Rule of Law



Rule of Law (also closely associated with or referred to as rule according to law, rule under law, and rule according to a higher law) is not easily defined. It embodies the theory, idea or concept, wherein the law is the authority in a situation, rather than man, government, or any other entity.

The World Justice Project has submitted the followng principles as a working rule of law definition:

- A system of self-government where all entities are accountable under the law;

- A system based on fair, publicized, broadly understood and stable laws;

- A fair, robust and accessible legal process in which rights and responsibilities based in law are evenly enforced; and

- Diverse, competent, and independent lawyers and judges.

Additionally, rule of law is widely accepted as promoting democracy. With this interpretation, the govening law of the land must support and reflect the ideas and decisions of the populace.

In this scenario, laws are established and set, based upon societal rules, mores and opinions, as well as a general concensus of the preferred methods of dealing with criminal and civil transgressions. These laws are created by both legislative bodies and judicial precedent. This supports the concept that the rule of law equals the rule of the people.

Further reading and investigation is encouraged to more fully examine the complex nuances of the Rule of Law and what this means to each individual.

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Rule of Law - US

  • ABA - Rule of Law Initiative

    The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is a mission-driven, non-profit program grounded in the belief that rule of law promotion is the most effective long-term antidote to the most pressing problems facing the world today, including poverty, conflict, endemic corruption and disregard for human rights.

  • American Rule of Law - The American Way

    American rule of law is based on the premise that increase in government means decrease in liberty. That being given, the underlying assumption about American rule of law is that limits must be placed on government, since the tendency of government is to grow and grow and grow. Therefore, individual, inalienable rights are officially recognized as being fundamental to our form of government and are enumerated in the Bill of Rights which was added to the Constitution so that as a last resort, people could refer to that document and essentially say to government, "This is where you may not tread. These are our rights as given us by our creator and as officially recognized in this document, the Bill of Rights.

  • Rule of Law - Definition

    The rule of law is an ambiguous term that can mean different things in different contexts. In one context the term means rule according to law. No individual can be ordered by the government to pay civil damages or suffer criminal punishment except in strict accordance with well-established and clearly defined laws and procedures. In a second context the term means rule under law. No branch of government is above the law, and no public official may act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law. In a third context the term means rule according to a higher law. No written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice that transcend human legal systems.

  • United States Constitution - Bill of Rights

    The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public. While originally the amendments applied only to the federal government, most of their provisions have since been held to apply to the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • US Department of State - Rule of Law Working Group

    In May 2011, our Presidents announced the establishment of the Rule of Law Working Group to promote enhanced cooperation between the U.S. Department of Justice and Russian Ministry of Justice. Topics for discussion within this Working Group include judicial assistance in civil cases, corrections, pretrial detention, service of process, alternatives to detention, and asset recovery.

  • USDOJ - Office of Rule of Law Coordinator

    In May 2007, the State Department reorganized the Office of the Rule of Law Coordinator (RoLC) for the U.S. Embassy, Baghdad to consolidate all U.S. Government civilian and law enforcement efforts to support the rule of law in Iraq, under a single authority. The current RoLC is a senior Justice Department official who oversees the work of more than 200 personnel under Chief of Mission authority and serves as the primary advisor to the Ambassador on justice-related issues.

  • Virginia Bar Association - Rule of Law Project

    The mission of The Virginia Bar Association Rule of Law Project is to fundamentally change the way students learn about the rule of law as the basis of all of our rights and responsibilities as American citizens. We must teach our children these lessons so the rule of law will be relevant to them. If we do not, the rule of law as we know it will gradually erode away, and America will no longer be the beacon of hope to the world.

Rule of Law - International

  • Amsterdam Center for International Law

    The research program on the International Rule of Law addresses selected challenges posed by the attempts of states and international institutions to further develop the international rule of law.

  • Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI)

    The Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI) is an Arab regional, non-governmental and non-profit organization, founded in 2003 by a group of judges, specialists in rule of law, lawyers and academics from various Arab countries.

  • International Bar Association Rule of Law Action Group

    The Rule of Law Action Group's purpose is to encourage and assist the membership of the IBA, both member organizations and individual members, to respond on a continuous basis to the call of the IBA Council to 'speak out in support of the Rule of Law within their respective communities'.

  • International Rule of Law Directory

    The purpose of the International Rule of Law Directory is to provide users with reliable information and a compiled directory of Internet resources and links to organisations offering assistance to the rule of law. This is the first centralized, fully searchable, online database of entities engaged in rule of law work throughout the world and will provide an invaluable tool to those establishing and implementing rule of law programs. It allows organizations to provide a brief description of the rule of law they carry out and contact details.

