December 31, 2014

Training Addresses the Link between Human Rights and Corruption

December 2014

On October 1, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) trained about 50 law enforcement officers from across Southeast Asia on the intersections between human rights and corruption. ABA ROLI’s Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor Peter Ritchie and Rebecca Vernon, a DC-based ABA ROLI program manager, conducted the training.

The workshop was designed to increase participants’ understanding of human rights as defined by different international bodies, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and engaged trainees in an open and critical discussion on the links between corruption and human rights abuses, as well as the role law enforcement officers play both in facilitating and addressing them.

Participants, who are in the early or middle stages of their careers and were selected to attend the workshop for their leadership potential, shared ideas on human rights issues that commonly arise in the context of law enforcement, such as arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment and procedural rights of criminal defendants; law enforcement officers’ role in protecting, respecting and promoting human rights; and the challenges officers face in fulfilling this role. They also deliberated law enforcements’ duty to respect the religion and privacy of detainees and the rights of victims and their families.

Trainees later examined hypothetical scenarios involving corruption and human rights violations and identified ways in which law enforcement officers could help to fight them. Participants agreed that law enforcement officers—including immigration officers and customs officials—were on the frontlines and were susceptible to engaging in corrupt behaviors.

A participant from Indonesia used the analogy of a tree to describe the relationship between law enforcement, corruption and human rights abuses. He said that the soil that provides nutrients to the tree is unethical law enforcement officers; the trunk of the tree that holds up the branches is corruption; and the branches are human rights abuses and crimes such as human trafficking and environmental degradation. Eliminating the fertile soil will dry up the resources that support corruption, he added, effectively cutting down the tree and abolishing the crimes that constitute the branches.

The workshop concluded with a discussion on how standards and codes of professional conduct can help to ensure integrity within law enforcement agencies.

To learn more about regional anti-corruption work in Asia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.