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Legal system

This page shows the value of the Legal system information field for all countries in the Country Guide.

Notes on this field are available at the Information Field Notes page.

Afghanistan

a new legal system has not been adopted but all factions tacitly agree they will follow Shari'a (Islamic law)

Albania

has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Algeria

socialist, based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

American Samoa

NA

Andorra

based on French and Spanish civil codes; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Angola

based on Portuguese civil law system and customary law; recently modified to accommodate political pluralism and increased use of free markets

Anguilla

based on English common law

Antarctica

US law, including certain criminal offenses by or against US nationals, such as murder, may apply to areas not under jurisdiction of other countries. Some US laws directly apply to Antarctica. For example, the Antarctic Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. section 2401 et seq., provides civil and criminal penalties for the following activities, unless authorized by regulation of statute: the taking of native mammals or birds; the introduction of nonindigenous plants and animals; entry into specially protected or scientific areas; the discharge or disposal of pollutants; and the importation into the US of certain items from Antarctica. Violation of the Antarctic Conservation Act carries penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison. The Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Transportation, and Interior share enforcement responsibilities. Public Law 95-541, the US Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, requires expeditions from the US to Antarctica to notify, in advance, the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, Room 5801, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, which reports such plans to other nations as required by the Antarctic Treaty. For more information, contact Permit Office, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia 22230; telephone: (703) 306-1031, or see their website at www.nsf.gov.

Antigua and Barbuda

based on English common law

Argentina

mixture of US and West European legal systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Armenia

based on civil law system

Aruba

based on Dutch civil law system, with some English common law influence

Ashmore and Cartier Islands

relevant laws of the Northern Territory of Australia

Australia

based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Austria

civil law system with Roman law origin; judicial review of legislative acts by the Constitutional Court; separate administrative and civil/penal supreme courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Azerbaijan

based on civil law system

Bahamas, The

based on English common law

Bahrain

based on Islamic law and English common law

Baker Island

NA

Bangladesh

based on English common law

Barbados

English common law; no judicial review of legislative acts

Belarus

based on civil law system

Belgium

civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Belize

English law

Benin

based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Bermuda

English law

Bhutan

based on Indian law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Bolivia

based on Spanish law and Napoleonic Code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Bosnia and Herzegovina

based on civil law system

Botswana

based on Roman-Dutch law and local customary law; judicial review limited to matters of interpretation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Brazil

based on Roman codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

British Indian Ocean Territory

NA

British Virgin Islands

English law

Brunei

based on English common law; for Muslims, Islamic Shari'a law supersedes civil law in a number of areas

Bulgaria

civil law and criminal law based on Roman law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Burkina Faso

based on French civil law system and customary law

Burundi

based on German and Belgian civil codes and customary law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Cambodia

primarily a civil law mixture of French-influenced codes from the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) period, royal decrees, and acts of the legislature, with influences of customary law and remnants of communist legal theory; increasing influence of common law in recent years

Cameroon

based on French civil law system, with common law influence; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Canada

based on English common law, except in Quebec, where civil law system based on French law prevails; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Cape Verde

derived from the legal system of Portugal

Cayman Islands

British common law and local statutes

Central African Republic

based on French law

Chad

based on French civil law system and Chadian customary law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Chile

based on Code of 1857 derived from Spanish law and subsequent codes influenced by French and Austrian law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

China

a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely criminal law; rudimentary civil code in effect since 1 January 1987; new legal codes in effect since 1 January 1980; continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law

Christmas Island

under the authority of the governor general of Australia and Australian law

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

based upon the laws of Australia and local laws

Colombia

based on Spanish law; a new criminal code modeled after US procedures was enacted in 1992-93; judicial review of executive and legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Comoros

French and Muslim law in a new consolidated code

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

based on Belgian civil law system and tribal law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Congo, Republic of the

based on French civil law system and customary law

Cook Islands

based on New Zealand law and English common law

Coral Sea Islands

the laws of Australia, where applicable, apply

Costa Rica

based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Cote d'Ivoire

based on French civil law system and customary law; judicial review in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Croatia

based on civil law system

Cuba

based on Spanish and American law, with large elements of Communist legal theory; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Cyprus

based on common law, with civil law modifications

Czech Republic

civil law system based on Austro-Hungarian codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; legal code modified to bring it in line with Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) obligations and to expunge Marxist-Leninist legal theory

Denmark

civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Djibouti

based on French civil law system, traditional practices, and Islamic law

Dominica

based on English common law

Dominican Republic

based on French civil codes

Ecuador

based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Egypt

based on English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes; judicial review by Supreme Court and Council of State (oversees validity of administrative decisions); accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

El Salvador

based on civil and Roman law, with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations (Note: Legislative Assembly passed landmark judicial reforms in 1996)

