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Transparency International: The European countries should adjust their legal systems if they want to deal with corruption

01 April 2011 / 15:04:02  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The level of corruption has increased over the past three years, say six out of ten citizens in the world and one in every four admits that he or she is the victim of bribery. These are the sad findings for 2010 of the Global Corruption Barometer, according to which about half of the interviewed inhabitants of the planet do not really trust the judiciary.

If the Greek department of the international organization Transparency International had decided to conduct a similar poll in the country the percentage of the people who have lost faith in the justice system would potentially exceed the global one. The economic crisis and the severe measures that affected the ordinary citizens but not some privileged civil servants and the belief that new sacrifices will be required after a few days cause angry and sometimes extreme reactions in the Greek society.

The media are constantly banging out more and more revelations about the way some politicians have been unreasonable growing rich in the last 30 years; the parliamentary committees are making reports and rumors of yore are getting alive in the courts, but "no one goes to jail." This is the phrase that is increasingly heard not only in conversations between people, but almost everywhere. The beating of the blue deputy Costis Hadzidakis during the Panhellenic strike last December unleashed the passions and there is not a week without a minister to be booed at least and street unrest is ready to overwhelm.
The politicians, in turn, say they are ready to bring their former colleagues to court, but miraculously the limitation period covers all of their offenses. And the public opinion is dissatisfied with the impunity for those believed guilty.

The limitation period in criminal law is a term set by law which in case of specific preconditions excludes the prosecution for a crime or the enforcement of a penalty respectively imposed for such an offense. According to the study of Transparency International, which was presented today in Athens, this period varies across the 27 member countries of the European Union, the shortest being in France - 3 years. It is worth noting that a similar legal fact does not exist in the Anglo-Saxon law. An example is the case of the renowned director Roman Polanski who was indicted last year for raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Transparency International’s survey was conducted on the following crimes: accepting bribes, fraud, abuse of power, illegal enrichment and legalization of funds from illegal activities.

The lawyer Joanna Anastasopoulou said that the study reported the lack of mechanisms to detect corruption, lack of expert staff, lengthy procedures and shorter periods of limitation in all European countries. There are loopholes in their laws and those involved in corruption can easily escape unscathed. In most of the countries, the rules create particular difficulties when it is about political representatives and the lack of statistical data on cases of corruption is a pan-European phenomenon.

With the aim of curbing the corruption, the international organization made several proposals, the most important of which is the extension of the limitation period. According to the lawyers of Transparency International, the limitation period for serious crimes should be over 10 years, it should be calculated depending on the specific cases of corruption and extended when found in several states, to eliminate impunity of the deputies and the members of government and not to cancel the limitation period after the first instance court order.

The lawyer in criminal law Ilias Anagnostopoulos pointed out in his speech that the limitation period in Greece is 5 years and is above the EU average. According to him, however, the trend to consider it the major problem is incorrect. The lawyer blamed the law on ministers’ responsibility for the impunity of the politicians. Under this law, all politicians accused of corruption in recent years have been exempted from all charges. "The immunity is designed to allow lawmakers feel completely free when expressing their opinions. It is not the limitation period to blame, however, when it is used to protect a deputy who was driving drunk."

According to the lawyer, Greece lacks effectiveness of the court proceedings that continue for a long time due to the lack of qualified staff. "We often hear that everything is transferred to the justice. But it can not cope with so many cases under today's conditions. 70 prosecutors worked only during the preliminary investigation of the Siemens’ black cash-boxes case in Germany. How many prosecutors are working here?" said Ilias Anagnostopoulos, adding that today's situation in Greece "should not make us cancel a legal fact. Furthermore, we must not forget the presumption of innocence. Therefore, our efforts should be directed to timely conduct the trials."

"There are one million court orders a year in Greece. This number is huge for a country of 11 million people," said Joanna Anastasopoulu and raised again the question of introducing an intermediary institution into the Greek legal system to take the minor complaints and disputes of the citizens and to enable the courts to focus on trials of greater importance.

Tags: PoliticsSocietyCorruptionPoliticiansLimitation periodCrimes
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