No guarantee of human rights while corruption persists, says Transparency International

Anti-corruption campaigners condemn lethal link between corruption and human rights abuses at moving ceremony attended by Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Graça Machel

Cape Town / Berlin, 10 December 2007 – Transparency International’s Managing Director, Cobus de Swardt today joined a group of former world leaders such as Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Graça Machel in a moving ceremony held in Cape Town’s historic former slave quarter to launch the Every Human Has Rights campaign and mark International Human Rights Day. De Swardt’s unmistakable message: “Every human has the right to live in a society free of corruption. And no corrupt society can guarantee human rights.”

“Corruption has greased the wheels of exploitation and injustice since time immemorial, and the great human tragedies of recent history – genocides and institutionalised racism – have likewise been welded to abusive systems that twist the public trust for private gain. That is why we say today, the fight against corruption is not a footnote in the struggle for human rights,” stated de Swardt.

That Human Rights Day directly follows International Anti-Corruption Day, on 9 December, is deeply symbolic. The fight against corruption and for human rights, are mutually dependent. The Seoul Findings of the 11th International Anti-Corruption Conference declare that corruption, particularly on a grand scale, should be designated as a crime against humanity, as “it is immoral, unjust and repugnant to the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

De Swardt added, “Fifty-nine years have not diminished the urgency of the declaration. Nor has its mission grown easier. We face the abuse of power and abuse of rights by political regimes across the globe.”

Transparency International’s latest public opinion survey, the Global Corruption Barometer shows that corruption continues to haunt the daily lives of citizens everywhere, particularly the poorest, and that it is the police and the judiciary that are most compromised. “As long as the machinery of law enforcement remains tainted there can be no equal treatment before the law -as stated in the Declaration- nor can there be any real guarantee of human rights more broadly,” continued de Swardt. “Human rights are predicated on the belief in human dignity and political equality, and corruption corrodes both.”

“It is the fact that the poor and marginalised are most affected by bribery that should give us pause,” added de Swardt. “In brutally concrete terms it means that those with least influence are faced with demands for bribes in the most vulnerable situations, during contact with law enforcement, health care providers or the education system. This is in direct contravention of the Declaration’s principle of non-discrimination.”

Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) stipulates that all people are “entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised.” Nearly sixty years since the drafting of these words, this promise remains unfulfilled. Corruption continues to undermine both the international and the social order and the rule of law on every level – one of the key areas in which the UDHR overlaps with the United Nations Convention against Corruption, penned in 2003.

“The fight for empowerment, for participation and for equality hangs in the balance today,” said de Swardt. “Governments, citizens and business, must recognise that the abuse of power for private gain, whether in the form of a large bribe for an infrastructure project contract or a small one for medical care, undermine the dignity of human beings. The fight against corruption is a human rights imperative.”

The Every Human Has Rights campaign calls on a billion citizens to sign and uphold the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their daily lives and to hold governments accountable for the same.

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