Equatorial Guinea

partly based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom

Eritrea

operates on the basis of transitional laws that incorporate pre-independence statutes of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, revised Ethiopian laws, customary laws, and post independence enacted laws

Estonia

based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts

Ethiopia

currently transitional mix of national and regional courts

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

English common law

Faroe Islands

Danish

Fiji

based on British system

Finland

civil law system based on Swedish law; Supreme Court may request legislation interpreting or modifying laws; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

France

civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts

French Guiana

French legal system

French Polynesia

based on French system

French Southern and Antarctic Lands

NA

Gabon

based on French civil law system and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court; compulsory ICJ jurisdiction not accepted

Gambia, The

based on a composite of English common law, Koranic law, and customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Georgia

based on civil law system

Germany

civil law system with indigenous concepts; judicial review of legislative acts in the Federal Constitutional Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Ghana

based on English common law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Gibraltar

English law

Glorioso Islands

NA

Greece

based on codified Roman law; judiciary divided into civil, criminal, and administrative courts

Greenland

Danish

Grenada

based on English common law

Guadeloupe

French legal system

Guam

modeled on US; US federal laws apply

Guatemala

civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Guernsey

English law and local statute; justice is administered by the Royal Court

Guinea

based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree; legal codes currently being revised; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Guinea-Bissau

NA

Guyana

based on English common law with certain admixtures of Roman-Dutch law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Haiti

based on Roman civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Heard Island and McDonald Islands

NA

Holy See (Vatican City)

NA

Honduras

rooted in Roman and Spanish civil law with increasing influence of English common law; recent judicial reforms include abandoning Napoleonic legal codes in favor of the oral adversarial system; accepts ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Hong Kong

based on English common law

Hungary

rule of law based on Western model

Iceland

civil law system based on Danish law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

India

based on English common law; limited judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Indonesia

based on Roman-Dutch law, substantially modified by indigenous concepts and by new criminal procedures code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Iran

the Constitution codifies Islamic principles of government

Iraq

based on Islamic law in special religious courts, civil law system elsewhere; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Ireland

based on English common law, substantially modified by indigenous concepts; judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Israel

mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Italy

based on civil law system; appeals treated as new trials; judicial review under certain conditions in Constitutional Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Jamaica

based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Japan

modeled after European civil law system with English-American influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Jersey

English law and local statute

Jordan

based on Islamic law and French codes; judicial review of legislative acts in a specially provided High Tribunal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Juan de Nova Island

NA

Kazakhstan

based on civil law system

Kenya

based on English common law, tribal law, and Islamic law; judicial review in High Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations; constitutional amendment of 1982 making Kenya a de jure one-party state repealed in 1991

Kiribati

NA

Korea, North

based on German civil law system with Japanese influences and Communist legal theory; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Korea, South

combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought

Kuwait

civil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Kyrgyzstan

based on civil law system

Laos

based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and Socialist practice

Latvia

based on civil law system

Lebanon

mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Lesotho

based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Liberia

dual system of statutory law based on Anglo-American common law for the modern sector and customary law based on unwritten tribal practices for indigenous sector

Libya

based on Italian civil law system and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Liechtenstein

local civil and penal codes; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Lithuania

based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts

Luxembourg

based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Macau

based on Portuguese civil law system

Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of

based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts

Madagascar

based on French civil law system and traditional Malagasy law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Malawi

based on English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Malaysia

based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Maldives

based on Islamic law with admixtures of English common law primarily in commercial matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Mali

based on French civil law system and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Court (which was formally established on 9 March 1994); has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Malta

based on English common law and Roman civil law; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Man, Isle of

English common law and Manx statute

Marshall Islands

based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Martinique

French legal system

Mauritania

a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law

Mauritius

based on French civil law system with elements of English common law in certain areas

Mayotte

French law

Mexico

mixture of US constitutional theory and civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Micronesia, Federated States of

based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Moldova

based on civil law system; Constitutional Court reviews legality of legislative acts and governmental decisions of resolution; it is unclear if Moldova accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction but accepts many UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) documents

Monaco

based on French law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Mongolia

blend of Russian, Chinese, Turkish, and Western systems of law that combines aspects of a parliamentary and presidential system; constitution ambiguous on judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Montserrat

English common law and statutory law

Morocco

based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Chamber of Supreme Court

Mozambique

based on Portuguese civil law system and customary law

Myanmar

does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Namibia

based on Roman-Dutch law and 1990 constitution

Nauru

acts of the Nauru Parliament and British common law

Nepal

based on Hindu legal concepts and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Netherlands

civil law system incorporating French penal theory; constitution does not permit judicial review of acts of the States General; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Netherlands Antilles

based on Dutch civil law system, with some English common law influence

New Caledonia

the 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands; formerly under French law

