Humanizing (Anti)Corruption: The Socio-Legal Values of a Human Rights-Based Approach to Corruption

Bruna de Castro e Silva


This article intends to contribute to the current academic and policy debate on the values of determining whether a particular human rights violation was caused by a corrupt behavior; and to defend a human rights-based approach to corruption, based on its added socio-legal values. With this purpose, it analyzes and compares the legal reasoning and socio-legal dynamics of three human rights court cases involving and not involving corruption. By applying a directed content analysis combined with a socio-legal interpretative technique, the study explores and compares the rationality and the values addressed in both corrupt and non-corrupt cases. The results reveal that there are interconnected and mutually reinforcing socio-legal values in applying a human rights lens to combating corruption: (i) it is an improvement towards the justiciability of economic and social rights; (ii) it is a change of paradigm from the insufficient criminal approach to a focus on the social harm; and (iii) it is a more satisfactory approach to the overlapping harmful effects of corruption and inequality. The combination of these values can be used as a legal empowerment strategy, with a particular social accountability dimension, in order to strengthen the disadvantaged, and fight the encroachment caused by corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, especially economic and social rights.


human rights-based approach, corruption, economic and social rights, justiciability, socio-legal values, social harm, inequality, legal empowerment

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