Is There a Right to Be Free from Corruption?

38 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017

See all articles by Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2015


Scholars and policymakers have, for some time, focused on the link between corruption and human rights. This has been to illustrate that corruption is not a victimless crime. While this has publicized the impact of corruption on individuals and on society, it has not changed the lack of political will to prosecute many instances of corruption. Thus citizens often stand by as their leaders plunder national treasuries. Rather than focusing solely on human rights, or trying to create a new “human right” to be free from corruption, this article explores the right to a legal remedy for victims of corruption as set forth in Article 35 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

This treaty-based right provides a foundation from which civil society can build an enforceable right to be free from corruption. This article also examines recent challenges brought by civil society groups trying to reclaim assets that were obtained through grand corruption and otherwise hold accountable their political leaders. These groups have used novel theories of legal standing in attempts to recover stolen assets or seek a remedy for public harm caused by systemic corruption. Based on Article 35 and emerging case law, the author argues that the emerging treaty right is one that can be broadly construed, and which forms the basis for further policy and legislative reforms.

Keywords: Corruption, Treaties, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Stolen Assets, Government Corruption, International Crime, Civil Remedies, Standing

Suggested Citation

Ramasastry, Anita, Is There a Right to Be Free from Corruption? (December 1, 2015). UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 2, Pp. 703-39, 2015, University of Washington School of Law Research Paper, No. 2017-07, Available at SSRN:

Anita Ramasastry (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States


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