Organised crime goes hand-in-hand with corruption and impunity; there is no defeating one without combatting the other.
Where weak institutions and organised crime come together, society as a whole suffers, along with the ordinary people caught up in the violence, extortion and drug addiction that accompanies organised crime. This applies especially in countries located along the so-called cocaine route in Latin America and West Africa.
Corruption fuels impunity – and vice versa
Corruption and impunity heavily affect the everyday lives of people in these regions.
When organised crime infiltrates criminal justice institutions, it undermines their work through bribery, extortion and threats. Investigations falter and prosecutions fail.
The resulting impunity paves the way for further crime and corruption. In Latin America, where about a third of the world's criminal killings happen, only around five per cent of murder cases are ever solved. Impunity simply makes the cost of murder too low to be considered a disincentive.
It also leads to a loss of public trust, which makes it even harder for these institutions to tackle their actual task of protecting the people. Nobody trusts authorities which seem to protect criminals instead of bringing them to justice.
To tackle impunity, you need resilient and properly resourced criminal justice institutions that the public can trust. Making them transparent and accountable is a key condition for this.
Improving effectiveness through accountability
This is why Transparency International (TI) has developed the Justice and Law Enforcement Accountability Dashboard (JustLEAD), an approach designed to identify and improve integrity gaps in criminal justice institutions fighting organised crime.
The development of the tool was enabled by the CRIMJUST Project, a joint initiative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and TI, that aims to strengthen criminal investigation and criminal justice cooperation along the cocaine route in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa. Building on the piloting of the tool under the CRIMJUST Project, TI then scaled up the implementation of JustLEAD.
What can TI as an anti-corruption movement contribute?
Together with our national chapters and international experts, we are in a unique position to support criminal justice institutions in their endeavour to become more resilient against incursion by organised crime and corrupt actors. This requires continuous political will to implement reforms – and that is where Civil Society Organizations can play a crucial role: they have the ability to maintain constructive pressure on governments and institutions to be more transparent and accountable.
How do we do that?
To identify the specific problems that institutions have to address, we have developed an assessment approach that analyses their transparency and accountability mechanisms. It allows us to check if international standards are being adhered to – both on paper and in practice.
Based on the results of this analysis, our chapters formulate specific and measurable recommendations for the institutions. In Nigeria, this includes a partnership between the chapter and the Police with the aim of improving awareness of the Police Complaint Rapid Response Unit and ensuring justice in cases of police misconduct.
Our chapters are leading voices in the fight against corruption in their countries. This allows them to effectively and sustainably advocate for reforms in criminal justice institutions, on a regional and international scale. When the head of our Venezuelan chapter gave a speech at the UN Security Council last year, she partly drew upon data from JustLEAD assessments to point out how opaque and corrupt institutions have heavily contributed to the severe economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
We keep track of the progress and improvements made over time, which incentivises reform.
- Strong partners
UNODC is a leading global organization in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime, while INTERPOL is the world’s largest police organization. Working with such credible and well-trusted partners helps to achieve viable outcomes for all parties involved.
With this approach, we are already seeing progress in following the recommendations of the JustLEAD assessment – and we’ll keep working on it. To learn about the achievements of our chapters in Latin America and West Africa, keep an eye on our blog, Voices for Transparency.
This web feature is based on the work done via the Law Enforcement and Justice Institution Accountability Assessment Tool, developed under the CRIMJUST project that is being implemented by Transparency International chapters in 9 countries. Funding from the European Union Cocaine Route Programme under the CRIMJUST project supports tool implementation in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ghana and Panama. Funding from Global Affairs Canada under the IMPACT project supports tool implementation in Honduras, Guatemala, Nigeria, and Venezuela.
Image: Public Domain/US Coast Guard Pacific Area
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