Singapore ranked second-safest country in study

Republic also rises to No. 2 spot for its criminal justice system

Singapore was ranked the second-safest out of 99 countries in a rule of law study released yesterday, narrowly losing out to Japan for last year's top spot.

In its order and security category, the US-based World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2014 praised the Republic for its low crime levels, absence of political violence and confidence in the law enforcement authorities.

Singapore also rose from third to second spot - behind Finland - for its criminal justice system.

The WJP describes the rule of law as "a system of rules and rights that enables fair and functioning societies". It surveyed the 99 countries on eight factors and gave a combined overall ranking in which Singapore was 10th, the highest-ranking Asian country with Japan next in 12th place.

Singapore also featured in the top 10 countries for its civil justice system, anti-corruption levels and regulatory enforcement capabilities. It was rated within the top 30 in relation to fundamental human rights, openness of government and checks and balances.

The survey was based on more than 100,000 household and expert surveys that measure how the rule of law is experienced in everyday life around the world.

TSMP Law's Stefanie Yuen Thio, who served as one of Singapore's resource persons on the project, said finishing second to Japan on order and security was "not significant" as the two countries' scores were so close.

"We are a city state on a small island with a high concentration of population per square metre," she said. "The fact we ranked so highly in this area is something we can and should be proud of, and continue to build on."

The Ministry of Law told The Straits Times last night: "We see value in the WJP Rule of Law Index as a tool that measures a nation's adherence to the rule of law based on the perceptions of experts and the general public."

The WJP said its study was assessed through 44 indicators organised around eight themes: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Founded in 2006, the WJP is an independent, multi-disciplinary organisation that works to advance the rule of law around the world. Its backers include Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates, Canada's Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow of the UN International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.

This year's report found that 20 countries showed a significant worldwide decline in criminal justice systems, while 25 showed improvements in their order and security systems.

Lauding the index as a diagnostic tool for countries to compare and progress, Mr Gates, 58, said: "We've seen these index score rankings cited by everyone from heads of states to journalists to citizens all around the world.

"It helps to transform the global conversation about the rule of law and, in doing so, provides a new source of knowledge that can improve lives everywhere."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.