AAPTIP’s national and international experts have helped map corruption risks to anti-trafficking in persons efforts in Southeast Asian justice sectors.
This mapping has assisted in developing a clearer understanding of the negative impact of unethical conduct across the region. This helps inform our efforts to more effectively build investigative, prosecutorial and adjudicative capacity to ultimately strengthen the criminal justice response to Trafficking in Persons (TIP).
Corruption risks in the criminal justice sector include those encountered in the general government. As in other public-sector institutions, general corruption risks pertain as to procurement, simple embezzlement, human resources management and remuneration. These are often associated with a lack of clear accountability standards and transparency in decision-making (e.g. freedom to information).
Justice sector institutions can, however, be particularly vulnerable to corruption risks. These risks come with the special status of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. They need to act independently of politics, so there can be less external oversight and more discretionary power than in other sectors. The highly technical legal language used also constitutes a considerable barrier for most citizens to properly understand, follow and scrutinize justice processes and decisions. Many aspects of the investigation and prosecution phases are confidential and are hidden from public view. In some cases, judicial misconduct can be regarded as a ‘victimless crime’ that is difficult to detect as both the corrupter and the corrupted benefit from the corrupt deal, like if a police officer destroys evidence of an offence in exchange for a bribe by the perpetrator. There are serious negative consequences of such misconduct for both victims and society at large.
These risks can be manifested across a very wide range of corrupt activities at any stage of the criminal justice process, from the first crime report to the administration of a final sentence. The justice-related risks which are most important from a human rights perspective are those that had the greatest impact on vulnerable groups. This occurs when corruption:
- leads to the wrong person being charged and convicted of the wrong crime, or
- undermines protection for victims of trafficking.
The effective mitigation of those risks can include:
- Development of clear guidelines for victim identification – to make it harder for victims to be ignored by corrupt officers
- Awareness raising on rights for victims – to make it less likely that they will be re-victimised through unethical official behaviour
- Identify integrity champions among counterparts – to create peer role models for others to follow
- Develop a module on the impact of corruption on TIP together with partners – to embed anti-corruption within all skills training courses
- Build relations between police at border areas/hotspots and central specialist units – so corrupt behaviour is harder to hide
- Prioritize case management systems for TIP cases – where records management practices are improved and tampering with evidence is harder
- Develop Standard Operating Procedures on TIP investigations for regional use – establishing clear good practice standards
- Develop Codes of Conduct for anti-trafficking units, specialist prosecutors and judicial officers