Judicial Corruption Corrodes Rule of Law
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
~ Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887.
Around the world corruption is undermining judicial systems, denying citizens access to justice and the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial, sometimes even a trial at all.
“Equal treatment before the law is a pillar of democratic societies. When courts are corrupted by greed or political expediency, the scales of justice are tipped, and ordinary people suffer,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “Judicial corruption means the voice of the innocent goes unheard, while the guilty act with impunity.”
Judicial corruption usually falls into two categories: bribery and political interference in the judicial process by the legislative or executive branch.
Despite decades of reforms to protect judicial independence, the pressure to rule in favour of political interests remains intense. Problems remain though many judges around the world are indeed acting with integrity.
But for judges who refuse to be compromised, political retaliation can be swift and harsh. Failure to appoint judicial officials on merit can lead to the selection of a pliant, corruptible judiciary. “Problematic” judges can be reassigned or have sensitive cases transferred to more pliable judges.
Interference from politicians or civil servants can also buy “legal” cover for embezzlement, nepotism, cronyism and illegal political decisions. Such interference can be as blatant as physical threats and intimidation, and as subtle as the manipulation of judicial appointments, salaries and conditions of service.