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The World Factbook 2002

  Field Listing - Legal system


This entry contains a brief description of the legal system's historical roots, role in government, and acceptance of International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.
Country
Legal system
Afghanistan the Bonn Agreement calls for a judicial commission to rebuild the justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law, and Afghan legal traditions
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 Antarctica is administered through meetings of the consultative member nations. Decisions from these meetings are carried out by these member nations (within their areas) in accordance with their own national laws. US law, including certain criminal offenses by or against US nationals, such as murder, may apply extra-territorially. 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 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 National Science Foundation and Department of Justice share enforcement responsibilities. Public Law 95-541, the US Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, as amended in 1996, 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) 292-8030, or visit 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 the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia and the laws of the Northern Territory of Australia, where applicable, apply
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; accepts 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 the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
Bangladesh based on English common law
Barbados English common law; no judicial review of legislative acts
Bassas da India the laws of France, where applicable, apply
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
Bouvet Island the laws of Norway, where applicable, apply
Brazil based on Roman codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
British Indian Ocean Territory the laws of the UK, where applicable, apply
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
Burma has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Burundi based on German and Belgian civil codes and customary law; has not accepted 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; has not accepted 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; has not accepted 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; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
note: Chile is in the process of completely overhauling its criminal justice system; a new, US-style adversarial system is being gradually implemented throughout the country
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
Clipperton Island the laws of France, where applicable, apply
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 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; has not accepted 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
East Timor NA
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
Equatorial Guinea partly based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom
Eritrea primary basis is the Ethiopian legal code of 1957, with revisions; new civil, commercial, and penal codes have not yet been promulgated; also relies on customary and post-independence-enacted laws and, for civil cases involving Muslims, Sharia law
Estonia based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts
Ethiopia currently transitional mix of national and regional courts
Europa Island the laws of France, where applicable, apply
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 the laws of France, where applicable, apply
Gabon based on French civil law system and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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 the laws of France, where applicable, apply
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 the laws of Australia, where applicable, apply
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
Howland Island the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
Hungary rule of law based on Western model
Iceland civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted 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
Jan Mayen the laws of Norway, where applicable, apply
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
Jarvis Island the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
Jersey English law and local statute
Johnston Atoll the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
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 the laws of France, where applicable, apply
Kazakhstan based on civil law system
Kenya based on Kenyan statutory law, Kenyan and 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
Kingman Reef the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
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; legislative acts can be appealed to the constitutional court
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; accepts 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
Midway Islands the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
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 system with some aspects of a 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
Namibia based on Roman-Dutch law and 1990 constitution
Nauru acts of the Nauru Parliament and British common law
Navassa Island the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
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 Shariah law (only in some northern states), and traditional law
Niue English common law
note: Niue is self-governing, with the power to make its own laws
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
Palmyra Atoll the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
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
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 and adapted US state laws
Qatar discretionary system of law controlled by the amir, although civil codes are being implemented; Islamic law dominates family and 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; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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, which is widely disregarded
Somalia no national system; Shari'a and secular courts are in some localities
South Africa based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands the laws of the UK, where applicable, apply; the senior magistrate from the Falkland Islands presides over the Magistrates Court
Spain civil law system, with regional applications; has not accepted 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 New Zealand 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
Tromelin Island the laws of France, where applicable, apply
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 few 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
Wake Island the laws of the US, where applicable, apply
Wallis and Futuna French legal system
World all members of the UN 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; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Yugoslavia based on civil law system
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

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002

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