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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE DISCUSSES NEGATIVE IMPACT OF CORRUPTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
13 August 2013

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this afternoon discussed the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights.

Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, opened the discussion and recalled that Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 23/9 on the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, in which it requested the Advisory Committee to submit a research-based report to its session in June 2014 and to make recommendations on how the Council and its subsidiary bodies should consider the issue.

Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Committee Expert, introducing the topic said human rights instruments, if truly respected, would enable corruption to be combated.  Access to justice, transparency and accountability was important, as was consideration of how individuals could seek to tackle corruption themselves. Corruption was the subject of international and regional conventions, but its impact on human rights was missing from those instruments.

In the discussion Committee Members spoke about the many forms of corruption and the many actors that helped it flourish, and said it constituted one of the obstacles to the effective promotion and protection of human rights as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Some speakers noted that the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights had already been tackled, and asked what added value the Committee could bring to existing studies.  One speaker said the report should not only regard the negative aspects of corruption in a general matter but also in terms of the individual victim and the most vulnerable groups.  Financing of political parties should also be addressed.  One speaker called for the establishment of a mandate for a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Corruption and Human Rights. 

The following Committee members spoke in the discussion:  Katharina Pabel, Saeed Mohamed Al Faihani, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Vladimir Kartashkin, Jose Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Anantonia Reyes Prado, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Mona Zulficar, Alfred Ntunduguru Karokora, Mario L. Coriolano and Chung Chinsung.

Morocco, Indonesia, Austria, Switzerland and Ethiopia also took the floor, as did the non-governmental organization Transparency International.

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will next meet in public tomorrow, Wednesday 14 August at 3 p.m. when it will discuss standing items on the agenda and follow-up reports submitted to the Council.

Statement by Chairperson of the Advisory Committee

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, recalled that Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 23/9 on the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, in which it requested the Advisory Committee to submit a research-based report to its twenty-sixth session in June 2014 and to make recommendations on how the Council and its subsidiary bodies should consider the issue. 

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, introducing the topic said a number of organizations and bodies worked to combat corruption, using a range of regulatory instruments.  It was interesting to see that the issue of human rights had already been looked at by the previous Sub-Commission on Human Rights.  Human rights instruments, if they were truly respected, would enable corruption to be combated.  Another important element was access to justice, transparency and accountability.  Very little reflection had been undertaken on what individuals could do for themselves to set up mechanisms to combat corruption.  Tackling corruption was the subject of international and regional conventions.  What was missing was the issue of the negative impact of corruption on human rights. 

KATHARINA PABEL, Committee Expert, said that the report should not only regard the negative aspects of corruption in general but also for individuals.  What did corruption mean for individuals?  What did the individual suffer in relation to human rights?  It was important to take the perspective of the victims of corruption, especially specific vulnerable groups.  There would not only be a link between corruption and the negative impact on human rights, but also the possibility to add human rights mechanisms to the fight against corruption.

A representative of Morocco said that the idea to consider the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights came up in June 2012 when it delivered a joint-statement to the Human Rights Council that received an upsurge of support.  In September 2012, Morocco decided it was time to hold a panel discussion in the Council on the issue; the panel took place at the March 2013 session.  The objectives set were largely achieved and there was consensus on the link between efforts to combat corruption and human rights.  Stakeholders needed to work on a human rights-based approach.

A representative of Indonesia agreed that there was an undeniable link between corruption and the enjoyment of human rights.  Resolution 23/9 requested the Committee produce a research-based report and make recommendations on how the Council and its subsidiary bodies should further consider the issue.  The Committee should bear in mind that recommendations should be in line with the mandate of the Council. 

A representative of Austria said it was important to maintain the very narrow focus on the negative impact on human rights.  Much work had already been done on the fight against corruption.  It was also important to look at all forms of corruption.  In elaborating the research-based study, the Advisory Committee should closely consult with international organizations already actively fighting corruption.  The report should have practical consideration and recommendations that the Council and its subsidiary bodies could take in advancing the human rights agenda with a particular focus on the fight against corruption.

