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Corruption robs schools, hospitals and others of vitally needed funds
by António Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General
10 Sep. 2018
Corruption is present in all countries, “rich and poor, North and South, developed and developing,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the UN Security Council, at a session on tackling corruption for the sake of peace and international security.
“Numbers show the startling scope of the challenge,” the UN chief said, citing World Economic Forum estimates that corruption costs at least $2.6 trillion. And according to the World Bank, businesses and individuals pay more than $1 trillion in bribes each year.
Corruption robs schools, hospitals and others of vitally needed funds. It rots institutions, as public officials enrich themselves or turn a blind eye to criminality. It deprives people of their rights, drives away foreign investment and despoils the environment.
Corruption breeds disillusion with government and governance – and is often at the root of political dysfunction and social disunity. The poor and vulnerable suffer disproportionately. And impunity compounds the problem.
Corruption can be a trigger for conflict. As conflict rages, corruption prospers. And even if conflict ebbs, corruption can impede recovery.
Corruption drives and thrives on the breakdown of political and social institutions. These institutions are never more in crisis than in times of conflict.
Corruption is linked to many forms of instability and violence, such as the illicit trafficking in arms, drugs and people.
Assets stolen through corruption can be used to finance further crimes, including violent extremist and terrorist acts.
Large-scale corruption surveys conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that bribery of public officials was particularly high in areas affected by conflict.
In conflict situations, stakeholders such as anti-corruption commissions, civil society and the media may be weakened or hindered in their essential work.
The consequences of corruption in times of conflict can be especially devastating as they can affect the most basic needs and exacerbate hunger and poverty.
Member States must be on the frontlines in the fight against corruption. It is especially important to build up the capacity of national anti-corruption commissions and prosecutorial efforts.
Governments can also enhance anti-corruption efforts by ensuring independent judiciaries, a vibrant civil society, freedom of the media and effective whistleblower protections.
The international community can complement those efforts by working more effectively against money laundering, tax evasion and the illicit financial flows that have deprived countries of much-needed resources, and that feed further corruption.
I have called for heightened efforts to prevent conflict and to address risks early, before they escalate. In that spirit, combatting corruption and addressing governance challenges, which lie at the root of many conflicts, must be a component of preventive approaches.
As I said to the General Assembly last May in marking the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the role of the UN is crucial. Before the adoption of the Convention, there was no global instrument to criminalize corruption, or to recover stolen proceeds. Now the Convention has 186 States Parties, and the crime of corruption is on the books of nearly every country in the world.
The Convention’s review mechanisms serve as a global framework for international cooperation to strengthen prevention, to disrupt money laundering schemes, return stolen proceeds from foreign banks and other necessary actions. I encourage all Member States to bring greater resolve to its implementation.
Let us also take profit of advances of technology, which give us an opportunity to massively expand public participation in governance and to increase accountability.
At the same time, we know that conventions and legal measures must be empowered by strong leadership that elevates corruption as a serious concern and makes it a priority for action.
People across the world continue to express outrage at the corruption of their leaders, and at how deeply corruption is embedded in societies. They are rightly calling for political establishments to operate with transparency and accountability – or make way for those who will.
I call on leaders everywhere to listen, to nurture a culture of integrity and to empower citizens to do their part at the grass roots.
We must all do more to fight corruption, strengthen governance and build trustworthy institutions that can ensure probity and progress for all.
Also addressing the Security Council was John Prendergast of “The Sentry,” a team of policy analysts, regional experts, and financial forensic investigators who follow the flow of corrupt cash, and its close links with African warlords who perpetrate atrocities.
With a focus on the continent, Mr. Prendergast highlighted the major role of corruption in fueling and extending conflict, explaining that war has been good business for many.
Citing deadly African conflicts, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, he spoke of the extraordinary opportunities exploited by profiteers when “there is a visible nexus between grand corruption and mass atrocities.”
“Until the Security Council and other interested parties with potential influence can create leverage” to change the dynamics of financing conflict, from pillaging resources, looting and stealing state assets, he assured the Council that “the bottom line is that war will remain more beneficial than peace for those at the centre of conflict and corruption.”
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Egyptian death sentences a ‘gross miscarriage of justice’: UN human rights chief
by United Nations News
9 September 2018
An Egyptian court’s confirmation of 75 death sentences on Saturday has been condemned by Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as being the result of an unfair trial.
Ms. Bachelet expressed her extreme concern at the decision which, if carried out, would amount to “a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice”.
The trial is one outcome of the military crackdown on Muslim-Brotherhood led protests in the Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in Cairo on 14 August 2013.
It is alleged that up to 900 mostly unarmed protesters were killed by members of the Egyptian security forces.
The Government later claimed that many protesters had been armed, and that a number of police were killed.
Subsequently, charges were brought against a total of 739 people during a mass trial at the Cairo Criminal Court. These charges included murder and incitement to violence, membership of an illegal group, participation in an illegal gathering, and other crimes.
In addition to the death sentences, 47 people were sentenced to life imprisonment, while the remainder were handed jail terms of varying length.
There have been several mass trials in Egypt, involving hundreds of cases being heard at the same time, and raising many of the same issues about due process and fair trial standards.
“The conduct of the trial in the Cairo Criminal Court has been widely criticised,” Bachelet said. “And rightly so. The 739 people were tried en masse, and were not permitted individual legal representation before the court. In addition, the accused were not given the right to present evidence in their defence, and the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to prove individual guilt.
The evident disregard of basic rights of the accused places the guilt of all those convicted in serious doubt. I hope that the Egyptian Court of Appeal will review this verdict and ensure that international standards of justice are respected by setting it aside,”.
Ms. Bachelet also pointed to the stark contrast between Egypt’s mass trials and a recent law that effectively grants members of the security forces complete immunity for crimes they may have committed.
In July this year, the Egyptian Parliament approved a law that will effectively bestow immunity from prosecution on security force personnel for any offences committed in the course of duty between 3 July 2013 – the date the military overthrew the Government of President Morsi – and 10 January 2016.
“Justice must apply to all – no one should be immune,” the High Commissioner said. “Attempts to bestow immunity from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces merely promotes impunity, and undermines the faith of the Egyptian people in the Government’s capacity to deliver justice for all. I urge the Government of Egypt to ensure that justice will be done, according to law, in relation to any individuals – including members of the State security forces – who are suspected of committing a crime.”
To date, no State security personnel have been charged in relation to the so-called “Rabaa massacre”. http://bit.ly/2x4eLbJ
* Read the Opening Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council; 10 September 2018 via the link below: http://bit.ly/2oWagfE
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