Posts Tagged ‘anti corruption’

Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela in film Whispering Truth to Power

August 12, 2019

An award-winning documentary following Thuli Madonsela’s time as Public Protector has officially been released. The film focuses mostly on Madonsela’s last year in office and is called Whispering Truth to Power.
Behind-the-scenes footage shows Madonsela’s fight for justice for ordinary South Africans. As Public Protector for South Africa, Thuli Madonsela made an impact. The film has won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, a collection of awards at FESPACO, Luxor African Film Festival and Jozi Film Festival.
Madonsela has become a celebrated name for many in South Africa, after she managed to successfully challenge former SA President, Jacob Zuma, on his illegal use of state funds. “In other countries, people don’t know who the ombudsman is,” Madonsela’s son, Wantu explains, “If the government is doing their job properly, then the ombudsman is not this celebrated figure who is fighting the good fight, because there shouldn’t be that fight.” The documentary is filmmaker, Shameela Seedat’s first ever release. The documentary on Madonsela is available to stream at Showmax.
Read more: https://briefly.co.za/35068-award-winning-documentary-thuli-madonsela-officially-out.html

More on Maxence Melo, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)
A Tanzanian journalist awarded the International Press Freedom Award on 16 July [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/] said he hoped the recognition will “lift the corner of the veil” on the plight of reporters in his homeland reported News24 on 17 July 2019. Maxence Melo, a blogger whose critical writings of President John Magufuli have landed him in hot water.
The CPJ said the co-founder of the Jamii Forums blog in 2006, was a “champion of online freedom of expression” who never flinched, even in the face of Tanzania’s strict internet laws. Melo has been in court more than 80 times, the CPJ said, and is still facing prosecution for refusing to disclose his sources in a story criticising Tanzanian authorities. His work focuses on corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations.

Melo said he hoped the award would turn the spotlight on the exceptional difficulties faced by journalists in Tanzania. “This prize lifts a corner of the veil on what is happening in our country,” said Melo, who is barred from leaving Tanzania’s financial capital and biggest city, Dar es Salaam. “Never before in our country has a government violated press freedom so much.

It is of course not good news that my country is making the headlines because of its laws and practices that violate freedoms of the press and expression,” Melo said. “With the announcement of this award, I think the international community will take a greater interest in what is happening in Tanzania, in the difficult environment in which the media and human rights defenders work in Tanzania.” Melo, a father of three, said he had received death threats. “It is obvious that I am afraid, afraid for my personal safety, but also for the safety of my family,” he said.

In 2015, the East African country was 75th in the world in RSF’s press freedom rankings. By 2019, it had slid to 118th.

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/tanzanian-press-champion-hopes-prize-lifts-veil-on-abuses-20190717

Nigerian NGO writes open letter to new President Muhammadu Buhari

May 29, 2019

On 29 May, 2019 Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director of the NGO SERAP wrote to Buhari to request “To Make Every Day Of The Remainder Of Your Stay In Aso Rock A Rule Of Law Day”.

Re: Request To Make Every Day Of The Remainder Of Your Stay In Aso Rock A Rule Of Law Day’

Your Excellency,

Ahead of your inauguration and the start of your second term in office today, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is writing to urge you to publicly commit to making every day of the remainder of your stay in Aso Rock a ‘Rule of Law’ day, including by ensuring every segment of your government’s daily operations is lawful and rule-of-law compliant, for the sake of fairness, justice, your legacy as president, and the success of your anti-corruption agenda, which has remained stuck in limbo principally because of persistent disobedience of decisions of Nigerian courts.

SERAP is a non-profit, nonpartisan, legal and advocacy organization devoted to promoting transparency, accountability and respect for socio-economic rights in Nigeria. SERAP received the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award in 2014. …..The deficits in the rule of law have been particularly notable in three areas: failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts, failure to push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking government officials and failure to push for unexplained wealth orders against former presidents and former governors and other senior public officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’.

…..Another court order that is yet to be complied with is the order for the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, from unlawful detention, obtained by human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana. Persistent disobedience of decisions of our courts by the government has opened the way for many state governors to do the same within their states including by using anti-media laws to suppress the civic space, target journalists and human rights defenders, grant to themselves pensions for life and commit grand corruption and other appalling atrocities……Ignoring or refusing to obey decisions of our courts is implicitly rendering the judiciary powerless to enforce constitutional and legal rights, violating separation of powers, undermining the rule of law, and ultimately, raising serious question marks on the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption…

Democracy is an inherent element of the rule of law, and obeying decisions of the courts, pushing for transparency of high-ranking government officials and going after former senior officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ are closely connected with the existence and consolidation of democracy, good governance and development.

