Council of Europe member states should step up fight against corruption – Exit

Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost developing countries at least $ 1.6 trillion each year. This amount would be enough to lift 1.4 billion people above the poverty line for at least six years.

It is according to a press release of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic. She adds that the judiciary and the police are among the institutions most affected by corruption.

“Corruption is rightly called one of the most insidious social phenomena. It erodes trust in public institutions, hinders economic development and has a disproportionate impact on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular by persons belonging to marginalized or disadvantaged groups such as minorities, persons with disabilities, refugees, migrants and prisoners. It also disproportionately affects women, children and people living in poverty, in particular by hampering their access to basic social rights such as healthcare, housing and education, ”writes the Commissioner.

Turning to judicial reform, she explains how it was rushed in some states, seriously undermining its impact.

“In several member states of the Council of Europe, governments have rushed judicial reforms strengthening the strong influence of the executive over the judiciary through parliament, seriously compromising the independence of the judiciary, weakening judicial oversight of the executive and, therefore, its ability to fight corruption, “she wrote.

The good independence of judges, including the absence of political interests, is important to ensure that judgments serve the interests of the people and not politics.

It was also noted that governments need to strengthen protections for freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. Politicians should refrain from any undue criticism and pressure on journalists which could have “a chilling effect and lead to self-censorship.” Governments should also counter SLAPPs by allowing the swift dismissal of such lawsuits and introducing measures to punish abuses, including reversing the cost of products and supporting those who are prosecuted.

Institutions must also make access to official documents a reality, including the efficient and effective implementation of freedom of information legislation.

Police, she said, must be subject to regular training on integrity and ethics and an effective and well-funded monitoring system must be in place.

As for public officials, they must act with integrity and avoid commitments that lead to a conflict of interest and an increased risk of corruption.

Despite the strict anti-corruption standards and the effective monitoring by the CoE of compliance by member states with these standards, “corruption continues to pose a serious threat to the rule of law and human rights in the region of Council of Europe ”, according to Mijatovic.

The declaration notes that in order to effectively combat corruption, Council of Europe member states should fully comply with Council of Europe and international standards regarding the prevention of corruption and the promotion of integrity and step up implementation of GRECO recommendations.