New Zealand

based on English law, with special land legislation and land courts for Maoris; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Nicaragua

civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts

Niger

based on French civil law system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Nigeria

based on English common law, Islamic law, and tribal law

Niue

English common law

Norfolk Island

based on the laws of Australia, local ordinances and acts; English common law applies in matters not covered by either Australian or Norfolk Island law

Northern Mariana Islands

based on US system, except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation

Norway

mixture of customary law, civil law system, and common law traditions; Supreme Court renders advisory opinions to legislature when asked; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Oman

based on English common law and Islamic law; ultimate appeal to the monarch; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Pakistan

based on English common law with provisions to accommodate Pakistan's status as an Islamic state; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Palau

based on Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Panama

based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Justice; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Papua New Guinea

based on English common law

Paraguay

based on Argentine codes, Roman law, and French codes; judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court of Justice; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Peru

based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Philippines

based on Spanish and Anglo-American law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Pitcairn Islands

local island by-laws

Poland

mixture of Continental (Napoleonic) civil law and holdover communist legal theory; changes being gradually introduced as part of broader democratization process; limited judicial review of legislative acts although under the new constitution, the Constitutional Tribunal ruling will become final as of October 1999; court decisions can be appealed to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg

Portugal

civil law system; the Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Puerto Rico

based on Spanish civil code

Qatar

discretionary system of law controlled by the amir, although civil codes are being implemented; Islamic law is significant in personal matters

Reunion

French law

Romania

former mixture of civil law system and communist legal theory; is now based on the constitution of France's Fifth Republic

Russia

based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts

Rwanda

based on German and Belgian civil law systems and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Saint Helena

NA

Saint Kitts and Nevis

based on English common law

Saint Lucia

based on English common law

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

French law with special adaptations for local conditions, such as housing and taxation

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

based on English common law

Samoa

based on English common law and local customs; judicial review of legislative acts with respect to fundamental rights of the citizen; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

San Marino

based on civil law system with Italian law influences; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Sao Tome and Principe

based on Portuguese legal system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Saudi Arabia

based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Senegal

based on French civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Court; the Council of State audits the government's accounting office; Senegal has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Serbia and Montenegro

based on civil law system

Seychelles

based on English common law, French civil law, and customary law

Sierra Leone

based on English law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Singapore

based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Slovakia

civil law system based on Austro-Hungarian codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; legal code modified to comply with the obligations of Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to expunge Marxist-Leninist legal theory

Slovenia

based on civil law system

Solomon Islands

English common law

Somalia

NA

South Africa

based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

English Common Law

Spain

civil law system, with regional applications; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Sri Lanka

a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Muslim, Sinhalese, and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Sudan

based on English common law and Islamic law; as of 20 January 1991, the now defunct Revolutionary Command Council imposed Islamic law in the northern states; Islamic law applies to all residents of the northern states regardless of their religion; some separate religious courts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suriname

based on Dutch legal system incorporating French penal theory

Svalbard

NA

Swaziland

based on South African Roman-Dutch law in statutory courts and Swazi traditional law and custom in traditional courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Sweden

civil law system influenced by customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Switzerland

civil law system influenced by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts, except with respect to federal decrees of general obligatory character; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Syria

based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Taiwan

based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Tajikistan

based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts

Tanzania

based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts limited to matters of interpretation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Thailand

based on civil law system, with influences of common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Togo

French-based court system

Tokelau

British and local statutes

Tonga

based on English law

Trinidad and Tobago

based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Tunisia

based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

Turkey

derived from various European continental legal systems; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Turkmenistan

based on civil law system

Turks and Caicos Islands

based on laws of England and Wales, with a small number adopted from Jamaica and The Bahamas

Tuvalu

NA

Uganda

in 1995, the government restored the legal system to one based on English common law and customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Ukraine

based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts

United Arab Emirates

federal court system introduced in 1971; all emirates except Dubayy (Dubai) and Ra's al Khaymah have joined the federal system; all emirates have secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courts

United Kingdom

common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; no judicial review of Acts of Parliament; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations; British courts and legislation are increasingly subject to review by European Union courts

United States

based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Uruguay

based on Spanish civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Uzbekistan

evolution of Soviet civil law; still lacks independent judicial system

Vanuatu

unified system being created from former dual French and British systems

Venezuela

based on organic laws as of July 1999; open, adversarial court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Vietnam

based on communist legal theory and French civil law system

Virgin Islands

based on US laws

Wallis and Futuna

French legal system

World

all members of the UN (excluding Yugoslavia) plus Switzerland are parties to the statute that established the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court

Yemen

based on Islamic law, Turkish law, English common law, and local tribal customary law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Zambia

based on English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in an ad hoc constitutional council; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Zimbabwe

mixture of Roman-Dutch and English common law
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