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What are my rights, if I encounter corruption?

Corruption takes many forms, and you have a number of important rights that should help you to protect yourself against it.


Right to property

You may have lost money, or other property, because corrupt people responsible for safeguarding that property decided instead to take it for themselves.

In this situation you have a number of rights: for example, a right to ownership of property that is yours, and a right to recover it from people who wrongfully take it from you without your consent. You also have a right to report that corrupt action to law enforcement authorities in your country, and to require that they enforce the criminal law in your country and bring the wrongdoers to justice.


Right to fair and transparent government

The local, regional and national government of your country is entrusted with considerable powers to govern and administer public affairs hand assets in the public interest. This means that the government of that area and those people must be undertaken, and be seen to be undertaken, by reference to the public good. Laws and policies must be developed and implemented in the public interest and without special favour or benefit to those responsible for government.

If you have suffered loss as a result of the application of the laws or policies which appear to have been affected by corrupt motives, you may have a right under your country’s constitutional laws to apply to a court for the appropriateness of those laws, regulations or policies to be tested. If they are found to have been formulated or implemented for improper motives, you may have the right to seek a court order that those laws, regulations or policies be revised or struck down.


Right to fair treatment by public officials and state agencies

You may have suffered loss or disadvantage as a result of a decision, action or omission by a public official or agency and, In circumstances where you suspect that this action or inaction was motivated by private gain or other improper purposes.

In such circumstances you have the right to ensure that the public officials or agencies dealing with you must discharge their duties fairly, and without asking for, accepting or taking personal benefit.


Right to fair treatment by private companies and their employees

Unfortunately corruption is not limited to the public sector. In most countries there are a number of situations in which essential services are provided by private companies, rather than by the state. You may have suffered loss or disadvantage in dealing with private companies and their employees in relation to the provision of essential services.

In such circumstances, you may well have the right under your country’s domestic clause to require that those companies and their employees should be held to the same standards as public officials, in other words that they must discharge their duties fairly, and without asking for, accepting or taking personal benefit. You should note, though, that this duty of fair and impartial treatment will not always not entitle you to complain about the commercial terms on which the services were provided and the standard of those services, unless you can show that those services were characterised by corrupt or impartial acts.


Right to protection as a “whistleblower”

Sometimes corruption is so entrenched that people who seek to expose it (who are often referred to as “whistleblowers”) become the target of severe reprisals. If you have revealed the occurrence of corrupt conduct, you may find found that the wrongdoer or persons associated with them seek to punish you, perhaps with the intention of discrediting your allegations or deterring others from exposing corrupt acts.

Some countries have laws that confer protections on people who report corruption to the authorities. These laws commonly provide mechanisms to ensure the confidentiality of reporting of corrupt conduct, and (particularly in an employment context) to minimise the risk of adverse impact on the employment status or prospects of people who seek to expose corrupt acts. However, this is a developing area – and unfortunately in many countries these rights are limited or non-existent.

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