Serious tensions can arise in a country’s integrity system when anti- corruption policies pose a threat to fundamental values and standards under which a democratic state operates, particularly human and civil rights.
This public lecture examines these tensions using the case of the Sierra Leone civil conflict, where the risk arises especially in situations of ‘moral panic’, where intense public and political discourse around a specific issue, with a strong sense of threat to society also generates expectations that policy and decision makers will quickly solve the problem.
Together we will examine the need and the scope for developing research and evaluation instruments which help reduce the risk that anti- corruption initiatives will undermine the basis of a democratic state if possible and with recommendations in this regard.
Corruption, no matter how it is defined, raises concerns about human and civil rights. Even when not a crime, acts of corruption still violate the rule of law in a broader sense.
This is not to say, of course, that all acts of corruption imply a violation of rights. The assumption that one implies the other is quite often made and nevertheless, if taken to extremes, it will tend to banalise and overextend the sensible application of human rights principles.
If corruption is shown to violate human rights, this will influence public attitudes. When people become more aware of the damage corruption does to public and individual interests, and the harm that even minor corruption can cause, they are more likely to support campaigns and programmes to prevent it. This is important because, despite strong rhetorics, the political impact of most anti- corruption programmes has been low. Identifying the specific links between corruption and human rights may persuade key actors – that is, public officials, parliamentarians, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, business people, bankers, accountants, the media and the public in general – to take a stronger stand against corruption. This may be so even in countries where reference to human rights is sensitive.
Human rights standards, as established in major international treaties and domestic legislation, impose obligations on states. Focusing on specific human rights will help to identify who is entitled to make claims when acts of corruption occur and who has a duty to take action against corruption and protect those harmed by it. A clear understanding of the practical connections between acts of corruption and human rights may empower those who have legitimate claims to demand their rights in relation to corruption, and may assist states and other public authorities to respect, protect and fulfill their human rights responsibilities at every level.
The United Nations human rights mechanisms are increasingly mindful of the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights and consequently of the importance of effective anti-corruption measures. The Human Rights Council and its Special Rapporteurs and Universal Periodic Review Mechanisms, as well as Human Rights Treaty-monitoring bodies (notably the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child), addressed issues of corruption and human rights on numerous occasions.
However, there is another aspect of the relationship between corruption, and human and civil rights, which has been analyzed even less frequently. Jn this instance, the question we should be asking is: ‘Can anti-corruption policies, if designed and implemented improperly, be just as harmful to human and civil rights as corruption itself?’
To answer this question in this lecture , we will use the case of Sierra Leone to show that this risk is real, and attempt to show how important it has become for research and evaluation on anti-corruption policies to include a specific focus on how the risk is being managed or mitigated.
For today’s discussion we will first introduce the general problem of the potential for serious tension between anti- corruption policies and human and civil rights, and in response, discuss the potential solutions offered by holistic approaches to policy evaluation. As an example, let us talk about: ‘The anti-corruption Act 2008’ amended and ‘Act. No. 9 of 2004 to protect and promote human rights’, being Acts enacted by the President and Members of Parliament to establish a Commission for the protection and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone and to provide for other related matters.
In countries where corruption is pervasive in the rule-of-law system, both the implementation of existing legal frameworks and efforts to reform them are impeded by corrupt judges, lawyers, prosecutors, police officers, investigators and auditors. Such practices compromise the right to equality before the law and the right to a fair trial, and especially undermine the access of the disadvantaged groups to justice as they cannot afford to offer bribes. Importantly, corruption in the rule-of-law system weakens the very accountability structures which are responsible for protecting human rights and contributes to a culture of impunity, since illegal actions are not punished and laws are not consistently upheld.
In conclusion there, fighting to kill corruption, issues of tribe and tongue and party affiliations will kill the fight against corruption first before corruption begins to fight back.
Corruption impacts men and women differently and reinforces and perpetuates existing gender inequalities. Women’s lack of access to political and economic power excludes them from networks that permit access to decision-making bodies. Where institutions are controlled by men, women do not have enough power to challenge corruption or clientelism. Corruption in the legislative and executive branches can allow discriminatory laws to stand, while corruption in the judicial branch can discriminate against women who do not have the means to challenge such laws.
Corruption may also have a disproportionate impact on children. While children possess in general, the same civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as adults, they also have certain rights specific to them. Most of these are identified in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and in Article 10(3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Corruption can violate many of the rights that children share with adults, including the right to life and the right to health. In addition, some rights, such as the right to education, are particularly important to children. As explained in more detail in the section on the right to education, corruption in the education sector very often violates the rights of children.
Corrupt practices harm three other rights that are particularly relevant to children: a child’s right to be protected during adoption procedures; the right to protection from trafficking and sexual exploitation; and the right to be protected from child labour.
People living in poverty
Corruption has a severely detrimental impact on the lives of people living in poverty when compared with higher income groups. Corruption not only affects economic growth and discourages foreign investment, thereby indirectly affecting the poor, but reduces the net income of those living in poverty, distorts policies, programmes and strategies that aim to meet their basic needs, and diverts public resources from investments in infrastructure that are crucial elements of strategies to lift them out of poverty. Where corruption is generalised, for example, poor people are as exposed as others to the small-scale bribery of public officials (notably in the healthcare, law enforcement and judicial sectors) but the effect on their purse will be heavier. Large-scale corruption meanwhile, damages the quality of public services on which the poor depend particularly to meet their basic needs. Here again they are disproportionately affected.
Most Sierra Leoneans believe that one of the reasons why corruption is refusing to die is that the campaign itself does not enjoy the support of Sierra Leoneans themselves. Instead, most Sierra Leoneans appear to love corruption and this is why: for starters, most Sierra Leoneans say that an average politician is a ‘coward’ who has ‘two different mouths’. Meaning, a politician tells you that we must change, and that change begins with us but nothing in the disposition of the politician changes.
Thank you all for listening
Abdul M Fatoma
Chief Executive & Founder
CAMPAIGN for HUMAN RIGHT & DEVELOPMENT INTERNATIONAL (CHRDI)
Cell 00447494312700 UK
Cell 0023278527242 Sleone