10

In the November 26 issue of Mishpacha Magazine, there was an interview with Joseph Wippl (a former CIA agent, now a Professor at Boston University) in which he said that only 40 countries have real rule of law, and the rest don’t have an independent judiciary.

The magazine pull quote read,

There are only about 40 countries in the world that function under the rule of law. The remainder do not even have an independent judiciary.
— Prof. Joseph Wippl

Here is a photo of the quote:

Wippl quote

(Unfortunately I don’t have an internet source. It was in a print interview with him which I can’t find online.)

I am not asking about the veracity of the quote (I accept that Wippl actually said it). I want to know whether what he said is accurate.

  • 14
    And in which group was he placing the USA? – Benjol Nov 28 '14 at 5:53
  • 5
    Where was the print interview published? Could you copy a full quote from the article? – Christian Nov 28 '14 at 7:56
  • 2
    @ike: Just because you don't doesn't mean that other people believe that magazine to quote accurately. There no good reason for strong trust. The fact that you misrepresented the claim and ommitted the "about" illustrates how easily people put false claims into the mouths of other people. – Christian Nov 28 '14 at 15:33
  • 4
    @Benjol: there is a difference between rule-of-law and rule-of-lawyers – Henry Nov 28 '14 at 15:47
  • 3
    "Pull quotes need not be a verbatim copy of the text being quoted; depending on a publication's house style, pull quotes may be abbreviated for space and/or paraphrased for clarity, with or without indication." Wikipedia: Pull Quote – TRiG Nov 29 '14 at 15:56
12

Rule of law

Looking for independent evidence (i.e. other than the claim referenced in the OP), there are the "Worldwide Governance Indicators" from the World Bank, which include a measure of "rule of law".

The Rule of Law PDF is an overview of how they measure "rule of law". It includes not only "independent judiciary" but many dozens of other measures including:

  • Extent of crime
  • Speed of justice
  • Compensation for state expropriation
  • Intellectual property rights
  • The public's trust in the system
  • Tax evasion
  • Whether there's a "parallel economy"
  • Whether court orders are enforced
  • etc. etc. etc.

It seems to be a sliding scale (not a boolean measure) from more to less rule of law. You can't easily say, "these have it and these don't".

The dataset/spreadsheet shows:

  • The usual suspects i.e. the Scandinavian countries are at the top of the list
  • The usual suspect i.e. Somalia at the bottom of the list

If I sort all countries in the spreadsheet by their 2013 "Rank" score, then the following are in the top 50:

  1. NORWAY
  2. SWEDEN
  3. FINLAND
  4. DENMARK
  5. NEW ZEALAND
  6. AUSTRIA
  7. NETHERLANDS
  8. SWITZERLAND
  9. LUXEMBOURG
  10. AUSTRALIA
  11. SINGAPORE
  12. CANADA
  13. IRELAND
  14. GREENLAND
  15. JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS
  16. UNITED KINGDOM
  17. ICELAND
  18. GERMANY
  19. LIECHTENSTEIN
  20. HONG KONG SAR, CHINA
  21. UNITED STATES
  22. ANDORRA
  23. JAPAN
  24. BELGIUM
  25. ANGUILLA
  26. FRANCE
  27. CHILE
  28. MALTA
  29. ARUBA
  30. ESTONIA
  31. AMERICAN SAMOA
  32. BERMUDA
  33. GUAM
  34. FRENCH GUIANA
  35. TAIWAN, CHINA
  36. QATAR
  37. PORTUGAL
  38. CZECH REPUBLIC
  39. BARBADOS
  40. CYPRUS
  41. SPAIN
  42. SLOVENIA
  43. ISRAEL
  44. MONACO
  45. SAN MARINO
  46. KOREA, REP.
  47. MAURITIUS
  48. PALAU
  49. CAYMAN ISLANDS
  50. MARTINIQUE

Countries that are not in the top 50 include

  • Greece (78)
  • Italy (81)
  • India (101)
  • China (128)
  • Russian Federation (160)

Judicial independence

On the subject of (specifically) judicial independence instead of (more generally) rule of law:

  • The UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary says that it was,

    Adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held at Milan from 26 August to 6 September 1985 and endorsed by General Assembly resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985

    I think that implies that the General Assembly at least pays lip service to an "independent judiciary".

  • There's an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by virtually every country.

    Article 14 of this says,

    All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.

So the prima facie evidence is that virtually all countries have (or claim to have, or agree to have) an independent judiciary.

The World Bank's Governance Indicators referenced above use the Cingranelli Richards Human Rights Database and Political Terror Scale (CIRI) for its measure of judicial independence.

CIRI measures judicial independence on a scale of from 0 to 2.

  • 0= 50+ violations (least respect for human right)
  • 1= 1-49 violations (some respect for human right)
  • 2= 0 violations (full respect for human right)

Data was collected from 1981-2011 for the respective countries and each unit is referred to as a "country-year". A country-year is a single snapshot of space and time for the given country. Other variables, such as the political rights indicators, are scored based on respect for the human right by the same scale, with 0 indicating the least respect and 2 the most respect. The CIRI database uses the annual country reports from the US State Department and Amnesty International as its primary sources.

If I sort that database then the following 65 countries are rated "2":

  1. Andorra
  2. Antigua and Barbuda
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Barbados
  6. Belgium
  7. Belize
  8. Bhutan
  9. Botswana
  10. Canada
  11. Cape Verde
  12. Chile
  13. Croatia
  14. Cyprus
  15. Czech Republic
  16. Denmark
  17. Dominica
  18. Estonia
  19. Finland
  20. France
  21. Germany
  22. Grenada
  23. Hungary
  24. Iceland
  25. Ireland
  26. Israel
  27. Japan
  28. Kiribati
  29. Korea, Republic of
  30. Lesotho
  31. Liechtenstein
  32. Lithuania
  33. Luxembourg
  34. Malawi
  35. Malta
  36. Marshall Islands
  37. Mauritius
  38. Micronesia, Federated States of
  39. Monaco
  40. Namibia
  41. Nauru
  42. Netherlands
  43. New Zealand
  44. Norway
  45. Palau
  46. Papua New Guinea
  47. Poland
  48. Portugal
  49. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  50. Saint Lucia
  51. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  52. Samoa
  53. San Marino
  54. Slovenia
  55. Solomon Islands
  56. South Africa
  57. Spain
  58. Suriname
  59. Sweden
  60. Switzerland
  61. Trinidad and Tobago
  62. Tuvalu
  63. United Kingdom
  64. United States of America
  65. Vanuatu

I conclude that the "only 40" claimed in the OP is untrue, or uses who-knows-what standard of measurement, or ignores smaller countries from its count, as well as not counting countries like the Bahamas, Greece, Italy, Singapore, and Taiwan, which for whatever reason only scored a "1" (i.e. neither "2" nor "0) on the CIRI report.

  • 1
    To be fair, there are quite a lot of microstates, after eliminating them you're left with about forty countries. Not counting microstates is quite common. – vartec Dec 3 '14 at 2:53
  • 1
    I don't know what the countries with a score of "1" did to deserve that. Saying that they "do not even have an independent judiciary" seems to me it might be an exaggeration. – ChrisW Dec 3 '14 at 3:19
  • Interesting (and sad) that a place where China is nominally in charge comes in ahead of the U.S. – Tom Zych Dec 7 '14 at 12:38
  • @TomZych My first thought was that maybe you can afford to be happy for their success. – ChrisW Dec 7 '14 at 12:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .