Outlining the Proposal for an International Anti-Corruption Court

Leading proponents of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) to tackle grand corruption discussed their vision and ideas with the UNCAC Coalition community

5 December 2022 –

A proposal by Integrity Initiatives International (III) is driving an international discussion on the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court. Significant interest from our network prompted a discussion on this proposal, hosted by the UNCAC Coalition’s Grand Corruption and State Capture working group, moderated by Gillian Dell (Transparency International) and Cynthia Gabriel (C4).

The proponents have recently laid out their proposal in a paper entitled “The Progressing Proposal for An International Anti-Corruption Court“.

Why do we need an international anti-corruption court?

Three leading legal experts presented their vision of a new international court in a moderated session – all three are members of III’s committee that is elaborating a draft statute for the proposed court:

  • Justice Richard Goldstone, a former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Chair of the Independent Expert Review of the International Criminal Court, and Vice Chair of Integrity Initiatives International; 
  • Justice Maria Wilson, Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago, former Trial Lawyer at the International Criminal Court and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and former Assistant Director of Public Prosecution in Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Ambassador Allan Rock, President Emeritus and Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations.

The speakers outlined their vision for the proposed new Court:

  • The IACC will  be complementary to domestic courts, and a court of last resort. While there is no shortage of domestic anti-corruption legislation in many countries, enforcement of these laws is severely lacking. The IACC will fill this gap, acting as an international mechanism to prosecute the kleptocrats and crimes which domestic courts are unwilling, or unable, to pursue themselves. The principle of state sovereignty is recognized by the IACC.
  • The IACC will be a sleek, specialized Court, “and its procedures less complex and protracted.” Unlike the existing International Criminal Court (ICC), the IACC will have a more narrow jurisdiction, and will only employ judges when required for cases. The court will gain jurisdiction through referrals from its own State Parties, or from a prosecutor acting proprio motu (on one’s own initiative).
  • The IACC will provide a forum to fairly and effectively prosecute and punish kleptocrats and their transnational networks of professional enablers – including lawyers, bankers, accountants, real estate agents, and other service providers. It will thus deter future grand corruption by establishing a credible threat of prosecution where such a threat does not currently exist for almost all kleptocrats and their co-conspirators.
  • The IACC will help recover, repatriate and/or repurpose stolen assets for the benefit of the victims of grand corruption through orders of restitution or disgorgement, and possibly civil suits.
  • The IACC requires the support of civil society in order to succeed. The call for this Court should be the result of global civil society pressure, including voices from the Global South. With civil society actors, journalists, whistleblowers and the media so often serving as corruption watchdogs, the Court will rely on them for assistance in prosecuting criminals and cases, especially those which cross borders and span numerous jurisdictions.

Watch the full presentation outlining the need for an IACC here.

Over 60 members of the Coalition’s network attended to ask questions and critically assess the proposal.

Questions focused on practical aspects such as the process of drafting the Court’s statute, as well as potential involvement and entry points for civil society. Concerns were also raised about how to garner support from States ruled by kleptocrats who control public institutions, as well as the reality of corrupt actors enjoying impunity, and settling for out-of-court agreements. 

Other comments from participants touched upon how the court could operate and interact with other law enforcement agencies such as Interpol; whether the IACC proposal would consider the creation of a rapid response team to deal with whistleblower complaints for investigation, and how the IACC provides an opportunity to advance asset recovery, possibly even including provisions for victims’ reparations.

The engaged discussion also highlighted that how such a Court could be set up and function is still at an early stage, as III is currently in the process of turning their ideas into proposed draft statutes for a court.

For more information on commonly asked questions about the IACC, its relevance and significance, see this executive summary produced by III (also available in Spanish). If you would like to learn more about the IACC proposal, take a look at this research paper authored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a synopsis of the IACC debate by the U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre, or III’s own featured writings about the Court.