Countries call for world anti-corruption court

HAGUE (AFP): The Netherlands, Canada and Ecuador backed calls Monday for the creation of a global anti-corruption court, saying it would help tackle “kleptocrats” at the head of governments.

Foreign ministers from the three countries supported a campaign for a graft-busting tribunal, which backers say would operate on similar lines to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The Netherlands, Canada and Ecuador share the vision that this could eventually lead to the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said after they met in The Hague.

“Such a court will provide the international community with an additional tool to enforce existing anti-corruption laws,” Hoekstra tweeted.

Some two trillion dollars in procurement spending around the world is lost to corruption every year, according to UN figures.

US senior judge Mark Wolf, who is leading the campaign, said the tribunal “will focus on the highest level of officials and the people they bribe.”

“The culture of ending corruption starts at the top down” he told a panel discussion on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting.

Some 189 parties including 181 countries have signed up to the UN’s Convention Against Corruption, a treaty aimed at stopping graft around the world.

“Yet kleptocrats enjoy impunity because they control the administration of justice in the countries that they rule,” Wolf said.

“This court could be a place where very brave whistleblowers… for instance could bring their evidence” if unable to do so in the countries where they live.

But the court’s backers admitted that it still had a long way to go before it could become a reality.

They agreed it would face similar challenges to those encountered by the ICC, set up in 2002 to prosecute individuals for war crimes.

The ICC, for instance, does not have the capability to arrest suspects and relies on its member states to do so, with varying success.

“We want to look at what has and hasn’t worked and what the next steps could be,” Maja Groff, senior treaty advisor for Integrity Initiatives International, the NGO behind the push for the graft court told the panel.

The Dutch city of The Hague is already host to a slew of global tribunals including the ICC and the International Court of Justice, which deals with disputes between UN member states.