SERAP therefore urges you to use the opportunity of your second term to begin to implement your oft-expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying decisions of Nigerian courts, promoting transparency in asset declarations by publishing widely details of your assets declaration, encouraging Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to do the same and instructing all your ministers to publish their asset declarations.

SERAP also urges you to immediately instruct your next Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to pursue unexplained wealths court orders against all former presidents (and their estates), former governors, former presidents of the Senate and former speakers of the House of Representatives aimed at forcing those of them suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ to reveal sources of their fortune or risk forfeiting it.

https://www.modernghana.com/news/935530/re-request-to-make-every-day-of-the-remainder-of-your-stay.html

Uganda: Killing of human rights defender Erasmus Irumba by security forces

June 30, 2017

 reports that on 23 June 2017, Erasmus Irumba was shot and wounded during an alleged altercation with a commanding officer of the local Uganda People’s Defence Forces and other security officials in Ntoroko District, western Uganda. He was then driven to a more rural area where he was shot again at close range and killed. Erasmus Irumba <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erasmus-irumba>  was the coordinator of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) in Ntoroko District. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in western Uganda. TLC carries out human rights advocacy through weekly radio programmes centred on human rights education, capacity building of human rights defenders, civic education, the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and the challenging of unlawful government actions in court. TLC radio programmes generally aim at holding public leaders and corporations more accountable. Erasmus Irumba was particularly active in TLC’s Village Budget Clubs, a project that sought to scrutinise the allocation and implementation of district budgets and ensure proper management of public funds at the local level.

[On 23 June 2017, at approximately 7.30pm, Erasmus Irumba was reportedly summoned to go to Butungama trading centre for a meeting with senior security officials in his region, including the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi of Uganda People’s Defence Forces 3rd Mountain Battalion, with two of his escorts, the Ntoroko District Police Commander and the District Internal Security Organ Officer. During this meeting, Erasmus Irumba and another civilian who was with him were shot in the leg in an altercation that has been this far presented as arising from his attempt to resist arrest. Whilst still alive, but severely bleeding, Erasmus Irumba and his colleague were put in the boot of a private car and driven to a more rural area where they were shot dead. Erasmus Irumba’s body, which presented a gun wound in the forehead, was later taken to Buhinga Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal. In response to the killings, it is reported that some senior security officials including Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi and the Ntoroko District Police Commander have been arrested.]

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the killing of Erasmus Irumba is linked to the corruption of the security officials involved and believes he was targeted due to his peaceful and legitimate work at TLC.

 

 

Fritt Ord and ZEIT awards to Eastern European media: Elena Milashina, Seymour Hazi and Nashi Groshi

May 13, 2016

Fritt Ord and ZEIT-Stiftung have given their 2016 awards to: Read the rest of this entry »

Civil Society condemns charging of Human Rights Defenders in Cambodia

May 4, 2016

On 2 May 2016, a broad range of 59 human rights and civil society organizations condemned the politically-motivated charging of six human rights defenders from a Cambodian human rights group, the country’s National Election Committee (NEC) and the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR). The targeting of these individuals, five of whom were sent to pre-trial detention today, is the latest escalation in a far-reaching government assault on civil society ahead of upcoming local and national elections, and is a clear reprisal for support provided by rights workers in a politically-sensitive case.

Four senior staff of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – Ny SokhaNay VandaYi Soksan and Lim Mony – were today charged with bribery of a witness under Criminal Code Article 548 and sent to CC1 and CC2 prisons in Phnom Penh. In addition, former ADHOC staffer Ny Chakrya, recently appointed deputy secretary-general of the NEC, and UNOHCHR staffer Soen Sally were charged as accomplices to bribery of a witness (Criminal Code Articles 29 & 548). Ny Chakrya was sent to Police Judiciare (PJ) prison. If convicted, all six could be sentenced to between five and ten years’ imprisonment.

The six human rights defenders were summoned by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) for questioning last week and all but the UNOHCHR staffer subject to at least four days of interrogation – firstly by the ACU and then by the prosecutor – in relation to a complaint signed by Khom Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom. The complaint was lodged following her questioning by anti-terrorism police and a prosecutor about an alleged affair with deputy opposition leader Khem Sokha, after ADHOC responded to Srey Mom’s request for legal and material assistance. In the context of such support, ADHOC provided Srey Mom with $204 to cover food and transport costs, including to attend questioning by judicial authorities. This legitimate expenditure of a small sum of money to cover basic expenses of a client is now grotesquely being portrayed by the ACU as bribery and corruption.

The targeting of UNOHCHR staffer Soen Sally by the ACU and the court has disregarded his diplomatic immunity as an employee of the United Nations. The ACU, and later the Prime Minister himself, both argued that Soen Sally does not enjoy such protection.

The case is a farcical use of both the criminal justice system and state institutions as tools to intimidate, criminalise and punish the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and civil society. The ACU was created to tackle the endemic corruption prevalent in Cambodia, not to operate as a vehicle for government repression of civil society. The involvement of Ministry of Interior Central Security officers alongside ACU personnel dealing with the case clearly demonstrates the securitization of civil society activities.

Under international human rights law, including treaties that Cambodia has ratified, Cambodia is legally bound to respect and protect the human rights of all people under its jurisdiction, including the rights to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“The charges brought against the six human rights defenders are blatantly politically-motivated and a direct attack against those serving people who fall prey to Cambodia’s government,” said Naly Pilorge, LICADHO director. “These mounting attacks represent an alarming tightening of the noose around civil society and those who work to uphold human rights, and clearly show that the government’s ultimate aim is total control ahead of the upcoming elections.”

Civil society reiterates its strong condemnation of the charges, demands the release on bail of the five and reaffirms the rights and fundamental freedoms of peaceful human rights defenders to conduct their activities free from threats and punishment. We further call for the judicial investigation to be conducted impartially and call for an end to executive interference in the judiciary.

This statement is endorsed by:

  1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT) 
  2. Boeung Kak Community 
  3. Boeung Trabek Community 
  4. Borei Keila Community 
  5. Beung Pram Land Community
  6. Building and Wood Workers Trade Union (BWTUC) 
  7. Building Community Voice (BCV) 
  8. CamASEAN Youth
  9. Cambodia Development People Life Association 
  10. Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) 
  11. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) 
  12. Cambodian Domestic Workers Network (CDWN)
  13. Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF) 
  14. Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
  15. Cambodian Independent Civil-Servants Association (CICA) 
  16. Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) 
  17. Cambodian Informal Economic Workers Association (CIWA)
  18. Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC)
  19. Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) 
  20. Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)
  21. Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF) 
  22. Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) 
  23. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) 
  24. Christians for Social Justice
  25. Coalition for Integrity & Social Accountability (CISA) 
  26. Coalition of Cambodian farmer Community (CCFC) 
  27. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  28. Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
  29. Equitable Cambodia
  30. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  31. Former Boeung Kak Women Network Community 
  32. Forum Asia
  33. Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) 
  34. Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) 
  35. Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economic (IDEA) 
  36. Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ)
  37. Indigenous Youth at Brome Commune, Preah Vihear Province 
  38. Indradevi Association (IDA) 
  39. Land Community, I Village Preah Sihanouk Province 
  40. Land Community, Prek Chik Village, Koh Kong Province 
  41. LICADHO Canada
  42. Lor Peang community, Kampong Chhnang Province 
  43. Mother Nature 
  44. Peace Bridges Organization (PBO)
  45. Phnom Bat Community 
  46. Phum 23 Community
  47. Ponlok Khmer 
  48. Prek Takung Community
  49. Prek Tanou Community 
  50. Samakum Teang Tnaut (STT) 
  51. SOS International AirPort Community 
  52. Strey Khmer
  53. Thmor Kol Community (TK)
  54. Toul Sangke B Community 
  55. Tumnop II Community
  56. Urban Poor Women Development
  57. Wat Than Monk Network
  58. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  59. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)

On 28 April 2016, 27 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had already signed a joint statement calling on the authorities to cease harassment of human rights defenders [http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/transparency_international_calls_on_the_cambodian_authorities_to_stop_haras]

For earlier posts on Cambodia: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/cambodia/

Sources:

Cambodia: Civil Society Condemns Charging of Human Rights Defenders / May 2, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/03/cambodia-cease-campaign-curtail-rights-monitoring

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/kem-sokha-summonsed-over-sovantha-suit

 

Will Angola persists with defamation charges against ‘Blood Diamonds’ journalist today?

