November 1, 2016 Print

A consistent rule of law is crucial for the protection of individual rights, so measures to combat corruption in government are a fundamental component of free societies. Democracy Lab, an Atlas Network partner in Costa Rica, recently published a “Citizen Guide” to MACCIH (“Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras”), an anti-corruption initiative established by the Organization of American States to “fight against corruption and impunity” in Honduras. The country has long been the focus of news reports exposing the infiltration of organized crime into Honduran government, widespread graft and misuse of funds, fraudulent elections, and arbitrary government authority.

“In nations that are structurally corrupt, it is extremely difficult to reform the system from within because the government structure itself directs and participates in the corruption as a regular practice in alliance with powerful business interests,” the guide explains. “In structurally corrupt countries, often many of the highest authorities in the government and many of the country’s most important businessmen are actively involved, because they have effective impunity from the law and are therefore taking very little risk. Eliminating the certainty of high-level impunity for government officials and top business leaders is essential for dealing with structural corruption in a country.”

Democracy Lab guide explains that an International Commission Against Corruption and Impunity (ICACI) is a type of multinational oversight organization that “allows internal reformers--inside the government, inside the legal system, and inside civil society--to combine their resources with a specialized corruption-focused international entity backed by the international community.”

MACCIH is focused on systemic corruption within Honduras, which means that it “has significantly less shared legal authority to pursue individual cases of corruption, but a much broader overall mandate” in its structural mission, allowing independent investigations of government officials and proceedings.

“In reviewing the breadth of MACCIH’s mandate and its organization into 4 divisions, it is important to note that only the first division—Preventing and Combating Corruption—deals directly with corruption and with impunity for corrupt acts,” the guide concludes. “The remaining three MACCIH divisions have mandates to work on reforms of entire national systems—criminal justice, political finance, and public security—far beyond whether those reforms have any direct links to corruption and impunity or not. This broad reform mandate seems to indicate a belief that in a country like Honduras, with deeply embedded structural corruption, that taking on the corruption directly will not be sufficient—that reform of entire systems must be part of a successful effort. It will be an interesting test to see what an ICACI with such a far reaching mandate can accomplish.”