Dealing with police corruption: Human rights as a moral code for the police

E.W. Kolthoff*, J.H.L.J. Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


In this chapter, the triangular relationship between human rights, corruption and law enforcement is described. Police forces are strictly regulated by national laws. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why police work is not usually defined explicitly in terms of human rights, since ideas and concepts related to human rights are already positively enshrined in national law. Human rights can be studied as a legal concept; but another approach to understanding the meaning and impact of human rights is to study them as a moral framework. Corruption in law enforcement is often defined as ‘the abuse of office for private gain’. Beyond that narrow definition, corruption can be more broadly defined as a synonym for all immoral actions. The link between corruption and human rights can be approached from different angles. One approach emphasises the independent right to live in a corruption-free world, on the grounds that endemic corruption destroys the fundamental values of human dignity and political equality, making it impossible to exercise most other human rights. Another approach focuses on the human rights already recognised in major international treaties, for which the ICHRP report builds a case with its claim that where rights are guaranteed and implemented, corruption is drastically reduced. Good police work and respect for human rights go hand in hand. It is crucial that human rights are understood as a moral code for conduct. We have to ‘do human rights’ in the sense that the concept of these rights is integrated in the definition of police work, and consequently in the way police tasks are conducted on a daily basis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied human rights
EditorsBart Wernaart
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-943-5
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-390-7
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Police
  • Human rights
  • Corruption


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