May 28, 2015

Investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais is due to appear in court today in Angola for sentencing. On 25 May the Public Prosecutor in his trial requested that the judge convict him of criminal defamation and sentence him to 30 days in prison, only four days after the announcement of the Lunda Provincial Tribunal that charges against Mr. Marques de Morais had been dropped!“ After more than two years of continuous judicial harassment, solely based on Mr. Marques de Morais human rights activities, this last decision makes yet another mockery of justice in Angola ”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

[Mr. Marques de Morais is a well-known Angolan journalist and editor of an Angolan anti-corruption website,who has been facing continuous judicial harassment since the publication in 2011, of his book, “Blood Diamonds : Corruption and Torture in Angola”, in which he documents and denounces the corruption, allegations of homicides, torture, forced eviction of civilian settlements and intimidation of inhabitants of the diamond-mining areas of Angola’s Lundas region by some state agents and business entrepreneurs.]

He is same Rafael Marques de Morais, who was quoted in my post of 19 December 2013 about Mariah Carey performing for the President that “the presidency was happy to cover the capital in posters of her performance, but on November 23 the presidential guards murdered an activist in custody for posting fliers. Those fliers were a peaceful protest of the murder of other activists disappeared by state police. How does Mariah Carey, the artist and humanist, who so often speaks about human rights, feel about that?…..The Angolan Red Cross gala raised $65,000. Mariah Carey’s transportation alone cost several times that number. It’s absolutely shameless,” added de Morais. [from https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/#more-4223] Read the rest of this entry »

The case for ‘smart sanctions’ against individual perpetrators

May 8, 2015

On 5 May Daniel Calingaert, Executive vice president of Freedom House, contributed an interesting piece to The Hill, in which he argues in favor of ‘targeted sanctions’ against leading individuals who have committed serious human rights violations or engaged in corruption. “Holding torturers and kleptocrats to account” certainly makes some excellent points including the realistic one that countries should be “strong and confident enough both to cooperate with authoritarian governments where prudent and to still hold their human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account“.

 Here the piece in full:

“On May 5, the European Union’s Court of Justice will hear a complaint by the head of Iran’s state broadcaster, Mohammad Sarafraz, and the news director of its English-language channel, Hamid Reza Emadi. The EU imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on them because they broadcast forced confessions by tortured or mistreated political prisoners. Sarafraz and Emadi want the restrictions lifted. But even if they lose their case, they can park their money in the United States, because they aren’t on a U.S. sanctions list.

Their case shows that sanctions hurt human rights abusers and corrupt officials, as intended. And that’s a key selling point for the bipartisan Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 284/H.R. 624) being debated on Capitol Hill. The bill, based on Russia-specific sanctions legislation adopted in 2012, would begin to hold human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account around the world by denying them U.S. visas and access to our financial system.

Aside from the Russia-specific sanctions, executive orders have imposed sanctions on human rights abusers in Iran (though the U.S. sanctions list for Iran is significantly shorter than the EU’s) and on seven Venezuelan officials. Targeted sanctions on human rights abusers should be expanded worldwide, because authoritarian rulers and their lieutenants are driving a global decline in respect for human rights. According to Freedom House’s ratings, media freedom has fallen to its lowest point in 10 years, and political and civil rights overall have deteriorated for nine consecutive years.

Targeted sanctions as envisioned by the Global Magnitsky Act could start to turn this trend around. It would build on current policy of condemning human rights abuses and supporting human rights defenders by actually going after the perpetrators of abuses. Perpetrators are usually shielded by their government and expect to evade justice. If a penalty loomed over their head, they may think twice about committing their crimes.

By imposing consequences on individual abusers, the Global Magnitsky Act would force authoritarian rulers into a difficult choice: either to protect the most repugnant officials and thereby expose the cruelty of their regimes or to cut loose the officials who do their dirty work and keep them in power.

A Global Magnitsky Act also targets high-level corruption — the Achilles heel of authoritarian regimes. While human rights might seem a bit abstract to ordinary citizens, corruption is all too real. Citizens understand what’s wrong with corrupt officials getting rich at the public’s expense while everyone else struggles to make ends meet.

