Hundreds of years ago a Roman writer, Cicero, proclaimed that 'Law is the foundation of the liberty we enjoy. We are all servants of the laws in order that we can be free.'
Justice and the law are closely interlinked.
Public faith that our community is a 'just' one is a sign that a society is genuinely civilised. A just society operates with an awareness of individual rights and responsibilities. It does not function simply according to the will of the majority or the demands of the most powerful.
In a just society people are treated as individuals, and as they deserve, in a way that is proper for them. A just society is one that accepts this as an operating principle: you get what you deserve.
Justice means more than obeying the law, because laws can themselves be unjust or inequitable - in Nazi Germany, for example, it was 'legal' to discriminate against Jews because secret, retrospective laws made it so. But in a just society, all individuals have basic rights and entitlements, to which all collective power must conform. Individual rights must be protected, in the public interest. Everyone must know what those rights are, and be able to protect them.
Justice means that nobody should be punished unless they have been found guilty of wrongdoing, using fair processes: that punishments are appropriate, and proportionate to the wrong done. Justice in other contexts is closely associated with law - a just person is a law-abiding one. The law sets out rules for our dealings with one another, our entitlements and expectations - and behind the law lies the moral principle called 'justice' and the idea of the rule of law.
Another essential element is access to justice - a person should be able to claim a right in a fair process with impartial decision-makers. No-one can really be said to possess a right, without a remedy for its violation. No society is just where some can avoid responsibility because they are privileged or powerful. Equality before the law is one of the fundamental principles of the rule of law.
International Commission of Jurists