At their annual regional meeting, the five South Asian chapters of Transparency International (TI) have called on all South Asian countries to give urgent priority to preventing corruption in judicial systems and to promoting integrity in this vital institution of democracy.
TI’s Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Pascal Fabie, called for “uncompromised integrity from everyone entrusted to enforce the rule of law, which is a cornerstone of human security, social stability and sustainable development”.
Based on the findings and recommendations of Transparency International’s recently released Global Corruption Report 2007, which focuses on corruption in judicial systems, the chapters emphasised the need to strengthen the independence, integrity, accountability and capacity-building of the judiciary in South Asian countries.
In India, the ineffectiveness of the judicial system is frightening. In February 2006, 26 Supreme Court judges faced a backlog of more than 30,000 pending cases; over three million cases were pending in the high courts, meaning 350 years of work for the country’s 670 judges at the current rate of resolution. The perception of judicial corruption in South Asian countries is worrying. India and Pakistan fare badly, with 77 percent and 55 percent of respondents, respectively, describing their judicial system as corrupt. As the report shows, corruption and ineffectiveness are strongly interlinked.
The chapters from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and TI's partner from the Maldives, also urged South Asian governments without access to information laws to enact them without further delay.
In a joint declaration, the South Asian chapters have emphasised institutional, legal and policy reform in their work throughout the year, including efforts to bring greater transparency to government information and to promote the right of a free press to function independently and objectively, without fear or favour. Most South Asian countries have yet to enact an access to information law, which is an indispensable foundation for transparency and accountability in governance, for effective investigative journalism and for the control and prevention of corruption.
Equally important in preventing corruption is the role of citizens, particularly young people, whose engagement will continue to play a vital role in the future of the anti-corruption movement in South Asia.
Ratify UNCAC, say TI chapters
The South Asian chapters also called on India, Nepal and Pakistan to immediately ratify the landmark United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and urged full implementation and monitoring of UNCAC commitments by Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka which have ratified.
Endorsement of SAARC Anti-Corruption Initiative
The chapters urged South Asian governments to follow up progress at the April 2007 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) by adopting specific, result-oriented and time-bound measures to control and prevent corruption in the region. At the summit, South Asian governments recognised corruption as an issue of serious concern and agreed to exchange information on national experience in combating it.
For the South Asian Meeting Declaration click here.
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