Summer 2018

The World Needs an International Anti-Corruption Court

Mark L. Wolf
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In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy wrote that “the thoughts that have enormous consequences are always simple.” This essay explains an ambitious idea with enormous consequences that is simple: an International Anti-Corruption Court is needed to diminish the devastating consequences of grand corruption, the abuse of public office for private gain by a nation's leaders. Grand corruption depends on a culture of impunity in countries whose leaders will not permit the enforcement of existing criminal laws against their close colleagues and themselves. An International Anti-Corruption Court would provide a forum to enforce those laws, punish corrupt leaders, and deter and thus diminish grand corruption. The successful prosecution and imprisonment of corrupt leaders would create opportunities for the democratic process to produce successors dedicated to serving their people rather than to enriching themselves.

MARK L. WOLF is a Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and Chair of Integrity Initiatives International. Prior to his appointment in 1985, he was a Special Assistant to the United States Attorney General in the aftermath of Watergate and the chief federal prosecutor of public corruption in Massachusetts.

As the contents of this volume of Dædalus demonstrate, there is a growing international understanding that more effective means are needed to combat corruption, particularly what is coming to be called “grand corruption” or “kleptocracy.” Grand corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain by a nation’s leaders. It flourishes in many countries because of a failure to enforce existing criminal statutes prohibiting bribery, money laundering, and the misappropriation of national resources. Impunity exists because corrupt leaders control the police, the prosecutors, and the courts.

In 2016, leaders from more than forty countries met in London for the Anti-Corruption Summit. They endorsed a Global Declaration Against Corruption, committing each represented nation to the proposition that “the corrupt should be pursued and punished.”1 The Declaration emphasized the “centrality” of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), in which 183 countries pledged to enact laws criminalizing corruption and to enforce . . .


  • 1United Kingdom Office of the Prime Minister, “Global Declaration Against Corruption,” May 12, 2016, global-declaration-against-corruption.