Corruption often fuels human rights abuses. Because corrupt officials stand to lose their ill-gotten gains if they leave office, they will go to ever-greater lengths to hold onto power. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was a prime example. As he and his family amassed enormous wealth, he tightened media restrictions, selectively prosecuted opposition figures and increasingly manipulated elections.

Under the Global Magnitsky Act’s targeted sanctions, no country would be singled out. And it would apply to countries like China and Saudi Arabia that tend to escape criticism for their human rights abuses because of U.S. economic or security interests.

The executive branch would decide whom to sanction. But it would have to listen to Congress’s input and explain its decisions. And chances are that governments with an extensive apparatus of repression would end up with more than seven officials on the sanctions list.

If passed, a Global Magnitsky Act probably will elicit some angry responses, like Venezuela’s cryabout “a new escalation of aggression” and “extraordinary threat” from the United States. But authoritarian governments can’t give an honest response, because they can’t admit that they harbor officials responsible for human rights abuses and large-scale corruption. If China’s leadership were sincere, it ought to welcome a Global Magnitsky Act for reinforcing President Xi Jinping’s policy of cracking down on corrupt officials and stemming their flow of assets abroad.

The prospect of angry reactions shouldn’t discourage the introduction of the Global Magnitsky Act. The United States always meets resistance when it champions human rights, because authoritarian governments prefer to avoid responsibility for their violations. We shouldn’t let their officials abuse their power and then benefit from our legal protections.

And we shouldn’t accept their insistence that we look away from human rights abuses as the price for economic or security cooperation. The Global Magnitsky Act would focus pressure on the perpetrators, not commercial relations. We should use our influence and engage authoritarian governments on our terms. We can be strong and confident enough both to cooperate with authoritarian governments where prudent and to still hold their human rights abusers and corrupt officials to account.”

Holding torturers and kleptocrats to account | TheHill.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/human-rights-defenders-and-anti-corruption-campaigners-should-join-hands/

 

Human Rights Defenders and Anti-Corruption campaigners should join hands

January 29, 2015

Jamil Nasir, a graduate of Columbia University, wrote on 10 December 2014 a short piece on the link between human rights and corruption: “The corruption link”. The author concludes that “Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists.” The article follows below in full:
The world celebrates ‘Anti-corruption Day’ and ‘Human Rights Day’ on December 9 and 10, respectively. Corruption and human rights are inextricably linked, but these linkages are not emphasised much in literature or discourse on corruption. The detrimental impact of corruption on economic growth and development is now well documented. It is a fact that corruption kills the incentive system, distorts technology choices, misallocates talent, promotes tax evasion and retards economic growth.And how does corruption impact human rights? First, it reduces the capacity of the state to protect, respect, and enforce its obligations with regard to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the social contract between the citizens and the state. For example, ‘access to justice’ and ‘security of life, property and honour’ are fundamental human rights. Can these rights be protected with a corruption-ridden judicial and police system? Our own current system is a pertinent example.Corruption in the judiciary and the police is not a secret in our country. When we talk of corruption in the judicial system, it does not mean prismatic decisions and judgements only. Granting adjournments to benefit one of the parties to a dispute is also corruption. When it comes to the police, corruption is not about flawed investigations but also non-submission of challans in the court on time. Consequently, the weaker party gets so disillusioned that it either does not pursue the case or enters into forced compromise.

Thus corruption affects fundamental rights as well as procedural rights like due process – the. right not to have undue delay in court proceedings and the right to a fair trial. Is it not corruption that has reduced the capacity of our state to enforce fundamental human rights? Have the court and police systems not become dysfunctional? Are these institutions not making the people poor rather than providing them quick justice?

This corruption lowers economic development and undermines poverty alleviation. The social contract obligates that the state should provide an environment where people can realise their full potential. Is such an environment possible without adequate resources with the state? Corruption reduces the level of revenues which consequently reduce the capacity of the state to fund basic social services. Again, Pakistan is a pertinent case. Due to corruption, tax evasion is rampant. Corruption also affects targeting of social programmes. If corrupt practices are pervasive, leakages in such programmes will usually be high. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the money allocated for various social spending and poverty alleviation programmes have not reached the intended targets. A substantial percentage of such funding was squandered away during the process of distribution. Further, targeting of the poor was riddled with nepotism and patronage.

