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UN Convention must take steps to counter ‘high-level corruption and the levels of impunity that facilitate it’, says Paris Declaration

Former Elf affair investigating judge Eva Joly unites with judges, prosecutors and leading public figures to issue A Call for Action Against Large-Scale Corruption

Leading judges and prosecutors from around the world have joined together with leading public figures and non-governmental organisations, to support A Call for Action Against Large-Scale Corruption, a declaration issued in Paris today by Eva Joly, former investigating judge in France.

The Declaration of Paris denounces "the devastating impact of high-level corruption and the levels of impunity that facilitate it" and calls for "national and international measures to combat it".

TI Chairman Peter Eigen, one of the signatories to the Declaration, said today that "this is an important challenge to politicians and all those in power around the world, particularly those who would seek to use immunity to put themselves above the law. Only yesterday the Italian parliament passed a law that defies the principle that we should all be equal before the law."

Eigen continued: "The final drafting session of the UN Convention Against Corruption begins next month in Vienna, and I urge the governments to ensure that the Convention puts into effect the aspirations motivating the signatories of the Declaration of Paris, and I commend Eva Joly for this courageous initiative."

The signatories to the Declaration of Paris include TI Chairman Peter Eigen, TI Advisory Council Chair and former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Kamal Hossain, and TI Advisory Council member Mary Robinson, the former UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

People from all over the world can add their signatures to the Declaration by visiting the website The signatures will be presented to the government delegations attending the UN Convention signing ceremony in Mexico in December 2003.


We, citizens from around the world, drawn from the four corners of the earth and from countries rich and poor, come together united in our determination to denounce in the strongest terms the devastating impact of high level corruption and the levels of impunity that facilitate it, and to demand concerted national and international measures to combat it. We unequivocally condemn all those whose actions and whose inactions have contributed to the crisis of corruption now sweeping the globe, deepening poverty; undermining emerging, and even developed, democracies; and eroding fundamental human rights in many societies. And as we condemn them we unite in a call for urgent action.

The opening up of markets has brought an explosion of corrupt practices. "Levies", "commissions", "kick-backs" are commonplace. They frequently involve people in high positions in government and major international corporations. The perpetrators of these crimes are all too ably assisted by the banking institutions of offshore havens and by bank secrecy laws. But most of all they are protected by systems of impunity that place the leading figures involved beyond the reach of the Rule of Law. Even where the criminals are not formally immune from investigation and prosecution, the officials and the private sector operators are protected in practice by slow and unreliable systems for the taking of evidence across international boundaries. This state of affairs cannot be permitted to continue.

The most abused business sectors are well known: major construction works, the defence industry, aviation, oil, gas and mining. A relatively small number of large corporations, sheltering behind the protection afforded them by their own governments no less than those of the countries they are dealing with, rig public procurement contracts. As a consequence, many people around the world are forced to pay too much for far too little, and are left to meet the debts their corrupt rulers and their corporate conspirators leave behind.

In the process vast fortunes have been amassed - fortunes based on activities that are deepening poverty and denying development to millions, and fortunes more often than not invested in safe havens in Europe and North America.

We believe that rules can and must be developed to meet the challenges of a changing world. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption, presently being prepared in Vienna, has reached a critical stage in its negotiations. It can and it must serve as a radical agent of change. There is scope, too, for the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering to play a much more forceful role in developing its recommendations. We appeal to all those involved in efforts to reform international arrangements to rise to the challenge and act together in anticipating future developments so that large-scale corruption can be fought and defeated.

We therefore declare our convictions that the following steps must be among those that are taken and that they be incorporated, as appropriate, into the new United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the FATF Recommendations:

