Contemporary challenges to the independence and impartiality of prosecutors

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council the ICJ today emphasized the need for a human-rights-based approach to addressing corruption in justice systems, and urged more attention be given to the abuse of non-independent prosecution services by Executive governments.

The statement, delivered in an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, read as follows:

“Mr Special Rapporteur,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) concurs with the affirmation in your report that justice systems must effectively counter corruption; that corruption in justice systems negatively impacts human rights; and that addressing such impacts is within the mandate of the Human Rights Council.[1]

At the same time, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) already actively provides resources and specialized technical expertise to States and prosecutors in implementing the Convention against Corruption. Keeping the Human Rights Council’s focus on the specific value added by a human-rights-based approach to such overlapping issues makes the best use of the Council and OHCHR’s limited resources and special competence and expertise.

For example, this report could have presented a detailed analysis of, and recommendations on, the right to remedy and reparation of victims of human rights violations caused by corruption of prosecutors, judges and lawyers. However, while the report briefly mentions victims (para 30), human rights defenders (para 31), and human rights training (para 58), and that human rights issues can impede international cooperation (para 49), but otherwise it mostly addresses technical advice for effective counter-corruption measures. The ICJ invites you to elaborate on the specific new elements a human-rights-based approach adds to the expert advice already provided by UNODC in this regard.

We also urge you to devote a future report to the manipulation of non-independent prosecution services by Executive governments to repress dissenting voices and human rights defenders, neutralize political opposition, shrink civil society space, and entrench impunity for human rights violations, which as our submission documented is no less urgent a global human rights issue than corruption, and is not a special focus of UN bodies other than the Council and OHCHR.

Thank you.”

[1] Indeed, twenty years ago the ICJ adopted a Policy Framework for Preventing and Eliminating Corruption and Ensuring the Impartiality of the Judicial System and its work against corruption in cooperation with judiciaries and prosecution services continues at the global and national levels.

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