Int’l ‘Rule of Law Index’ may soon include Israel

Israel could be among 100 countries whose justice systems are evaluated annually.

World Justice Project 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
World Justice Project 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
An international index that aims to measure and compare the rule of law among countries around the world could soon include Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The World Justice Project’s (WJP) “Rule of Law Index,” a quantitative-assessment tool – designed to offer a comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice – currently measures justice in 66 countries.
By next year, the index hopes to add Israel, and 33 other countries.
“We will only start working on the 2012 index next spring, but we are hoping to include Israel in our next assessments,” said Rule of Law Index Director Juan Carlos Botero, who presented the findings of this year’s research to a distinguished gathering of international politicians, lawyers and other professionals at the World Justice Project’s annual conference held last week in Barcelona.
“We still have not finalized all the countries, but we are hoping that Israel will be among the next batch, and that eventually we will reach 200 countries,” said Botero. He added that individual country assessments are carried out simultaneously across the globe.
Now in its second year, the WJP Rule of Law Index presents an exhaustive set of new indicators on the rule of law from the perspective of ordinary citizens and examines practical situations in which lack of law or transparency of a law can affect people’s daily lives.
The research examines nine areas of justice, most notably: government power; corruption; order and security for citizens; fundamental rights; open governance; and access to civil justice and criminal justice.
Each country is given a rating based on its performance in each of these areas. Research is carried out by legal experts in each country, and then ranked within geographical regions.
This year’s index is broken down into seven locations: Western Europe and North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; East Asia and the Pacific; South Asia; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; the Middle East and North Africa; and sub-Saharan Africa.
However, Botero said that as the country list expands, the divisions might be adjusted. He could not say whether Israel would be included in the Middle East region, where it will be compared to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon and Morocco.
Botero also said the project staff was aware of the issues facing Israel, which in most international forums is intrinsically tied to the Palestinian Authority and assessed for its presence both within and beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.
“We will examine other international organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, and decide based on that,” he said.
“The goal of this index is for us to act as honest brokers of information,” emphasized Botero, explaining that even in some of the most controversial countries assessed by the index, the leadership has used it as a guideline to try and improve the rule of law.
In the 2011 index, countries in Western Europe and North America were ranked the best, characterized by low levels of corruption, open and accountable governments, and effective criminal justice systems.
Still, the report found that there was a growing weakness in these countries to provide adequate accessibility to the civil justice system for marginalized segments of the population, such as immigrants.
In the Middle East and North Africa region, United Arab Emirates was commended for having “relatively well developed and corrupt-free” public institutions, but criticized for having a civil court system that remains inaccessible to many people.
Jordan also received high marks for its efficient public institutions, but fell short in the area of fundamental rights, which the report describes as “one of the worst in the world.”
Iran, commended the report, has strong law enforcement, but it is “often used as an instrument to perpetrate abuses, and favor the elites.” The index notes also highlight that government accountability there is weak, and corruption prevalent.
Lebanon, in the Middle East and North Africa region, stands out for its efforts to “guarantee civil rights and freedoms” among its people, but the index also notes corruption and political interference within the civil courts, as well as discrimination against marginalized groups.
“No country is perfect,” observed Botero. “In almost every country there is a problem with discrimination – even in those that rank the highest in the index, such as Sweden.”