Pakistan is a free country

Human rights

There are great differences between the regions in the distribution of free, restrictedly free and unfree states. Nowhere is the proportion of unfree states higher than in the Middle East and North Africa.

Free, restricted free and unfree states, 2012. License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)


Apart from minor fluctuations over time, the proportion of free states has increased continuously since the mid-1970s. In 1975 only a quarter of all states were considered free, in 1990 it was 40 percent and in 2012 around 46 percent of all states. For most of the years since 1975, the proportion of countries that are free with restrictions has been around a third. The proportion of unfree states, on the other hand, has decreased in the long term. In 2012, 24 percent of all countries were considered unfree (1975: 41 percent). However, 34 percent of the world population - almost 2.4 billion people - lived in these 24 percent of all countries.

Compared to 2011, political rights and / or the extent of civil rights decreased in 28 states, and increased in only 16 states. In some states, this also resulted in a change in the overall status: Mali lost its status as a free state and fell under the non-free states, Guinea-Bissau became a restricted free state to a non-free state. On the other hand, the previously unfree countries Egypt, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire rose to the category of restricted free states in 2012. Lesotho, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tonga have improved their status from restricted free to free.

There are great differences between the regions in the distribution of free, restrictedly free and unfree states. Nowhere is the proportion of unfree states higher than in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2012, six out of 18 states were classified as restrictedly free and eleven as unfree. Only Israel was considered free.

In sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, states that were free and unfree with restrictions also predominated. Of the total of 49 states, 18 states were classified as restricted free (37 percent) and 20 states as unfree (41 percent).

Western Europe is not only the region with the highest proportion of free states, but also the only region in the world where no state is unfree. All 25 states are parliamentary democracies. 24 states or 96 percent of all states are free; only Turkey was considered a partially free state in 2012. However, based on a very high level of freedom, there was also a slight deterioration in Italy in 2012 compared to the previous year.

In 2012, 47 states were unfree - that is, the people in these states were denied several freedoms. According to the standards of the non-governmental organization Freedom House, nine of the unfree states were extremely unfree in the same year. These include very different political systems: North Korea as a socialist one-party state, the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which are ruled by dictators with a Soviet past, Saudi Arabia, which is under the rule of an absolute monarchy with strict social control, and Sudan, whose government shows elements of radical Islamism as well as that of a military junta. The extremely unfree states also include Syria, which is under the strict control of a dictatorship in a bloody civil war, Equatorial Guinea, which is conspicuous by massive human rights violations, Eritrea, an increasingly repressive police state and Somalia as a so-called 'Failed State' Country).

In addition to these eight states, two state territories were considered extremely unfree in 2012: Tibet, which is under Chinese rule, and Western Sahara, which is under the control of Morocco.

Data Source

Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013,

Terms, methodological notes or reading aids

According to Freedom House, a state is considered free if its citizens
  • can freely participate in the political process,
  • be able to choose freely in free elections,
  • be represented by people who are accountable,
  • are free to choose their beliefs and practice their religion,
  • have the right to assemble and to form associations,
  • Have access to a just legal system,
  • can use independent media,
  • Have social and economic freedoms - including the right to property.

This text is licensed under the Creative Commons license by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de.

Free, restricted free and unfree states


free states
AndorraAntigua and BarbudaArgentina
ChileCosta RicaDenmark
GermanyDominicaDominican Republic
El SalvadorEstoniaFinland
GreeceGreat BritainGuyana
Cape VerdeKiribatiCroatia
Marshall IslandsMauritiusMicronesia
NamibiaNauruNew Zealand
SamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and Principe
SerbiaSierra LeoneSlovakia
SloveniaSpainSt. Kitts and Nevis
St. LuciaSt. Vincent and the GrenadinesSouth Africa
South KoreaSurinameTaiwan
TongaTrinidad and TobagoCzech Republic
United StatesVanuatuCyprus
free territories
Northern Cyprus (Turkey)  
restricted free states
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBurkina FasoBurundi
Cote d'IvoireEcuadorFiji
MoroccoMacedonia, Former Yugoslav RepublicMexico
Papua New GuineaParaguayPhilippines
Republic of MoldovaSolomon IslandsZambia
SeychellesSingaporeSri Lanka
TanzaniaThailandTimor Leste
Central African Republic  
restricted free territories
AbkhaziaKashmir (India)Nagorno-Karabakh
unfree states
Equatorial GuineaAzerbaijanEthiopia
BahrainBelarusBrunei Darussalam
ChinaDemocratic Republic of CongoDjibouti
MauritaniaMyanmarNorth Korea
OmanRepublic of the CongoRwanda
RussiaSaudi ArabiaZimbabwe
SomaliaSudanSouth Sudan
United Arab EmiratesVietnam 
unfree territories
Gaza StripKashmir (Pakistan)South Ossetia
TibetTransnistriaWest bank
Western Sahara  

Source: Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013