Integrity in the Criminal Justice System

A serious impediment to the success of any anti-corruption efforts are corrupt justice sector institutions. Ethically compromised justice sector institutions mean that the legal and institutional mechanisms designed to curb corruption, however well-targeted, efficient or honest, remain crippled.

In addition, the wider effects of corruption on the rule of law and sustainable development are not only harmful, but destructive, in particular when the justice sector, which should embody the principles of independence, impartiality, integrity and equality, is undermined. To name just a few examples:

  • a corrupt act during one step of the criminal justice chain can severely harm the whole process or even nullify its essence and erode public trust in law and order;
  • challenges in claiming rights and enforcing contracts in court proceedings can create an atmosphere of legal uncertainty and ultimately deter business, entrepreneurial spirit and investment;
  • disrespect for the equal application of the law undermines the legitimacy of public institutions and contributes to impunity.

Since no sector is immune to corruption, it is necessary that States parties acknowledge the particular role and vulnerability of justice sector institutions in regard to corruption and engage in continuous efforts to create independent, ethical and accountable justice sector institutions. To assist States parties in confronting the problem, the UN is taking a variety of approaches. It is examining corruption in the judiciary and other justice sector institutions in detail looking at the organizational level, including separation of powers, mandates and processes, and at the individual level, including professional ethics, protection from interference and training. Based on the analysis the UN seeks to identify good practices and means to address and mitigate the risk of corruption and promote integrity throughout all justice sector institutions.

Judiciary

Integrity, independence and impartiality are key prerequisites for establishing an effective and functional judiciary and judicial system for the peaceful resolution of legal disputes. The establishment of an independent and effective justice system that safeguards human rights, facilitates access to all and provides transparent and objective recourse is a core value held the world over.

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Police

Police serve a critical function in the criminal justice system as well as in the prevention and investigation of corruption. The police play a vital role in society to maintain peace and security and the rule of law. The establishment of an independent and effective justice system that safeguards human rights, facilitates access to all and provides transparent and objective recourse is a core value held the world over.

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Prisons

There is an increasing body of research and material relating to anti-corruption measures for the judiciary, prosecution and police services. In contrast, very little material exists on the corruption risk and measures to address corruption within the prison system.

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Customs

Corruption in Customs is a threat to both the economic development and for the security of the affected countries. Inefficient and corrupt customs services are unable to ensure the equal treatment of importers and exporters in paying excise and customs duties and are likely to fail in stopping illicit contraband and trafficking in drugs, firearm and wildlife among others.

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The UN has highlighted the importance of integrity and independence of the justice sector in various recent resolutions and included the fight against corruption and the need to create accountable institutions at all levels into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under SDG 16.