Integrity Initiatives International (III) Europe launches in The Hague as plans for an International Anti-Corruption Court gather pace

Type: Happening now
Topic: Rule of Law
Topic: Humanity
Publication date: 4 Jun

Since June 2021, senior figures from the worlds of politics, the judiciary, and civil society have called for the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) which could hold kleptocrats and their co-conspirators accountable when national governments are unable or unwilling to do so.

Now that idea has gained considerable momentum thanks to the advocacy of global NGO Integrity Initiatives International (III) and its coalition partners, a sister organization III Europe is being established in The Hague. The governments of the Netherlands, Canada, Nigeria, Moldova, and Ecuador all endorse the creation of an IACC, and many more countries are interested. The UK Labour Party plans to champion creation of the Court if they win the General Election in July 2024.

Under III’s leadership, more than 100 NGOs and 350 global dignitaries are working together to make the IACC a reality. They include more than 50 former presidents and prime ministers, over 30 Nobel laureates, high court judges, cabinet ministers, and representatives of civil society, business, and faith communities.

* Main picture: from left to right Maja Groff, Diana Eggleston, Mark L. Wolf and Ian Lynch visiting the INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION COORDINATION CENTRE in London.

In a joint declaration, they state that the IACC is:

“urgently needed” to “promote democracy and human rights, protect human life and health, and enhance international peace and security”.

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The signatories include: former Colombia President and Nobel laureate Juan Manuel Santos, former Senegal Prime Minister Aminata Touré, former Mali Prime Minister Moussa Mara, former Chile President Ricardo Lagos, former Costa Rica President Laura Chincilla, former Korea Prime Minister Seung-Soo Han, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, and former Canada Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

The presence of III Europe in The Hague is significant as the city of peace and justice is already home to many international courts and tribunals. The proposed IACC would have a very clear remit to enforce certain mandatory crimes that the 190 parties to the UN Convention against Corruption  (UNCAC) have agreed to criminalize. It would also have the power to freeze assets, return stolen assets to the benefit of victimized populations , and stop corrupt officials wherever they are in the world.

Maja Groff, Senior Treaty Advisor for Integrity Initiatives International Europe. “The establishment of the International Anti-Corruption Court would be an important response to the urgent need for a robust international mechanism to combat grand corruption, which poses a grave threat to the stability of nations, undermines democratic institutions, hampers economic and social development, and erodes public trust in governments.”

Kleptocracy and State Capture

The IACC will be designed to counter all dimensions of grand corruption, including:

  • Kleptocracy - A State system that is fundamentally based on corruption. Leaders use political power to expropriate the wealth of the people they govern, and society does not function without a flow of bribes to access public officials. The entire system is built on corrupt buying and selling of influence and the money flows upwards to the top.
  • State Capture - Where a formally democratic state has been captured by corrupt officials to the point where democracy has broken down. These cases can be slightly more complex as senior officials may be seen to operate legitimately but are actually manipulating bureaucracy and formal procedures to their own advantage.
  • Bribe Payers and Enablers - The problem stretches far beyond the corrupt officials themselves, across borders into ‘safe havens’ where assets can be hidden, and the perpetrators can enjoy the profits of their crimes with impunity. Alongside corrupt officials, the IACC will prosecute their co-conspirators – the individuals and organizations that pay bribes and those enablers including lawyers, bankers, real estate agents, and other financial service providers who help launder the proceeds of corruption.

Five crimes of corruption

The proposed IACC will focus specifically on the five crimes defined as binding provisions in the UN Convention against Corruption that has existed for more than 20 years. This convention has been signed by 190 States Parties, all of whom are required to have national  legislation criminalizing:

  1. Bribery of national officials
  2. Bribery of foreign officials
  3. Embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds
  4. Money laundering
  5. Obstruction of justice related to these offences

With almost every country in the world obliged to prosecute offenders in these five areas, the IACC would have a remit to enforce them in situations where the State cannot or will not. The IACC’s transnational function  also means crimes can be traced across borders, and perpetrators throughout the grand corruption supply chain brought to justice.

While no timeframe is currently in place for the formal establishment of the IACC, things are moving fast. III Europe  has the support of many prominent figures from civil society and a growing number of governments. Its presence in The Hague shows that the wheels are now firmly in motion for an operational court in the near future.

Case study: Moldova

For some countries, an International Anti-Corruption Court would mean national efforts to resolve kleptocratic legacies are made easier. In Moldova, President Maia Sandu has made anti-corruption a key pillar of her administration. In March 2023, she announced efforts to the create of a new national Anti-Corruption Court as part of a broader move to tackle endemic corruption in the country, but that specialized national court has not yet been created. The President faces considerable interference from powerful oligarchs in her own country who have links to the Russian government. An IACC would provide its expert investigators and prosecutors to assist national Moldovan prosecutors who have integrity in building their cases. If the Moldovan courts were unable to impartially adjudicate the cases, the President could refer them to the independent IACC where the corrupt could be tried and stolen assets recovered for the benefit of all Moldovans. Only a court with transnational powers can comprehensively address the legacy of state capture that still hangs over her country.

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Jan van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague "The city of The Hague is proud to welcome III Europe, a valuable addition to our ecosystem of Peace and Justice. The campaign to create an International Anti-Corruption Court underscores our shared commitment to justice, transparency, and ethical governance."
About Integrity Initiatives International Europe Integrity Initiatives International Europe (III Europe) is an international NGO with the mission to end grand corruption by strengthening the enforcement of criminal laws against corrupt leaders and their co-conspirators.

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About Integrity Initiatives International Europe

“Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation on which systemic failures are built.” ...

IACC

We, conscious of the fact that corruption plagues the modern world, have agreed upon the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court.

Integrity Initiatives International (III) is an NGO fighting grand corruption and institutionalizing the effort to create an International Anti-Corruption Court. Grand corruption is closely correlated with human rights abuses, terrorism, and dangers to international security and peace.