Defending the Rule of Law

Defending the Rule of Law

Humanists hold that people should have the freedom to live in accordance with their own beliefs. Hence, they defend the right for everyone to choose their own beliefs, values and lifestyles, subject only to them not interfering with other people’s rights.

In order to make this possible, society has to equip itself with a framework that allows, based on agreed political principles and methods of governance, the debating, adoption and consistent enforcement of rules that apply to all. In modern democracies, these principles and standards are enshrined in Human Rights and in the rule of law.

The rule of law ensures systematic enforcement of the democratic order where all people, whether in a position of power or not, are equal in front of the law. Without the rule of law, upholding human rights and ensuring non-discrimination cannot be guaranteed.

Fundamental elements of the rule of law are the separation between the three branches of government and the setting up of a robust system of checks and balances exercising systematic oversight on the executive power.

A society governed by the rule of law requires that the supremacy of law is upheld by a fully independent judiciary, which reviews the constitutionality of new laws and government measures as well as provides recourse to citizens when their rights are violated.

Parliament is the main instrument of democratic control and political responsibility. Ideally, it represents the people to which it is accountable and reflects the variety of opinions shaping public opinion.  It should be a place where debate is held with the results being codified in laws, the application of which is guaranteed by the rule of law.

Finally, the media, often considered as the forth pillar of democracy, plays the role of informing citizens and contributes to a vibrant public sphere. In a regime where freedom of media is limited either by law or by pressure stemming in particular from the executive, the democratic setup is in danger, as the demos cannot anymore form a truthful opinion about the affairs of the state.

Today, the proliferation in Europe of exclusionary discourses attempting to divide societies (into “true nationals vs. migrants”, “hard workers vs. scroungers”, “experts vs. people” or “the religious morals vs. the immoral non-religious”) create a climate where it is more and more acceptable and common to defend a vision of society where certain groups of individuals have rights while others do not.

Even worse is that in certain EU countries, the rule of law and fundamental rights are being eroded or  undermined by laws weakening essential checks over the executive, by prolonged states of emergency, by political pressure and administrative measures gradually limiting the space in which civil society is allowed to operate or by the subordination of independent media to business circles close to governments.

Therefore, together with other organisations, the EHF advocates and campaigns for the defense of the rule of law in Europe and consistently pressures European institutions and national governments to uphold the democratic order that is the foundation of European societies.