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NHC at UN Anti-Corruption Conference of State Parties

14 November 2017

“Information on the abuse of international standards by judges and prosecutors should be employed systematically in international law enforcement and judicial cooperation.”

Information on abuse of international standards by judges and prosecutors should be employed systematically in international law enforcement and judicial cooperation, argued the Netherlands Helsinki Committee at the Conference of State Parties of the UN Convention against Corruption which was held in Vienna from 6 to 10 November.

NHC Associate Policy Director Harry Hummel took part in a side event on 10 November, on the misuse of police, prosecution service and courts to silence dissent, to retain and expand power and to enrich corrupt officials. When this happens, institutions cannot fulfill their proper role of upholding the rule of law and human rights. “They become agents of human rights violations rather than protectors of human rights. Often corruption is the main cause of the refusal of judicial officials to take an independent stance and to keep up human rights. They are using legal mechanisms to persecute those who monitor and publish about human rights and corruption,” Harry Hummel said. Information from UN human rights procedures often refers to problems of corruption, he argued, and should be used more in reviewing the performance of states in complying with the UN Convention against Corruption. For example, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has made corruption one of his priority subjects for the coming years. His reports and conclusions should not just be discussed in the Human Rights Council of the UN but taken on board in anti-corruption procedures and events as well.

Involvement of prosecutors and judges in human rights abuse and corruption implies a clear violation of professional standards. The NHC has appealed to the international associations of prosecutors and judges to establish procedures to deal with breaches of these standards. Several international petitions by civil society organisations to the International Association of Prosecutors, whose document on professional standards was endorsed by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2008, have until now not been answered. “In situations where national systems are corrupted, international mechanisms should be employed wherever possible. We don’t deny that contacts, cooperation and support among prosecutors is of great importance, but upholding the integrity of the profession is an indispensable condition to maintain credibility”, Harry Hummel said. The NHC has created a dedicated website, to raise awareness on this subject.

The side event at the UN Conference was organized by the Center for International Human Rights of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago.