It has been less than a year since its launch, but the Global Judicial Integrity Network has been in full active mode, consolidating its platform and multiplying initiatives to advance the notion and the application of judicial integrity around the globe. Fruitful deliberations on the Network's past, present and future were held in Doha this past week, with members of the Network's Advisory Board assessing the achievements made thus far, and agreeing on forthcoming efforts to continue promoting its vital work. Hosting the meeting, Dr. Hassan bin Lahdan Alhassan Almohanadi, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judiciary Council of the State of Qatar, recognized the Board as including some of the world's key legal minds, brought together to tackle issues such as judicial conduct and anti-corruption.
Achieving equality for women judges, in terms of representation at all levels of the judiciary and on policy-making judicial councils, should be our goal- not only because it is right for women, but also because it is right for the achievement of a more just rule of law. Women judges are strengthening the judiciary and helping to gain the public's trust.
The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative of the people whose lives they affect. By their mere presence, women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice.
Judicial integrity, one of the pillars upon which rule of law rests, depends on a long list of factors which continues to be adapted in a fast-changing world. While national contexts vary, judiciaries often face comparable challenges in ensuring independence and integrity in their respective countries, and they agree on the need to ensure that guidelines on judicial matters remain current.
While the basics of judicial integrity have been agreed and enumerated in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, the guidelines on some topical matters may not be up to the required standards. To overcome this, two big meetings were held in Seoul in December, the first organized by the Judicial Policy Research Institute of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea; the second, by UNODC.
Sextortion, as defined by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), is the abuse of power to obtain a sexual benefit or advantage. As such, it is a form of corruption in which sex, rather than money, is the currency of the bribe. It is not limited to certain countries or sectors and can be found wherever those entrusted with power lack integrity and try to sexually exploit those who are vulnerable and dependent on their power.
The IAWJ has succinctly explained the principle underlying sextortion as follows: what distinguishes sextortion from other types of sexually abusive conduct is that it has both a sexual component and a corruption component. The sexual component of sextortion arises from a request - whether implicit or explicit - to engage in any kind of unwanted sexual activity, ranging from sexual intercourse to exposing private body parts.
While the pace of developments in technology continues to accelerate to the great pleasure of many, it does present challenges to certain categories of professional disciplines whose nature does not lend itself well to much flexibility; with the preservation of judicial integrity at the helm of their principles, many judges may have difficulty embracing rapid innovation.
Judges must comply with legal and ethical ramifications which other professions may not face when using technology. This is particularly the case when considering social media platforms, which have become ubiquitous in the last few years; inserting themselves into people's mundane activities, they allow instant communication with family, friends and total strangers, the sharing of holiday photos and funny memes, and the ability of commenting on news stories.