At Last: An UNCAC Handbook

Thanks to Oxford University Press that gaping hole in every anticorruption practitioner’s library has now been filled. With the publication of The United Nations Convention Against Corruption: A Commentary, those looking for authoritative guidance on UNCAC no longer need to sort through the voluminous literature the convention has spawned: UNODC guides, StAR publications, academic commentary, and international and municipal court decisions.  Editors Cecily Rose, Michael Kubiciel, and Oliver Landwehr have, with help from 35 other experts on international law and corruption, done the work for them.  In one volume they summarize the law and learning on each of the convention’s 71 articles.

The Commentary is much more than a digest of UNCAC’s voluminous source materials, however.

Take the confused language on waiver in Article 57, Return and Disposal of Assets. The Convention’s Travaux Préparatoires, UNODC’s Legislative Guide, a Secretariat discussion guide, and StAR’s Asset Recovery Handbook each read it differently.  In a closely reasoned but readable chapter on the article, Professor Pinar Ölcer of Leiden University’s Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology clarifies its meaning.  The analysis of Article 18, Trading in Influence, by King & Spalding’s Aloysius Llamzon, is a gem. He explains what conduct the drafters sought to reach, why the article is so damnably vague, and why so many democracies have thus shied away from implementing it.

The reason why the Commentary’s chapters are of such consistent, high quality lies in whom the editors recruited to write them. Who better to analyze Article 34, Consequences of Acts of Corruption, than Olaf Meyer, editor of and contributor to two outstanding volumes (here and here) on when contracts can be voided or cancelled for corruption?  Jean-Pierre Brun has co-authored many of StAR’s most valuable publications (here and here). That learning is on display in his essays on two of the critical asset recovery articles, numbers 51 and 53.  University of Queensland Law Lecturer Radha Ivory’s discussion of asset confiscation is informed by her 2014 book on due process and asset recovery.  Abiola Makinwa, Senior Lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, brings her years of study and published works (here) to bear to explain and analyze one of the convention’s most important articles, Article 35, Compensation for Damage.

Not that the editors have left all the work to others.  Drawing on country reports, secondary literature, and the Travaux Préparatoires, editor Cecily Rose, Assistant Professor at Leiden University, assesses the embezzlement and abuse of function articles as well as one of the most critical in the criminalization chapter, article 29’s requirement that state-parties “establish . . . a long statute of limitations.” Her co-editor Michael Kubiciel’s analysis of articles 15 and 16 builds on what I still turn to for guidance on UNCAC’s criminal law provisions, his 2009 International Criminal Law Review article.  The third editor, OLAF Senior Legal and Policy Officer Oliver Landwehr, betrays his extensive background in his previous job as a member of the Convention’s Secretariat, the UNODC, in his review of the articles on implementation and the operation of the Secretariat.  His explanation of the mechanics of how to prove illicit enrichment should be prosecutors and defense lawyers first stop when trying to understand the law and logic behind the concept.

The book belongs in easy reach of government and private lawyers, international organization staff, civil society activists, and indeed anyone needing an easy-to-understand, authoritative guide to UNCAC




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