  1. To make investigations more effective and no less fair:
    • States must review their laws and ensure that no form of executive, parliamentary, diplomatic and judicial immunity can be used to obstruct financial investigations (with committal for trial being subject to a vote of the House concerned only if this is a constitutional imperative)
    • States must review their practices and procedures so as to ensure that these cannot be abused in order to obstruct investigations by delaying the transmission of evidence to foreign courts;
    • States must ensure that their laws do not contain limitation periods which facilitate trials being terminated prematurely for no other reason than that the fact that a defendant has successfully delayed the trial from concluding on time;
    • Banks must be forbidden from opening subsidiaries or transaction business with establishments in any countries or territories, which are failing to play their full party in international judicial cooperation;
    • Banks and financial institutions must be required to record and retain records of all interbank transactions, including a complete identification of all beneficiaries and those who order the transfers;
    • Professional privilege as between lawyers and their criminal clients must be lifted where there are serious grounds for believing that lawyers have been involved in assisting criminals to launder their ill-gotten gains.
  2. To ensure that offenders do not benefit from impunity, but are convicted:
    • States must ensure that officials in positions of power who are in possession of inexplicable wealth are required by law to provide a credible explanation for their wealth and provide for confiscation of assets should they fail to give a reasonable explanation to the satisfaction of a court,
    • The penalties for serious corruption should reflect the grave damage the offences do to the state and its citizens.
  3. In order to deter these serious forms of corruption
    • Listed corporations must be compelled to declare in their consolidated accounts, on a country-by-country basis, the net revenues (taxes, royalties, fees, bonuses, revenue shares etc) paid to the governments and state owned corporations of all countries in which they operate (whether inside or outside the country), so as to ensure transparency of transfers between corporations and states.
    • Judicial competence must be conferred on the jurisdiction where an international corporation has its principal office, so that prosecutions can take place when its subsidiaries are accused of corruption and the state where the offence was committed does not have the ability or the will to pursue the case:
    • Banks must be required to maintain enhanced watch and to report suspicious transactions where they hold accounts for persons who are at risk of being involved in serious corruption such as politicians, senior officials and leading private sector persons who are operating in "high risk" business sectors.

Breaking down the ramparts of serious corruption is an urgent necessity if development processes are to be unlocked for the benefit of all and to build a more peaceful and secure world. Our own generations must do what we can to restore confidence in our political and economic systems and those who hold positions of leadership within them. In an era of globalisation, those who lead us bear immense responsibilities. To give the rest of us hope, they must be above suspicion and they must take the steps we have outlined as a matter of highest urgency.

Signatories attending the Paris event are marked with an asterisk ( *).

*Lloyd Axworthy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
He was at the head of the group of States that enabled the establishment of the International Criminal Court. He is also the major promoter of the movement against anti-personal mines.

Cherif Bassiouni, Professor of Law, President of the International Human Rights Law Institute, De Paul University College of Law (Chicago), President of the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (Siracusa, Italy), Egypt. His works have served as the founding stone of the International Criminal Court.

*Nina Berg, international lawyer, wife of the assassinated journalist Carlos Cardoso, Norway and Mozambique
The trial of the people who assassinated Carlos Cardoso is taking place in Mozambique at the moment. The tension is at its maximum and Nina Berg's lawyers are constantly under threat. The son of the President of Mozambique is said to be involved in the case. The investigations of Carlos Cardoso had revealed that the judiciary and political bodies were highly corrupted.

*Bernard Bertossa, former Attorney-General, Geneva, Switzerland
From 1999 to 2002, he drastically changed International Justice practices concerning corruption and money-laundering, by dealing with international rogatory inquiries in an effective way, and looking for traces of suspicious money hidden in banks in Geneva. On 1st October 1996, he welcomed the Signatories of the Geneva Appeal, which was then signed by more than four thousand European magistrates.

Francesco Saverio Borrelli, former Chief Prosecutor, Milan, Italy
On 12th January 2002, at the reconvening of the Higher Level Court, and before retiring, Borelli, who is in charge of the financial section of the Milan Prosecution, called magistrates to "resist, and keep resisting," notably "external interventions and acts of sabotage."

David M. Crane, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
In Freetown, he leads investigations and prosecutions concerning charges for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during the particularly atrocious civil war in Sierra Leone. Through his work, he discovered the ravages of high-level corruption and diamond trafficking.

Pérez Esquivel, Director of the organisation Servicio Paz y Justicia,
Nobel Prize in Peace, Argentina

Prof. Dr. Peter Eigen, Chairman, Board of Directors, Transparency International, Germany
The representative of the World Bank in Kenya, he was asked to produce a report on corruption in Africa, but the measures he recommended were considered to be "too political." He decided to quit his position and founded Transparency International, an NGO which is active in
87 countries today.
*Baltasar Garzón, Examining Magistrate, Spain
He has conducted dozens of investigations concerning major cases of drug trafficking,
State-sponsored terrorism (Grupo Antiterrorista de Liberacion, GAL), as well as corruption scandals linked to the anti-drug section of the "Guarda Civil," gun-running and the violation of human rights in Argentina and Chile. It was he who issued the warrant for the arrest of Pinochet, which was a landmark in the emergence of universal justice. He is one of the most threatened men in Spain, and is constantly under police protection.

*John Githongo, Special Adviser to the President of Kenya
Specialised in the fight against corruption, he was appointed by President Kibaki as Permanent Secretary in charge of governance and ethics, after the long period in power of President Moi, who institutionalised corruption at all levels of society.
*Juan Guzman, Judge, Appeal Court, Chile
He is in charge of the investigation concerning the Caravan of Death, a terror campaign, which flew over Chile after the Coup d'Etat, killing and torturing numerous political opponents. In this context, he decided to bring charges against General Pinochet, creating a political upheaval in Chile. The former dictator was however found to be unfit to stand trial because of his "advanced age."

* Dr. Kamal Hossain, Chairman, Advisory Council, Transparency International, former minister of Law and Finance. UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan. Bangladesh

*Frantisek Janouch, Nuclear Physicist, Founder of "Charter 77", Czech Republic and Sweden
He is a physicist. After the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was banned from teaching at university for political reasons, forced to live in exile, and stripped of his nationality. He went to live in Sweden, where he set up in 1978 the Charter 77 Foundation, which played a key role
in supporting Eastern European dissidents.

*Eva Joly, former Examining Magistrate in France, Special counsellor to the Norwegian Government, France
In charge of a minor case - the suspicious bailing out of a textile company - she has led a high-risk investigation, under police protection, on the behind-the-scenes events of the Oil Group ELF. The case is being tried in Paris at the moment, and concerns an embezzlement of more than 300 million Euros.

*Fine Maema, Attorney General, Lesotho.

*Carlos Morelli, Chairman of the 7th Conference against Corruption, Peru
He launched a public opinion campaign to obtain from Japan the extradition of the former Peruvian President Fujimori, who embezzled astronomic sums of money and set up an important corruption network.

*Pius N'Jawé, Journalist for Le Messager, Cameroon
In 1979, he launched the independent weekly newspaper (Le Messager' in one of the world's most corrupt State, according to Transparency International. During the last twenty years, he has been threatened, jailed and "taken a hundred and twenty six times to the police station."
His determination won him the recognition of the international media.

*Antonio di Pietro, Member of the European Parliament (Strasbourg), Italy
He was the first to investigate the Mani Pulite Operation that took place in Italy. As a result, he was subjected to defamation campaigns and there were attempts to destabilise him on numerous occasions. He was the Minister of Public Works for a short time, before becoming senator and member of the European Parliament. He is the founder of "The Italy of Values."

*John Charles Polanyi, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Canada
He has put his scientific reputation in the service of the peace and human rights in the world.

*Yolanda Pulecio, mother of Ingrid Betancourt, FARC hostage, Columbia
She is the founder of "Albergo," an association for underprivileged children in Bogota.
Her daughter, Ingrid Betancourt, has launched a political movement against corruption, and was kidnapped by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) on 23rd February 2002.

Mary Robinson, Executive Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ireland

Aruna Roy, Founder of Organization for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants (MKSS), India
She is leading a battle against corruption in India, denouncing the bribing and suspicious outlays of Indian authorities. She has enabled a law on "Freedom of Information" to be passed in Rajasthan, and in three other Indian States. This law is about to be enforced in the whole of India.

Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nigeria
He has led an unwavering fight against General Abacha's dictatorship, and was sent to prison for two years. He is the one who called for the boycott of Nigerian oil, from which Abacha and his family helped themselves to more four billion dollars, with the help of British and Swiss banks.

*Phillip Van Niekerk, former chief editor of Mail Guardian in Johannesburg, project manager
of the Center for Public integrity, South Africa and United States. He conducted depth investigations in Angola.

Non-governmental organisations

Transparency International
Global Witness
African Parliamentarian Network Against Corruption - Kenya (APNAC-Kenya)
International Organisation of Prosecutors

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