Our Constitution, the basis for Spanish democracy, clearly states: Spain is “a social, democratic State where the rule of law prevails and which advocates as the prime values of its legislation freedom, justice, equality and political pluralism”. For four decades, Spain has been consolidated as having one of the most advanced Rules of Law in the world. The rule of law, the separation of powers and judicial control of the Administration have served to assure equality amongst all citizens and the rights and freedoms of our society.
This has been demonstrated year after year by the main indicator the adherence to the Rule of Law: the Rule of Law index of the World Justice Project, a civil organisation that works to analyse and promote the Rule of Law worldwide. According to its 2019 edition, Spain has moved up two positions from last year’s position and has been ranked as the 21st country in terms of the greatest consolidation of and compliance with the Rule of Law of the 126 systems studied. To be precise, our country scored 0.71 out of 1, the same, for example, as the USA and ahead of neighbouring countries like Italy, Croatia or Slovenia. Cambodia and Venezuela, by contrast, are ranked in the final two positions.
The WJP analysis, based on more than 120,000 surveys of homes and 3,800 experts, rates the performance of countries according to eight factors: contraints on the government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
The improvement in our country’s ranking has occurred in the majority of these eight factors which the WJP uses to compile its annual report, although there are three aspects in which Spain stands out. In fundamental rights, we are ranked 16th worldwide, scoring 0.78 points out of 1, ahead of highly consolidated democracies like France, Italy or the USA; in terms of open government we are ranked twentieth, achieving a score of 0.70 out of 1; in criminal justice we are also ranked twentieth, in a report which highlights the due process of lawof our criminal procedures (0.78 out of 1) and the absence of corruption in Justice (0.75 out of 1).
Spain’s progress has occurred in a year in which the majority of countries have lost ground in regard to the Rule of Law. To be precise, 61 countries dropped in the rankings, 23 stayed the same and 29 improved, including Spain.
Justice according to European standards
Spain strictly complies with the principle of the separation of Powers which is why Justice is administered by judges and magistrates who form part of the Judicial Authority, who are independent, steadfast and only subject to the legal system.
The European Commission Justice Scoreboard, the main evaluator of the quality of Justice in EU Member States, confirms in its 2018 report that Spain falls within European standards in regards to safeguarding and guaranteeing judicial independence. In fact, the indicators have improved in regard to the previous report, highlighting the accessibility, affordability and excellent management of the Justice System, despite the resources available.
Spain is one of the countries with the least complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Spanish ratio of guilty verdicts of the ECHR per inhabitant is similar to that of Germany, Holland and the UK, and lower than that of Austria, Belgium, Italy or Switzerland.
In regard preventive custody, the Council of Europe has rated as positive the low percentage of prisoners in preventive custody in Spanish prisons (12.7%), well below the European average (25.4%) and far removed from the indices of Holland (43.4%), Switzerland (39.6%), Italy (34.2%), France (27.3%) and Sweden (25.6%).
A full democracy
In compliance with the Rule of Law ratified by the World Justice Project, there are other indices which reflect the maturity and solidity of Spanish democracy since the Constitution was approved in 1978.
The Democracy Index published in 2019 by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks us amongst the only 20 full democracies in the world, from the 165 countries analysed, with a score of 8.08 out of 10. Spain particularly stands out in terms of its political pluralism (9.7) and civil liberties (8.82).
In the 2019 edition of Freedom in the World, the annual study by Freedom House, Spain was once again one of the thirty totally free countries in the world, with score of 94 out of 100, higher than that of other countries such as France, the UK and Italy.
- The Rule of Law index of the World Justice Project.
- The European Commission Justice Scoreboard
- The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
- The Council of Europe
- The Democracy Index published in 2019 by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
- Freedom in the World, the annual study by Freedom House.