SAEED MOHAMED AL FAIHANI, Vice-President of the Advisory Committee, said it was clear that the time to fulfill the request was limited.  It would be best to identify corruption issues that affected human rights and the ways and means to combat corruption.  The report of the panel discussion drew attention to the manifold negative impacts of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights.  Corruption took many forms and many actors that helped it flourish.  It constituted one of the obstacles to the effective promotion and protection of human rights as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals.  It was important to establish closer synergy amongst stakeholders at both the national and international levels.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that for a long time, strangely, there had been no real link made between corruption and human rights although that was now known.  Furthermore, the right to development was increasingly recognized as a human right nowadays.  Corruption tended to violate that right, especially concerning economic and social rights.  Equal opportunities had to be afforded to all.   There were not only judicial remedies available in a country for acts of corruption.  Many countries had set up anti-corruption agencies.  The study should look at issues of transparency, as well as situations where whistleblowers should be considered as human rights defenders.  It was suggested that a recommendation be made to the Council to set up a working group on human rights and corruption.  The subject was so big that a follow-up mechanism was needed.

VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Committee Expert, said that the negative impact of corruption on human rights had been already taken up in many United Nations documents.  Attention was drawn to research done ten years ago by the Committee to encourage the protection of human rights.  The negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights had already been tackled to some extent.  Naturally, it should be looked into further as new forms of corruption were constantly rising.  However, talking about corruption’s impact on human rights generally led to a stress on economic, social and cultural rights.  Corruption had similarly damaging effects on civil and political rights.  The Committee had a perfectly realistic opportunity to conduct interesting research and to make recommendations to the Council and its auxiliary bodies as to the actual measures that should be taken to eliminate corruption.

JOSE ANTONIO BENGOA CABELLO, Committee Expert, said that last week the Supreme Court of Chile had absolved General Pinochet of acts of corruption and awarded the family USD $28 million.  The judge in charge of the proceedings had said there was no evidence to demonstrate that the money had been misused and that therefore that the money belonged to General Pinochet and, given his passing, belonged to his heirs.  There were difficulties in terms of proof and investigations of accounts.  That was a symbolic case.  Colleagues were urged to look at the real situations and real issues.  Today it seemed that there were no effective measures in combating corruption.  Issues that needed discussion were theft, undue appropriation, and terms.  White-collar robberies were practically never sentenced or brought to trial.  Corruption had to be a criminal offence.  Very often, the main criminal element was forgotten; not all corruption was a violation of human rights.

ANANTONIA REYES PRADO, Vice-President of the Advisory Committee, said it was important to bear in mind that corruption had become internalized in people and become so common it was accepted without question.  This aspect of internalization of corruption had to be looked at in the study, as well as the issue of amnesty.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that the point of departure for the understanding on corruption was the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the Millennium Declaration.  When it came to different topics that could be taken up, it could be good to look at tensions or conflict between anti-corruption measures and protection of human rights.  It might also be interesting to look at experiences of different States and institutions, such as ombudsmen and national human rights institutions in giving citizens an opportunity to complain.  The role of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights could also be interesting to look at.

OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee, said that the topic had already been dealt with not too long ago by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.  In view of the reality of that existing document, how did the sponsors envisage the Advisory Committee could add to what already existed?  Should the report be on new forms of corruption, in order to not duplicate work?  The report would do well to focus on poverty, the poor and the disenfranchised.

Transparency International said it promoted the understanding that corruption could constitute an obstacle to and often a direct violation of human rights from an early stage.  The human rights connection to corruption was clear.  There was a need for international human rights mechanisms to engage on the issue of corruption as it affected human rights.  It was hoped that the Committee could advise the Council on how to address corruption and human rights operationally and in a sustained and meaningful way.  There was ample cause for corruption to become a standing issue on the agenda of the Council.  The most effective means to achieve that would be the establishment of a mandate for a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Corruption and Human Rights.

