Law is the set of rules imposed by social or governmental institutions that regulate behavior and enforce rights. It is a general concept that encompasses both a set of specific rules, such as criminal laws, and a set of principles, such as the principle of legal certainty or the rule against arbitrariness. The word is often used as a synonym for constitutions, statutes and treaties, but there are important differences between these documents and law. For example, a statute may be written and signed by a president or other authority, but the meaning of the statute is interpreted by courts.
A law must have several characteristics to be considered a law: First, it must be permanent as to time. Second, it must be uniform with respect to persons; that is, it must apply to all in the same way. Third, it must be universal as to location; that is, it must apply in all jurisdictions. Finally, it must be based on reason. A law that contradicts reason is not a law, even if it has been passed into law.
A law must be enforceable, which means it must be publicly promulgated and equally enforced. It must also be consistent with international human rights norms and standards. These are some of the many factors that make up the “rule of law.” A government that does not adhere to the rule of law is more prone to abuses by its own citizens, and it is less likely to function well as an instrument of peace and development.