Friday, May 25, 2007

Corruption undermining judicial system

Corruption is undermining judicial systems around the world, denying citizens access to justice and the basic human right to fair and impartial trial, sometimes even to a trial at all, according to the Global Corruption Report 2007: Corruption in Judicial Systems issued by Transparency International.

According to the report, Nepalese judiciary is perceived to be among the most corruption-afflicted sectors.

"Judges often supplement their meagre salaries with 'incentives' from lawyers."The judicial system is viewed as too expensive and corruption-ridden; poor people often turn to Maoist courts for prompt justice in petty cases. A spirit of collegiality among judges hinders peer oversight and opens the door to corruption, the TI report said about Nepal.The new Global Corruption Report concludes that a corrupt judiciary erodes the international community's ability to prosecute transnational crime and inhibits access to justice and redress for human rights violations.Asia's middle to high-income countries, governments of many low income countries (including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) have lowered their commitment to ensuring adequate support for courts and their personnel, inviting corruption and undermining the rule of law, the report said.Two thirds of people who used a court in 2004 paid bribes, with the typical bribe amounting to 25 percent of average annual income in Bangladesh, according to the report.
When courts are corrupt, ordinary people suffer judicial corruption usually falls into two categories: political interference in the judicial process by the legislative or executive branch, and bribery. The importance of an independent judiciary cannot be overemphasised, the report pointed out."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." Everyone loses when justice is corrupted, in particular the poor, who are forced to pay bribes they cannot afford. TI's latest global survey of attitudes towards corruption reveals that in more than twenty-five countries, at least one in ten households had to pay a bribe to get access to justice. In a further twenty countries, more than three in ten households reported that bribery was involved in securing access to justice or a "fair" outcome in court. In Albania, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Peru, Taiwan and Venezuela, the figure was even higher.Petty bribery and political influence in the judiciary erode social cohesion: one system for the rich and another for the poor fracture communities.
"If money and influence are the basis of justice, the poor cannot compete," said Akere Muna, TI's vice chair and president of the Pan African Lawyers' Union. "Bribery not only makes justice unaffordable; it ruins the capacity of the justice system to fight against corruption and to serve as a beacon of independence and accountability." According to a 2002 survey, 96 percent of respondents in Pakistan who had contact with the lower courts had encountered corrupt practices, while in Russia, an estimated US $210 million in bribes is thought to be spent on law courts annually.

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