Rule of Law

The UN Secretary-General has defined the Rule of Law as follows:

“The 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”

At the national level, the UN supports a rule of law framework that includes

  • a Constitution or its equivalent, as the highest law of the land;
  • a clear and consistent legal framework, and implementation thereof;
  • strong institutions of justice, governance, security and human rights that are well structured, financed, trained and equipped;
  • transitional justice processes and mechanisms;
  • and a public and civil society that contributes to strengthening the rule of law and holding public officials and institutions accountable.

These are the norms, policies, institutions and processes that form the core of a society in which

  • individuals feel safe and secure,
  • where legal protection is provided for rights and entitlements, and
  • disputes are settled peacefully and effective redress is available for harm suffered, and
  • where all who violate the law, including the State itself, are held to account.

See the United Nations Rule of Law Document Repository

Council of Europe

Rule of Law


Common standards and policies

Threats to the Rule of Law

And see Venice Commission: Report on the Rule of Law

Strasbourg, 4 April 2011

Study No. 512 / 2009  CDL-AD(2011)003rev Or. Engl.

on the basis of comments by  Mr Pieter van DIJK (Member, Netherlands) Ms Gret HALLER (Member, Switzerland) Mr Jeffrey JOWELL (Member, United Kingdom) Mr Kaarlo TUORI (Member, Finland)