitarian goods… Violating sanctions can lead to fines, as well as civil or criminal prosecution, by states.” Smaller NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are most affected, as they “do not have the same resources and capacity as UN agencies or bigger NGOs, particularly local NGOs that often cover the last mile in delivering aid in difficult contexts.” De-risking by banks, insurance companies, online payment or donation services (ie Paypal) have “a direct impact on their ability to operate, causing programs to be delayed, scaled back, or even closed… humanitarian organizations have been unable to pay their vendors and local implementation partners, creating security risks for staff on the ground.”
NKHumanitarian, a UK/Australian organisation which researches humanitarian issues in North Korea (DPRK), authored the only submission which seriously addressed damaging effects of targeted sanctions on humanitarian work. “Based on the evidence provided by the long history of sanctions imposed upon the DPRK, it is the contention of NKHumanitarian that sanctions are largely ineffective and have an adverse and disproportionate humanitarian impact on the ordinary population of the country… Our position is that the adverse humanitarian consequences of sanctions are not lessened just because they are aimed at combatting human rights abuses rather than being directed at a country’s development of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the evidence suggests that sanctions weaken human rights…” NKHumanitarian did not testify at Inquiry hearings.
36% of Inquiry submissions identified as ‘human rights advocates’. Of these, 57% identified potentially negative issues (meaning 43% were pro-Magnitsky, without reservation). Under half (45%) acknowledged due process implications - including adequate procedural safeguards, appeal mechanisms and human rights compatibility of Magnitsky legislation, although sanctions clearly impact a number of fundamental human rights. 10% made recommendations which directly contravene human rights law - including recommending reverse burden of proof in ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders’ and that any Chinese businessman/official ‘suspected’ of human rights violations should be sanctioned.
Submitters and witnesses emphasise the necessity of involving NGOs in the sanctions process - with a leading or legislated role in providing evidence and determining sanctions targets. Inquiry witness Professor Irwin Cotler references Magnitsky sanctions applied against Venezuela, attributed to a report produced by a three person ‘independent panel of experts’ (of which Cotler was one), established by Washington DC-based NGO, the ‘Organisation of American States’ (OAS). Independent journalist Stephan Sefton reports the “bogus fact finding of the OAS, the UN and foreign NGOs…they systematically omit sources and facts that contradict or exclude their preferred finding.” According to Sefton, “…NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all guilty of extreme bad faith, [and] non-compliance with basic norms… In effect, they are themselves all accomplices to very serious human rights violations by Nicaragua’s US supported armed opposition… none of these organizations have adhered even to the Huridocs guidelines... [which] propose concepts and good practice in relation to fact-finding, documentation and monitoring of human rights violations… [these] human rights organizations have categorically failed to comply…”
Sefton writes corrupt NGOs serve in ‘psychological warfare’ operations in service of the US-UK intelligence apparatus and regime-change profiteers: “…NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the U.S. elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West… they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums…”
Inquiry submissions acknowledge gathering evidence for sanctions targets is “very time-consuming”, NGOs contributing to fact-finding “would create less work for the minister in gathering information and evidence.” The Department of Foreign Affairs acknowledges a new sanctions regime has substantial resource implications in evidence gathering and analysis. How is this expense so easily contributed by non-profit organisations? If we’re relying on NGO reports to impose punishing sanctions, we should know who’s paying for them.
‘Humanitarian’ organisations provide virtuous branding for politically-motivated undertakings. Amnesty International has a long and troubling history of collaboration with US & UK intelligence. Inquiry witness Human Rights Watch originated as U.S. anti-Soviet organisation, the Helsinki Watch Committee, co-founded by Aryeh Neier: “When we created Human Rights Watch, one of the main purposes at the outset was to leverage the power, the purse and the influence of the United States to try to promote human rights in other countries.” Independent journalist Max Blumenthal reports on Human Rights Watch’s direct involvement in regime change, support of military coups and encouraging devastating economic sanctions in South American countries.
The Magnitsky Inquiry exposes the ‘human rights cartel’ of the non-profit industrial complex. Powerful NGOs with shadowy, often undeclared vested interests and vast swathes of donated money, dominate the sector. Selective (or fabricated) reporting ignores humanitarian issues that do not contribute to a preconceived agenda. The human rights cartel are a grotesque charade, exploiting the compassion of a naive public - these seemingly benevolent NGOs are in fact industrial behemoths facilitating regime change and promoting corporate interests. Independent journalist Cory Morningstar writes, “There is an imperative here to understand that these organizations are the key to the behavioural change for the global populace – change sought and heavily financed by foundations. … One could rightly muse that the non-profit industrial complex is the largest army in the world.”
