The Corruption Conundrum: The Absence of Corruption from the UK and EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regimes

Reason 1: While human rights violations are comparatively easy to identify, corruption is not.

There are many international human rights instruments: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights. In any one of these instruments, rights are clearly set out. Take, for example, the prohibition on torture, which is included in the UDHR, the ICCPR, the African Charter, the American Charter, and the European Convention, as well as in its own instrument, the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Article 1 of the UNCAT provides a lengthy, detailed definition of what torture is.

Reason 2: Corruption has an image problem.

Not only is corruption hard to identify and, in some ways, difficult to visualize, it can sometimes be perceived by policymakers and the international community as being less serious than human rights violations. Often corruption is seen as a domestic issue, and therefore something that should be dealt with in-house, beyond the scrutiny of the international community. Corruption may also be viewed as being the small-time bribes needed to get by in some countries, or even as being attached to moderate levels of power — a local councillor giving preferential treatment to a family member for a public works contract, for instance. While these incidences are corruption and are obviously wrong, do they necessitate intervention from a foreign government or regional body in the form of sanctions?

The case for adding corruption to sanctions programs.

If corruption is acknowledged as an opaque concept, lacking anything like the level of legal and policy analysis that human rights has enjoyed, its impact underrecognized, why push to add it to sanctions programs? First, as discussed, corruption almost always has a financial element, which means that sanctions can be an impressively effective tool, targeting the very fuel for the crime itself: money.



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The Sentry

The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers.