About the Rule of Law

“What makes the difference between Good and Bad Government? … the rule of law. … in a world divided by differences of nationality, race, colour, religion and wealth it is one of the greatest unifying factors, perhaps the greatest, the nearest we are likely to approach to a universal secular religion. It remains an ideal, but an ideal worth striving for, in the interests of good government and peace, at home and in the world at large.” 

-Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law, Epilogue.

In 2004, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan defined the “rule of law” as “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency”. (Report to the Security Council (2004), The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Countries.)

Justice Base understands the “rule of law” as encompassing both substantive and procedural values: notions such as supremacy of the law, legal certainty, and the avoidance of arbitrariness; equality before the law, access to justice and the procedural fairness of trials (which includes the requirement of an independent and impartial judiciary); and an understanding that a nation’s laws are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

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