Human rights abuses that do not fit regime-change agendas are irrelevant, no matter how close to home. China’s 2019 report on distressing human rights violations in the US was likely tit-for-tat, but as independent journalist Alan Macleod points out, “China’s damning US Human Rights Report… may be propaganda, but it’s not wrong.” Committee MP Chris Hayes references Australia’s “strong role in settling refugees”, however there is no acknowledgement of recent UN rulings declaring Australia had breached multiple human rights laws in its arbitrary detention of refugees.
‘The Sentry’ is an NGO co-founded by George Clooney. The Sentry’s submission focusses on ‘messaging’ and ‘narratives surrounding sanctions’, including narrative management in the country imposing the sanctions (which in this case would be Australia).
The Sentry purportedly fights war profiteering, however its parent organisation, the Enough Project, was founded by the Center for American Progress (CAP). A 2013 investigation by Ken Silverstein revealed that CAP “takes money from corporate donors without disclosing it” and “sometimes acts as an undisclosed lobbyist for its donors.” Undisclosed benefactors of CAP’s Business Alliance, ‘a secret group of corporate donors’, included weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Electric. Author/activist David Swanson says the CAP “has backed most recent wars… It turns out Clooney opposes, not war profiteering in general, but war profiteering while African… 79% of all weapons transfers to poor nations are from the United States.” The Sentry produces reports which Swanson says ignore US-UK contributions to war in African countries, instead advocating for regime change, most recently in South Sudan. Investigative journalist Whitney Webb writes: “the creation of South Sudan at America’s behest was the ultimate result of long-standing U.S. efforts to exploit the decades-old conflict between Sudan’s northern and southern elites in a bid to weaken the Sudanese government, whose growing ties to China and the Soviet Union threatened American access to Sudan’s oil fields as well as American hegemony in Africa.”
South Sudan is rich in natural resources and recently announced it was strengthening cooperation with China to increase oil production. The Sentry’s report infers that a Chinese mining company’s new land permits were responsible for military violence and displacement of thousands of people from the area several weeks later, although tracing back source information documents ongoing conflict between government troops and rebel militia, and does not mention the mining company at all. It appears the Sentry engages in selective reporting, taking opportunistic and reprehensible advantage of instances of human rights abuse to further their own agenda. The Sentry’s report recommends US persons should be prohibited from “conducting business with foreign persons found to be active in key sectors of South Sudan’s economy that the US Treasury Secretary identifies as captured by corrupt regime elites, including the oil and mining industries.” (Emphasis added) CNN reported Clooney & co were “hopeful that governments around the world are going to take [the Sentry’s South Sudan report] and act on it… they have already reached out to the White House about looking at expanding their sanctions regime… they say they’re optimistic that change will happen.”
NGO ‘Safeguard Defenders’ submission includes an attached report, overwhelmingly China-phobic, which instructs how to submit Magnitsky sanction filings. The report says submissions against an entire branch of government (the example referenced is ‘Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau’) are allowed but have not yet happened- in this case sanctions "would affect both the bureau and anyone associated with it. It could also prohibit sales of technology or arms to the bureau”. The report reveals Magnitsky sanctions are deeply political: the "best time to submit your Magnitsky filing may be when relations between the U.S. and the target country is at its most strained… In reality, these Acts often serve as a tool for furthering national interests and you should expect the government to act only when it has determined that it is in its own interests to do so. You will make your submission stronger if you argue that it will help advance the Magnitsky jurisdiction’s interests. You would need to bring in its wider objectives and not simply reflect its stated principles of promoting and upholding human rights.” The report warns that any “friendship groups” within parliaments are ‘probably pro-CCP'.
Inquiry witnesses lament the alleged failure of the UN Human Rights Council, which is “not exercising the roles and responsibilities it should…” The International Criminal Court is supposedly “blackballed” or ‘disdained’ by Russia, the US and China. Magnitsky sanctions are recommended as a workaround of these international organisations, “a kind of plan B for the global justice movement.” No-one acknowledges the danger of delegitimising international courts charged with investigating and prosecuting the gravest crimes against humanity.
Magnitsky proponents are ganging up - Australia is expected to join in. Clooney says, “We have a retreat of democracies, and so it's left for countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the US and the like to act in concert… to create an effective critical mass of countries that will be bringing about a measure of justice… [Australia] can form part of a coalition of the committed, working with other leading governments that are determined to make progress on human rights and act together to create accountability for abuse.” As Committee MP Chris Hayes points out, the US runs the international financial system: sanctions leveraged “without the support of the Americans and their banking system… would be symbolic, at its height, wouldn't it…”
Targeted sanctions negatively impact human rights and humanitarian work. This information is ignored or deflected in hearings- because it is irrelevant to the Inquiry’s pretence of evidence gathering and obstructs the obvious intent to subversively control the narrative and manufacture consensus, ushering in the ‘plan B’ of Magnitsky sanctioneers - the weaponisation of human rights.