Independent judicial systems are the key to combating corruption

There is great demand for Finnish expertise in the field of the rule of law around the world. The Rule of Law Centre, established jointly by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the University of Helsinki, supports the implementation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in developing countries.

A person is walking between two houses, in the background there is a field and new buildings.
In recent years, for example 80 Finnish civilian crisis management experts have worked in Kosovo, some of them in the EU rule of law mission.

Finland is committed to promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights at the national, EU and international levels alike. The Rule of Law Centre was established to implement this commitment. The Centre operates within the University of Helsinki, and its activities are funded from development cooperation appropriations.

Respect for the rule of law is declining across the world

“In a state governed by the rule of law, the law is the same for everyone and arbitrariness is prohibited. The law drafting process is transparent and based on the law, and legislation is applied by independent courts.” With these words, Director Tuija Brax launched the opening seminar of the Rule of Law Centre on Wednesday 12 January.

In the light of international assessments, the development of the rule of law has weakened in different parts of the world over the past decade. The rule of law is being challenged not only in developing countries but also in countries that we have considered to be established democracies and states governed by the rule of law.

More work and effort is needed to strengthen and defend the rule of law. The establishment of the Rule of Law Centre responds to this need.

No democracy without strong institutions

The keynote speaker of the opening seminar, Secretary-General of the International IDEA(layout.types.url.description) Kevin Casas-Zamora stressed the importance of the rule of law as the cornerstone of democracy.

According to Casas-Zamora, there is no democracy without the rule of law. There is no democracy without universal and equitable legislation, and there is no democracy without strong institutions that ensure that legislation is implemented in a predictable and impartial manner. 

Secretary-General of the International IDEA Kevin Casas-Zamora stressed the importance of the rule of law as the cornerstone of democracy. Photo: Laura Torvinen/MFA
An independent judicial system is the foundation for the rule of law. The first measure that leaders aiming to concentrate the power in their hands usually take is trying to subjugate the judicial system to political power.

“The first step according to the authoritarian playbook is to make the judiciary act in accordance with the will of the political leaders,” Casas-Zamora said.

According to Casas-Zamora, this is also reflected in the fact that anti-corruption work does not seem to progress but the amount of corruption in the world has remained stable for decades. It is possible to get away with corruption if the judicial system is not independent but controlled by the political leaders.

Impunity and the weakness of the rule of law are also a major problem from the perspective of the freedom of the press. Speaking at the event, Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat Kaius Niemi brought up the alarming statistics according to which only one in ten murders of journalists is resolved worldwide.

Finland supports the development of the rule of law

Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari said at the opening seminar that the Finnish Government is committed to advancing all aspects of the rule of law and that the rule of law is an important guiding principle for Finland’s foreign and security policy.

“The ultimate objective of our work is to create preconditions for sustainable development, as democracy and the rule of law are enablers of sustainable development,” Skinnari said. 

The primary task of the Rule of Law Centre established by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the University of Helsinki is to support developing countries in addressing their challenges related to the rule of law. To this end, the first projects are scheduled to be launched this year in cooperation with international partners.

Finnish expertise is utilised in the rule of law work

The Rule of Law Centre brings together Finnish experts in the field of the rule of law from different universities, central government, judiciary and civil society, for example.

Finns have long participated in the work aiming to develop the rule of law in developing countries. One of the tasks of the Rule of Law Centre is to provide a forum for sharing this experience and lessons learned.

At the opening seminar, two distinguished experts with experience from international positions, Director of the Human Rights Centre Sirpa Rautio and Detective Superintendent Thomas Elfgren, shared their experiences.

Sirpa Rautio described the time she had spent working in Kosovo. At best, there had been as many as 80 Finnish civilian crisis management experts in Kosovo, some of them working for the European Union Rule of Law Mission.

Thomas Elfgren told the audience about his participation in the trials related to the post-genocide truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda.

 

Jussi Kanner and Laura Torvinen

Jussi Kanner works as Desk Officer and Laura Torvinen as Senior Adviser at the Department for Development Policy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.