Workshop on Strengthening the Judicial Integrity in West Africa

On 27 and 28 May 2021, UNODC Corruption and Integrity Section and WACAP network jointly conducted the workshop on strengthening judicial integrity in West Africa through the Sahel Judicial Platform. The aim of the workshop was to promote the application of the code of judicial ethics for a better implementation of Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as well as to define best practices across the region for strengthening the codes of judicial conduct. The workshop brought together the WACAP network’s focal points, members of the judiciary, clerks, and members of the Bar associations as well as several international observers.

Ms. Virginia de Abajo-Marqués, Regional Advisor for Anti-Corruption and Asset Recovery in Western Balkans of UNODC, presented the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, which are designed to provide guidance to judges in the performance of their duties and to equip the judiciary with a normative framework to regulate judicial conduct. The UNCAC in its article 11 stresses the importance for each state to take measures to strengthen judicial integrity and to prevent opportunities for corruption, without any prejudice to judicial independence.

Thereafter, the participants brainstormed on current practices applicable in their countries that set the stage for the inception of best practices that could be established throughout the region. Mr. Souleymane Teliko, President of the Union of Magistrates of Senegal, focused his intervention on the responsibility of involved actors and linkages between individual and institutional integrity within the judicial branch as well as challenges posed by the interference of the executive body in judicial processes. In this sense, it was highlighted the importance of entrusting the control over the administration of judges’ careers to independent authorities able to uphold their integrity and independence. The enforcement of codes of ethics through the implementation of continuous training and capacity building was noted instrumental in strengthening the individual integrity, whereas the application of clear, transparent, and fair rules and standards framing the appointment, transfer, and dismissal of judges is essential in ensuring the institutional integrity of the judiciary.

Sessions on gender perspectives and the use of social networks were led by UNODC experts as they play a crucial role in the integrity of judiciary, court administration, and delivery of court decisions as well as in public perception towards the justice system. Furthermore, three countries (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, and The Gambia) introduced their legal instruments and frameworks regulating the implementation of codes of judicial conduct. Ms. Vera Ngassa, Lady Justice of the Court of Justice of Cameroon provided several examples of good practices promoting the upholding of ethical standards of judicial conduct such as training and capacity-building for judges and magistrates to enable sharing of expertise and good practices, as well as the participation in various international associations and fora for magistrates and judges.

Key recommendations stemming from the workshop cover the inclusion of Bangalore Principles in the judicial code of ethics, the establishment of a protection mechanism for members of the judiciary as well as an anti-corruption commission that will fight for the dignity of the profession and promote the sharing of knowledge and good practices. Moreover, continuing training and capacity-building programs for judges aimed at raising awareness on gender integrity issues are effective tools for the promotion of ethical conduct within national jurisdictions as well as beyond the courtrooms.

For more information, please contact the WACAP Team at the following email address: unodc-wacap@un.org