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“Corruption in the judiciary threatens the rule of law and protection for human rights,” warns UN expert

NEW YORK (24 October 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, warned today that the existence of corruption in the judiciary remains a daunting challenge in many countries, and urged world governments to place the independence of judges, prosecutors and lawyers at the centre of their policies to prevent and fight corruption and to strengthen the rule of law and human rights.

“The pervasiveness of corruption in the judiciary and the legal profession, whether one off or endemic, is very worrying because it directly undermines the rule of law and the ability of the judiciary to guarantee the protection of human rights,” said Ms. Knaul, presenting her latest annual report* to the UN General Assembly.

“A judiciary that is not independent can easily be corrupted or co-opted by interests other than those of applying the law in a fair and impartial manner,” she highlighted. “Strengthening the judiciary from within, as well as providing all the safeguards for its independence vis-à-vis other public officials and private actors, is essential in combating and preventing instances of judicial corruption.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that judicial corruption has a strong potential for victimizing those who do not have the means to play by the informal rules set by a corrupt system. “Corruption in the judiciary discourages people from resorting to the formal justice system, thereby diverting dispute settlements towards informal systems that more than often do not abide by the basic principles of impartiality, fairness, non-discrimination and due process,” she stated.

“Whenever suspicion or evidence of acts of corruption arises, there should be effective mechanisms of accountability to deal with them,” the independent expert underscored. “Such mechanisms should be developed with the full participation and consent of the actors concerned. They should not be used for groundless attacks against the independence of the justice system.”

“I strongly believe that the existing international principles and standards on human rights and corruption provide adequate guidance on how to tackle judicial corruption while respecting the independence of the justice system and human rights,” Ms. Knaul said.

The Special Rapporteur also emphasized that besides combating corruption from within the judiciary, judges, prosecutors and lawyers are in a unique position to tackle the wider phenomenon of corruption in other instances of the public and private sectors. “I believe that anti-corruption bodies should be established or developed to effectively assist judicial actors to combat corruption and to implement and strengthen transparency within the public sector,” concluded the expert.

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems. Learn more: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm

(*) Check the full report: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/461/84/PDF/N1246184.pdf?OpenElement

Check the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/indjudiciary.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 9186 / aflores@ohchr.org), Fred Kirungi (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org) or write to SRindependencejl@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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