Moreover, corruption enhances the operating costs of the government and reduces the resources available for social spending. The budget for the health and education sectors gets squeezed. It is an open secret now that the major chunk of the funds allocated for development of infrastructure like roads, schools and hospital buildings is eaten into by corruption in the form of commissions and kickbacks by the engineers, contractors and construction companies. And so corruption undermines development, deepens poverty and exacerbates other human rights violations.

Corruption can also violate human rights directly. If a corrupt judge takes a bribe to decide a case against an individual or a corrupt police officer takes a bribe not to properly investigate, that corruption directly violates human rights like the right to a fair trial. Corruption can manifest itself as the worst abuse of human dignity and rights.

One of the reports of Transparency International mentions a local public hospital in Zimbabwe whose nurses charged $5 every time the mother screamed while giving birth to a baby. This amount was charged as a penalty for raising alarm. Those women who were unable to pay the delivery fee were detained at the hospital until they had settled the debt. In this way, they were held hostage by the corruption prevalent in the hospital.

Corruption particularly targets the poor. For example, if a rickshaw driver or a street vendor pays a meagre amount of bribe (assume Rs100) to a policeman to avoid harassment, the impact on these poor chaps will be deep and severe since even Rs100 constitutes a major chunk of their daily income. It is not a big amount in absolute terms but it eats into their already tight budget. Compared with the daily income of the wage earners, the impact of this seemingly little amount can be well imagined on the household budget of the poor.

On the other hand, if a businessman pays – assume Rs100,000 – to a tax collector, he will get enormous personal benefit. But due to this collusion of the tax evader and the tax collector, millions of rupees will be dribbled through corruption. The taxes evaded due to this under the table deal, if properly collected, could be utilised for developing infrastructure, transfer payments or spent on poverty alleviation programmes.

This simple illustration shows that corruption adversely affects the poor. Second, it may also benefit the rich which is perhaps one explanation of the tolerance of the rich and the elite towards corruption in society. According to Professor Pranab Bardhan, corruption feeds on itself due to a variety of reasons. First, it is beneficial for the payer and the payee. Second, it is so entrenched that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Third, once corruption takes root in society, it is exceedingly difficult to eliminate.

It is time the discourse on corruption included the human rights perspective. A clear understanding between corruption and human rights can empower both human rights activists and those working against corruption. If linkages between corruption and rights become part of the narrative on corruption, attitudes will change. When people become more aware of the damage corruption causes to their fundamental rights, they are more likely to support campaigns against corruption. This new discourse can persuade key actors like judges, parliamentarians, lawyers, media and the public at large to take a strong stand against corruption. Connecting corruption to human rights violations means that acts of corruption can be challenged in a court of law as violation of fundamental human rights.

Weak human rights protection creates possibilities for corruption which also means that the promotion of human rights can be one of the tools against corruption. For example, promotion of the right to freedom of expression and information can go a long way in combating corruption in society. The right to information is critical in the fight against corruption.

Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists. This will be possible once the dots are connected and linkages between corruption and human rights are consciously explored for a joint struggle. Both human rights organisations and anti-corruption agencies should make a resolve to work together. The fight against corruption and the promotion of human rights are too important to be left to disjointed endeavours.”

The corruption link – Jamil Nasir.

Ebola used as threat against human rights defender in Sierra Leone

August 29, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped reports that  on 28 August 2014, human rights defender Mary Conteh [national coordinator for Women’s Centre for Good Governance and Human Rights (WOCEGAR) in Sierra Leone] received a call from an unknown number where the caller threatened to spread false information that she contracted Ebola if she does not stop her human rights work. This comes just two days after she recorded a statement  with the police denouncing threats pronounced against her as a result of her recent investigation on reports of misuse of public funds.  On 24 August, she had visited the office of Mr. Osman O. Sesay, who represents the constituency in which WOCEGAR is located, to inquire about reports suggesting that the grant assigned to his constituency had not been used for its original purpose. The member of parliament reportedly argued that the fund was placed on a personal account and that he was not accountable to any member of the local human rights groups. As the discussion proceeded, he reportedly started hurling insults at her and eventually threatened that he could make her disappear.

(In early August 2014, Mary Conteh and her colleagues received information that members of the Sierra Leonean parliament had each received from the government a grant estimated at US$20,000 for the purpose of fighting the outbreak of Ebola in their respective constituencies.)