  • Rule of Law - United Nations' Peacekeeping

    Rule of Law is the legal and political framework under which all persons and institutions, including the State itself, are accountable. Establishing respect for the rule of law is fundamental to achieving a durable peace in the aftermath of conflict. Laws need to be publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated and be consistent with international human rights norms and standards. Peacekeeping works to strengthen police, justice and corrections institutions, as well as the institutions that can hold them accountable. Since 1999, all major peacekeeping operations, and many special political missions, have had provisions to work with the host country to strengthen the rule of law.

  • The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law

    The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law is named after Tom Bingham, the preeminent judge of his generation and a passionate advocate of the rule of law. The Rt Hon Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG was the first judge to hold all three of the most senior posts in the British judiciary - Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls and Senior Law Lord.

  • The World Justice Project Forum

    The World Justice Forum is the largest international event hosted by the World Justice Project. It is a global gathering at which prominent leaders from all parts of the world and a variety of disciplines come together to articulate how the rule of law affects their disciplines and regions and to develop collaborative actions to strengthen the rule of law.

  • United Nations - Rule of Law

    Promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels is at the heart of the United Nations’ mission. Establishing respect for the rule of law is fundamental to achieving a durable peace in the aftermath of conflict, to the effective protection of human rights, and to sustained economic progress and development. The principle that everyone – from the individual right up to the State itself – is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, is a fundamental concept which drives much of the United Nations work.

  • WZB Rule of Law Center - Germany

    Research in the WZB Rule of Law Center mainly addresses the function and significance of constitutional standards, norms, procedures and normative supervision on a global, regional, state and sub-state level. Rule of law rather than the constitutional state is used as our key concept owing to the close historical link to specific issues of the German public law which form part of the latter concept.

Organizations Related to Rule of Law

  • Center for the Rule of Law

    The Center for the Rule of Law, chaired by the Honorable Ronald A. Cass, is a non-profit enterprise dedicated to educating the public about issues affecting the rule of law. The Center’s legal scholars and policy experts analyze the rule of law dimensions in matters ranging across regulation, litigation, international trade rules, competition law, property rights, intellectual property, securities and corporation law, administrative and constitutional law, and other governmental decisions.

  • Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL)

    The Program on Human Rights (PHR) at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) together with the Center for Latin American Studies is hosting a one-day conference on Tuesday, May 8 2012 at Stanford University to shed light on the important human rights issues indigenous populations face in Latin America.

  • International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPROL)

    The International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPROL) is a global, online community of practice, comprised of some 1,700 rule of law practitioners from 120 countries and 300 organizations. Members come from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. What we all have in common is that they work on rule of law reform in post-conflict and developing countries, either from a policy-, practice- or research-perspective. We also share a desire to learn and innovate together as a community in order to improve their rule of law knowledge and practice.

  • The Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association (EARLA)

    The Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association (EARLA) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. EARLA fosters collaboration between the Egyptian-American community and Egyptian civil society, policy makers, and legal professionals to implement legal reforms to the rule of law (Arabic: سيادةالقانون ) in post-revolutionary Egypt.

  • The World Justice Project

    A non-profit organization working to strengthen the rule of law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.

  • United States Institute of Peace - Rule of Law Center

    USIP's Rule of Law Center ("RoL Center") is on the cutting edge of promoting the rule of law in conflict-affected states. It does this by taking a leading role in shaping thinking worldwide on rule of law issues, working on the ground in conflict-affected countries to promote justice and security, and leading the field in rule of law training delivery and the sharing of best practices.

Publications Related to Rule of Law

  • Hague Journal on the Rule of Law

    An exciting new journal which provides a timely forum for the rapidly-expanding field of the rule of law, encapsulating cutting-edge study from all related disciplines. This unique focal point for the exchange of views between academics and practitioners gives focus to the promotion of the rule of law on both the national and international stage.

  • James McClellan, Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government

    The America of 1787 inherited from medieval England the concept of rule of law, sometimes expressed as “a government of laws, not of men.” One may trace the rise of this principle in English history all the way back to the signing of Magna Charta in the year 1215, when King John found it necessary to guarantee his obedience to English laws. For that matter, medieval English writers on law derived their understanding of the rule of law from ancient Roman jurisprudence.

  • Rule of Law in the United States

    The concept of the "Rule of Law" does not have a precise definition, and its meaning can have variances between different nations and legal traditions. Further, an International Rule of Law as applied by one of the World Courts will likely differ somewhat from a particular nation’s application to its own citizenry. Generally accepted, however, are the notions that the Rule provides for a moral structure by holding all citizens accountable no matter what their position and by protecting the rights of citizens from arbitrary and abusive use of government power.

  • Tom Bingham's "The Rule of Law"

    Britain's former senior law lord, and one of the world's most acute legal minds, examines what rule of law actually means. He makes clear that the rule of law is not an arid legal doctrine but is the foundation of a fair and just society, is a guarantee of responsible government, is an important contribution to economic growth and offers the best means yet devised for securing peace and co-operation.

  • USIP - Rule of Law

    Latest news and information from USIP on the Rule of Law.

  • World Justice Project Publications

    Information, data and publications provided by the World Justice Project.




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