Spanish version


International court proposed for corruption cases

The measure is being touted by a U.S. judge.

Spanish version


Mark L. Wolf. Mark L. Wolf.
Mark L. Wolf. Rita Vásquez

The creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court is an initiative proposed in 2014, by Judge Mark Wolf to combat abuse committed by public officials.

As published in the Washington Post, Judge Wolf said the "cost of corruption is very large, corrupt regimes provide safe havens for terrorists, drug dealers, and is certainly closely related to the most egregious human rights abuses."

Corruption destabilizes countries and creates great risks for world peace and security, said Wolf. The proposal is similar to that of the International Criminal Court, which has generated support and interest in several countries.

In an interview with La Prensa, Wolf talked about the details of his initiative which seeks to penalize those rulers that abuse power, and who evade prosecution in their home countries.

What is the anti-corruption court? 

As it is designed, it is a similar, but separate from the ICC Court. It is a court which will try corruption cases. The subjects of this court will be world leaders and those close to those who enjoy impunity for acts of corruption in their countries because they control the police, prosecutors and courts. 

Great corruption is endemic in many countries, including some in Latin America. Almost all countries in the world have laws criminalizing the laundering of money among other acts of corruption and extortion. In fact a total of 178 countries are members of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, but the problem is even though the laws exist, often they are not effective in practice when it comes to those who run those countries. 

On the other hand, these rulers do not allow the investigation and consequent punishment of their friends, partners or relatives.

Would the court also handle cases involing people such as Marcelo Odebrecht? 

Indeed, these people who work in close collaboration with the rulers and through acts of corruption personally benefit from this relationship, could be processed by the IACC. 

However, the IACC, as well as the International Criminal Court, only operate complementarily to the jurisdiction of each country, i.e. only in cases where countries are not willing to prosecute those accused of major corruption. In the case of Panama, for example, with former President Ricardo Martinelli, who is processed in Panama and is awaiting his extradition from the United States, he would not be subject to a second process under the international anti-corruption court. However, the above is based on the fact that the process in the country of origin has been made in good faith, and which does not constitute a false or rigged trial and that the person has been judged in an impartial and genuine way.

What about cases involving the rulers of countries such as Venezuela or Ecuador, where there are obvious cases of corruption but whose leaders ignore international agencies? 

In the case of presidents of countries such as these, if they refuse to appear before the IACC voluntarily, their universe would become increasingly narrow. 

Corruption, is a serious crime. The money that is lost annually to corruption is ten times more than the UN spends annually on international aid. 

Corruption is also associated with terrorism and is a betrayal of democracy. Corruption is illegal in all countries and is intimately linked to the lack of respect for human rights. 

Corruption is also not a victimless crime, so the role of the international community in the fight against corruption is legitimate. However, so far the international community has not been energetic enough in the combat of corruption especially in the case of countries in which their leaders are guilty of such acts. 

For this reason, the idea of the IACC is not to create new laws, but rather to provide mechanisms to facilitate the implementation of already existing legislation in different countries in terms of corruption, especially in cases in which the same countries are not willing, or are unable, to apply these same laws to their rulers.

Why create a new court rather than use the existing international criminal court? 

The IACC could be part of the International Criminal Court, but some, and I include myself in this group, have recommended it act separately. The idea of a separate court is to judge the "untouchables." 

This is a court that the different countries of the world should want. It should not be an exclusive initiative of the United States or Great Britain. The majority of countries are tired of seeing the future of their country truncated by corruption.

What kind of punishments would the court dole out? 

In my opinion, the punishment would be a sentence at an international prison. This is the link that is needed in the international effort to combat corruption. The levels of impunity in these nations are very large, there is no evidence that effectively corruption can extinguish in these kleptocracies. 

If the punishment consists of only returning what was stolen, this will not discourage anyone from committing acts of corruption, however if there is a risk of going to prison, more leaders will think about the consequences of their actions. 

It is a fundamental principle of criminal law: people lose their freedom if they commit illegal acts.

What provisions exist so that the court will not be used for political purposes? 

This is a very serious issue, but I think there is less risk that there will be a political process in an international court than in any other court. Judges and prosecutors and others involved in the international courts should be very informed and trained to be able to check that it is not a purely political case. The court also needs resources to carry out its duties responsibly. 

And although the risk exists, I think that it is lower in international courts than at the local level.

Would the court be willing to prosecute Donald Trump or any president of the United States if that were the case? 

Indeed, if the courts of the United States are not willing to prosecute the country's president, the corruption court could certainly open a process.

How would the court be financed? 

The amount of money that is saved and recovered would be sufficient to finance the operations of the court, however, there are still details to be worked out on the subject.

How long would it take to establish the court? 

We really do not have a deadline. Many say that it is a very good idea, and although it can take some time, it is very much needed.

What do you believe to be the position of Panama? 

I think that there is a great support in Panama, mostly due to the efforts of the government to combat corruption.





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