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What is the Rule of Law Cheat Sheet by

Why Rule of Law is necessary
law     rule     justice

What is the rule of law?

Rule of law refers to an end state in which all indivi­duals and instit­utions, public and private, and the state itself are held accoun­table to the law, which is supreme. Laws must be consistent with intern­ational human rights norms and standards, legally certain, legally transp­arent, drafted with procedural transp­arency, and publicly promul­gated.

This end state requires equal enforc­ement and equality before the law, indepe­ndent adjudi­cation of the law, fairness in the applic­ation of the law, and avoidance of arbitr­ari­ness. Access to justic­e—the ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through informal or formal instit­utions of justice—is a mutually reinfo­rcing component of rule of law. The rule of law requires the separation of powers and partic­ipation in decisi­on-­making. Rule of law is the ideal that states strive for; stabil­ization requires urgent focus toward this end.

What are the key rule of law challe­nges?

Histor­ically, the justice system may have been repressive and discri­min­atory, partic­ularly against margin­alized popula­tions, and may have been used only as a tool of powerful elites or criminal power struct­ures. Impunity for those in power consti­tutes another common barrier to reform. Compou­nding this challenge is the likelihood that conflict has paid handso­mel­y—t­hrough illicit means—­leading to crimin­ali­zation of state instit­utions, including the justice system. Public trust may be very low. The population may prefer to access justice through non-state, localized systems of justice or vigilante groups to solve grievances instead. The justice system may be severely debili­tated or may have collapsed. Its infras­tru­cture (e.g., court houses, public buildings, prisons, police stations, and minist­ries) may be destroyed, looted or dilapi­dated and in need of repair. Basic material resources may also be lacking. There may be a shortage of qualified rule of law actors (e.g., judges, court staff, police, prosec­utors, prison officials, lawyers).

Why is the rule of law a necessary end state?

Without rule of law, criminal and politi­cally motivated violence will perpetuate the threat that warring parties posed during violent conflict. A poorly functi­oning justice system will allow petty crime, violent crime, politi­cally and ethnically motivated crime, sexual and domestic violence, and organized criminal activities to flourish. Crime may be perpet­rated or tacitly supported by those in power, where government structures have become crimin­alized, and by former warring parties that have transf­ormed into organized crime gangs. Unless groups that have been involved in violent conflict regard the justice system as a more attractive altern­ative to violence for resolving disputes, peace will not be sustai­nable. For the popula­tion, rule of law is necessary to ensure safety and security for indivi­duals, families, property, and businesses and to allow freedom of movement to access public services such as education and health. Rule of law is the foundation for economic and political recovery and prospe­rity.

Rule of Law

What are the necessary condit­ions?

•Just Legal Framew­orks is a condition in which laws are consistent with intern­ational human rights norms and standards; are legally certain and transp­arent; are drafted with procedural transp­arency; are equitable, and are responsive to the entire popula­tion, not just powerful elites.
•Public Order is a condition in which laws are enforced equitably; the lives, property, freedoms, and rights of indivi­duals are protected; criminal and politi­cally motivated violence has been reduced to a minimum; and criminal elements (from looters and rioters to leaders of organized crime networks) are pursued, arrested, and detained.
•Acc­oun­tab­ility to the Law is a condition in which the popula­tion, public officials, and perpet­rators of past confli­ct-­related crimes are held legally accoun­table for their actions; the judiciary is indepe­ndent and free from political influence; and horizontal and vertical accoun­tab­ility mechanisms exist to prevent the abuse of power.
•Access to Justice is a condition in which people are able to seek and obtain a remedy for grievances through formal or informal instit­utions of justice that conform with intern­ational human rights standards, and a system exists to ensure equal and effective applic­ation of the law, procedural fairness, and transp­arency.
•Culture of Lawful­ness is a condition in which the general population follows the law and seeks to access the justice system to address its grieva­nces.

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