Switzerland said that for many years it had sought to uphold transparency and rule of law nationally and internationally.  Corruption should be on the agenda, but it was dealt with by the United Nations Office in Vienna.  Therefore coordination was needed to ensure a coherent approach to tackling corruption.  Switzerland looked forward to the report at the twenty-sixth session of the Council.

Ethiopia said it agreed that corruption had negative effects on the enjoyment of human rights.  Corruption violated the principles of transparency and accountability, and affected the right to education and the right to development, disproportionately affecting the poorest segments of populations.

Morocco was anxious to see a development assistance line being taken.  That, amongst other aspects, was fundamental to the discussion.  Human rights education was fundamental and it was trusted that that would be taken into account.  Corruption was not necessarily a violation of human rights but it impacted on the enjoyment of human rights.  Morocco wished that the Committee would examine all forms of corruption and their impact on the enjoyment of human rights.  The Committee was not being asked to repeat all the work that had been done but to take it forward and come up with recommendations.

MONA ZULFICAR, Committee Expert, felt strongly about systemic and structural corruption, ranging from having no equal opportunity or having discriminatory practices against individuals where injustice could be made, to the individual and up to a much more significant and global negative impact where discrimination and lack of equal opportunities would result in giving government contracts to companies or corporations that did not deserve them or meet the required terms.  Having laws that provided rules of equal opportunity, transparency and good governance helped to a great extent to reduce or prevent large corruption practices in government contracts.

ALFRED NTUNDUGURU KAROKORA, Committee Expert, said corruption, as a violation of human rights, could be analysed through the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to fair trial, effective remedy, and the right to political participation.  The principles of equality and non-discrimination were fundamental principles in human rights.  If a person bribed a public official, that person acquired a privileged status in relation to those that had not taken part in bribery.  When a person was asked for a bribe for a service to which he was entitled, that person faced discrimination in relation to other individuals in the same situation.  The right to participation presupposed the equality of participants, but corruption undermined equality and employed exclusion.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that electoral bribery had been correctly mentioned by Mr. Karokora as something the Advisory Committee should address.  Financing of political parties should also be addressed.  The perversion of democracy was corruption; it violated one of the most important civil and political rights that existed.

MARIO L. CORIOLANO, Committee Expert, said they needed to support the sponsoring States that had worked to place this issue on the agenda of the Human Rights Council.  That obliged the Committee to be specific and meticulous in looking at links and would ensure that the next steps taken by the Council were forward steps.  Regional differences needed to be taken account by the Committee, ensuring the information came from different regions, stakeholders and actors.  Priorities would also have to be taken.  The Universal Periodic Review was showing that Governments and United Nations representatives were saying loud and clear that they wanted to combat corruption.  The previous Sub-Commission’s document had to be updated. 

IMERU TAMRAT YIGEZU, Committee Expert, said that there had been much discussion on promoting the human rights aspect of corruption on the international level, but there was also a disjunction at the national level as well.  There needed to be a link with that as well and it had to be addressed by the drafting group.

CHUNG CHINSUNG, Committee Expert, said that according to Operative Paragraph 4 the report should be submitted to the 26th session of the Council next June.  The Committee would only have one more session in February.  That appeared to be too short a time. 

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that indeed there was a mandate and timetable.  If it was felt that more time was needed, the drafting group could come to the conclusion at this meeting that there was not enough time and formally asked the Council to extend the mandate.   

CHUNG CHINSUNG, Committee Expert, said that regarding the development of a questionnaire, and speaking as a sociologist, that there were many areas of statistics produced by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on corruption from countries all over the world.  A perception or attitude survey could also be considered.  The study should be interdisciplinary, in order to make more effective suggestions for the elimination of corruption.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that the Committee would meet tomorrow morning in private.  In the afternoon, it would reconvene in a public meeting to hold discussions on the standing items on the agenda and follow-up reports submitted to the Council.


For use of the information media; not an official record

AC13/013E