Eurasia Group | Atlas of Impunity

The Atlas of Impunity

16 February 2024
Impunity is the exercise of power without accountability, which becomes, in its starkest form, the commission of crimes without punishment. In a phrase, impunity is the idea that “the law is for suckers.” Impunity provides an invaluable lens for understanding what is going on in the world today, not just in conflict zones but also across spheres ranging from the global economy to the environment and political institutions. 

The Atlas of Impunity is a quantitative assessment of this holistic definition of impunity, measured by independent indicators across five sites in society. This year's Atlas scores and ranks the level of impunity in 170 countries and provides partial, indicative scoring for another 27. 
In its second edition, the Atlas adds a decade of historical data, which allows us to view rising and falling impunity from a global perspective, as well as in geographies where impunity is on the rise.  
The Atlas is intended to provide a practical and accessible tool to draw attention to abuses of power and press policymakers for change. The report and accompanying data aim to shine a light on the norms and practices that perpetuate impunity and hinder accountability around the world. 

The map above shows the overall and dimension impunity scores and rankings for the 170 countries with full data. Each country is scored on the five dimensions of impunity – unaccountable governance, abuse of human rights, economic exploitation, conflict and violence, and environmental degradation – and then each country is given an overall impunity score based on the average of its scores across the five dimensions. 
Countries are scored on a scale of 0 to 5, with the countries exhibiting the greatest level of impunity scoring closer to 5, and the countries with the lowest level of impunity scoring closer to 0.
  • 0 to 0.99
  • 1.00 to 1.99
  • 2.00 to 2.99
  • 3.00 to 3.99
  • 4.00 to 5.00


Most Impunity

Country Rank Score
Afghanistan 1 3.38
Myanmar 2 3.29
Yemen 3 3.19
Syria 4 3.19
Central African Republic 5 3.19

Least Impunity

Country Rank Score
Finland 170 0.54
Denmark 169 0.59
Sweden 168 0.68
Luxembourg 167 0.70
Norway 166 0.73

*Overall ranks and scores shown.


Key Findings

The correlation between GDP and impunity yields interesting results. While higher income is associated with stronger performance on the Atlas—for every 10% difference in GDP there is a 0.04 point-difference on the Atlas scale—some advanced economies, including the US—which ranks 114th, closer to the median than the best performer—are outliers. Meanwhile, though they face their respective challenges, Gambia, Cape Verde, Timor-Leste, and Senegal are all low or lower-middle income democracies that score considerably better on the Atlas than their income alone would predict.  

The twenty countries near the median are more surprising than the best and worst performers. The countries near the middle of the distribution differ in terms of governance arrangements (ranging from absolute monarchy to liberal democracy) while income levels vary from low to high. A few countries ranking in this range include Nepal, Indonesia, Qatar, Ghana, Oman, and Jamaica. Variations in impunity ultimately come down to politics, leadership, and policy choices.  

For the second year running, the data shows that environmental degradation is where impunity continues to thrive even among otherwise accountable societies. For instance, the US, Canada, and South Korea score poorly on the environmental degradation dimension compared to their international peers.  
Digital impunity, including the use of generative AI and surveillance tools, is on the rise. While new technologies can provide innovative tools to hold leaders to account, there is also a risk that they will be deployed for nefarious purposes, such as misinformation and social control, as a major election year unfolds.  

Some countries have improved drastically in recent years. Zambia, Thailand, and Malaysia advanced by more than ten places on the Atlas year-on-year in 2023. Similarly, Gambia and Saudi Arabia improved by 31 and 24 places respectively over the last five years. By contrast, Ukraine (as a result of Russia's invasion), Burkina Faso, and Tajikistan respectively regressed by 25, 14, and 12 places over the last year alone. Since 2018, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, and Mali saw their positions deteriorate the most (by 37, 31, and 26 places, respectively).  

The countries of greatest concern for 2024 include: the United States, where the upcoming election not only has significant consequences for governance, but where election-related unrest could weigh 2024 scores; Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia; Niger, Gabon and Senegal in the wake of coups and in the midst of electoral unrest; and Israel, where the full impact of the country's judicial reforms and its war with Hamas are not yet reflected in the overall impunity score.   

The Atlas is chaired by an external, independent global advisory board composed of human rights experts and activists, former diplomats, and former government officials with a range of regional and policy perspectives. The Atlas was made possible through a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

The data used for this edition of the Atlas comes from sources published through September 2023. This means that some events — especially in the latter part of 2023, including the Israel/Hamas conflict — are not captured.