This section contains opinion pieces written by Global Judicial Integrity Network participants, who are members of judiciaries worldwide. The pieces focus on the personal opinions and experiences of these external experts on issues related to judicial integrity. All opinion pieces written in 2018-2019 have been compiled in one review journal, available here. To read a selection of the articles in other UN languages, please select the language from the navigation bar at the top of the page. Please click here for Portuguese and Korean.
Please note that all opinions expressed in this section of the website are the opinions of the authors, who are external experts, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNODC.
No industry, sector, or profession is immune to misconduct. And while the vast majority of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals are law-abiding and honest, some are not. Unfortunately, those exceptions can often threaten the integrity and the perception of the judicial system as a whole and undermine the public's trust in it.
Few things can be more destabilizing than corruption of and in the judicial system, including its damaging consequences to ordinary citizens and the insidiousness with which it can taint the highest levels of power. Judicial corruption undermines public confidence in the judicial system, in particular, and in public institutions, more broadly, and operates as a gateway or free-pass for other types of wrongdoing. That is precisely why judicial integrity is a common goal across all jurisdictions and has been among the priorities of the International Bar Association (IBA) in recent years.
Combating corruption effectively is essential to guarantee human rights, as citizens' confidence in the judicial system, judicial independence and access to fair justice is at stake. As Anne Peters emphasizes, "corruption in the administration of justice jeopardizes basic rights to judicial protection"
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed new and severe challenges for the defence of human rights, affecting especially the most vulnerable groups of people and revealing the profound inequality of the world in which we live.
Latin America is one of the most unequal areas on the planet, and, therefore, the impact of the pandemic has placed human rights severely at risk. For instance, millions of people are left with no daily sustenance to survive or healthcare, and children's access to the right to education now depends exclusively on their internet connection.
Much has happened in 2020, and the novel coronavirus pandemic was the main change that caused a major restructuring of social life. Social and political institutions and, of course, the judicial system were forced to swiftly adjust the ways in which they worked, and the life, health and safety of every person became the main criteria and values that guided them. During that whole period, the court system never halted its activities and continued administering justice at a high level while meeting the requirements of reasonable time of proceedings.
The rule of law is arguably the most basic requirement of any civilized society, and an independent judiciary, to which access is available to all citizens, is an essential ingredient of the rule of law. Freedom of expression is also fundamental in a democratic society, in which the courts and the media have vital and complementary institutional roles. Together, they hold power to account, enforce the rights of individuals and shed light on matters of public interest - and they also monitor each other. The media have been described as the watchdogs of democracy, highlighting democratic deficits and demanding accountability from elected officials. And judges have no more important role than to hold the Government to account when it does not adhere to the law and to uphold the rights of individuals. And there is no more vital right than freedom of expression.