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The Rule of Law

What is it?
Rule of Law is a legal principle that says at its most basic level that:
• No one is above the law; and
• No one can be punished by government except if he/she has breached
the law.

Every person/entity is equal before the laws of the country.

• No one should be punished unless proven in a court to have committed


an unlawful act;
• Everyone is subject to the law regardless of rank/status; and
• Constitutional principles exist to determine individual rights.

Why is it important?
The rule of law gives an indication of how the various systems in the country work to-
gether to check whether the principle is applied (or not!). The systems within a state
have to be examined to see whether concepts such as supremacy of law, equality be-
fore the law, accountability to the law, fairness in application of the law, separation of
powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, procedural transparency and
avoidance of randomness are present. If yes, then the rule of law is being applied.

Rule of law vs Rule by law


Rule of law is not the same as rule by law. The latter means that certain officials are
placed above the law and instead use the law as a tool. This approach is found in op-
pressive systems.

How can the rule of law be applied?


In order to apply these principles (and in turn to know that the rule of law is force) it is
important that the law is clear, stable, not contradictory, free from the concept of ran-
domness and the courts need to have a degree of independence.

Next: the concept of a constitution as a means to ensure the rule of law.

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