Malta has ranked below the regional average in every category but one in the 2020 World Justice Project Rule of Law index that covers 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners in 128 countries and jurisdictions.
Ranking for the first time this year, Malta scored just 0.68 out of a possible 1.0, placing it at number 30. It was beaten by Slovenia, Uruguay, and Cyprus in the report, which looks at the implementation of the rule of law globally.
For comparison, top of the list with a tied score was Denmark and Norway with 0.90. Finland followed them with 0.88 and Sweden with 0.86. The worst performing country was Venezuela with 0.27, beating Cambodia (0.32) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.35) to the bottom spot.
EU member states performed poorly, with Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Poland, Italy, and Malta scoring below average.
Each country was measured on several criteria, including regulatory enforcement, constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open governance, order and security, and civil and criminal justice.
Malta’s worst score was for regulatory enforcement, where it got just 0.58, way below the regional average of 0.72. Within this category, Malta scored just 0.54 for due process in administrative proceedings and a poor 0.43 for conducting administrative proceedings without delay.
Additionally, it only just made the global average of 0.57 for the government not expropriating without lawful process and adequate compensation.
In terms of civil justice, Malta scored almost 10 points below the global average for civil justice, being free of discrimination. This plummeted to 0.30 for delays related to accessing civil justice.
Criminal justice also performed severely, scoring below the global average with just 0.50 for the impartiality of the justice system and 0.49 for timely judicial processes. The report also showed that the correctional system is not particularly effective in reducing criminal behaviour.
Turning to corruption, where Malta scored 0.68 overall, it received concerningly low scores in two areas. Firstly, it got just 0.46 for government officials in the legislative branch using public office for private gain. A low score of 0.56 was also recorded for government officials in the executive branch doing the same. This signifies issues with individuals in power using their position to gain favour.
When looking at constraints on government powers, the main areas of concern were government officials not being sanctioned for misconduct. This got a score of just 0.56, meaning there is much more improvement to be made. The report also showed there were issues with government powers not being limited by the legislature and a lack of independent audit and review.
Coming as no surprise, the open governance category, Malta scored below the global average for the right to information with just 0.46.
The only category where Malta scored well is that of order and security. It got full marks in the limitation of civil conflict, 0.87 for controlling crime, and 0.90 for lack of people resorting to violence to redress personal grievances.
These results demonstrate findings in many other reports, all of which have highlighted problems with lengthy judicial procedures, state resources for personal gain, and a lack of transparency and respect for the right to information.