Judicial integrity

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. The centrality of a strong justice mechanism lies in its essential contribution to fostering economic stability and growth, and to enabling all manner of disputes to be resolved within a structured and orderly framework.

These principles apply not only to members of the judiciary, but other actors in the justice system, including prosecutors and judicial administrators. Ineffective criminal prosecution, characterized by a lack of independence or capacity, is unable to effectively investigate and prosecute cases corruption, thus undermining the overall effectiveness of the State's anti-corruption efforts.

Moreover, a judicial system which operates without regard to professional ethics standards is not be able to build and retain public trust in the fairness and objectivity of its decisions and outcomes. Such a system also remains vulnerable to undue influence from outside structures or individuals.

Cognizant of these challenges, the United Nations has adopted a series of resolutions, decisions and instruments underlining the importance of establishing and strengthening effective, independent and objective judicial systems. Foremost among these is Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which requires States parties, to take measures to strengthen integrity and to prevent opportunities for corruption among members of the judiciary, bearing in mind the independence of the judiciary. These measures may also be introduced and applied within the prosecution service in States where it does not form part of the judiciary, but enjoys similar independence.

The term "integrity" in Article 11, in its application to members of the judiciary, may be defined as a holistic concept that refers to the ability of the judicial system or an individual member of the judiciary to resist corruption, while fully respecting the core values of independence, impartiality, personal integrity, propriety, equality, competence and diligence. These values are identified in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in its resolution 2006/23, and elaborated comprehensively in the Commentary on the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.

Other relevant resolutions and decisions include the following:

In its role as Guardian of the Convention and Secretariat of the Conference of the States Parties, UNODC provides assistance to States in the implementation of the requirements of Article 11 by helping them to put in place measures to strengthen the integrity of their judiciary and prosecution services.

Examples of such assistance include:

  • Diagnosing the risks and vulnerabilities in the judicial system and in the prosecution services with a view to suggesting measures to address them.
  • Strengthening the legislative framework in which the judiciary and the prosecution services operate, in order to ensure their effective and independent operation.
  • Providing capacity-building support to strengthen the knowledge and skills of members of the judiciary and prosecution to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases.
  • Supporting the development of ethics frameworks, including the adoption and implementation of Codes of Conduct, introducing training programs on professional ethics and putting in place effective oversight, accountability and disciplinary systems.

As part of its efforts to promote and support the measures taken by States parties to effectively implement Article 11, UNODC has developed a Resource Guide on Strengthening Judicial Integrity and Capacity as well as Implementation Guide and Evaluative Framework for Article 11.

Additional tools and publications are available here.