List of national legal systems
The contemporary legal systems of the world are generally based on one of three basic systems: civil law, common law, and religious law – or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each country is shaped by its unique history and so incorporates individual variations.
Civil law is the most widespread system of law around the world.  It is also sometimes known as Continental European law. The central source of law that is recognized as authoritative is codifications in a constitution or statute passed by legislature, to amend a code.
While the concept of codification dates back to the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon ca. 1790 BC, civil law systems derive from the Roman Empire and, more particularly, the Corpus Juris Civilis issued by the Emperor Justinian ca. AD 529. This was an extensive reform of the law in the Byzantine Empire, bringing it together into codified documents. Civil law was also partly influenced by religious laws such as Canon law and Islamic law. Civil law today, in theory, is interpreted rather than developed or made by judges. Only legislative enactments (rather than legal precedents, as in common law) are considered legally binding.
- French civil law: in France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Romania, Spain and former colonies of those countries;
- German civil law: in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, former Yugoslav republics, Greece, Portugal and its former colonies, Turkey, Japan, and the Republic of China;
- Scandinavian civil law: in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As historically integrated in the Scandinavian cultural sphere, Finland and Iceland also inherited the system.
- Chinese law: a mixture of civil law and socialist law in use in the People's Republic of China.
A comprehensive list of countries that base their legal system on a codified civil law follows:
|Albania||The Civil Code of the Republic of Albania, 1991 |
|Angola||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Argentina||The Spanish legal tradition had a great influence on the Civil Code of Argentina, basically a work of the Argentine jurist Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, who dedicated five years of his life on this task. The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1871. Beyond the influence of the Spanish legal tradition, the Argentinian Civil Code was also inspired by the Draft of the Brazilian Civil Code, the Draft of the Spanish Civil Code of 1851, the Napoleonic code and the Chilean Civil Code. The sources of this Civil Code also include various theoretical legal works, mainly of the great French jurists of the 19th century. It was the first Civil Law that consciously adopted as its cornerstone the distinction between i. rights from obligations and ii. real property rights, thus distancing itself from the French model.
The Argentinian Civil Code was also in effect in Paraguay, as per a Paraguayan law of 1880, until the new Civil Code went in force in 1987.
During the second half of the 20th century, the German legal theory became increasingly influential in Argentina.
|Andorra||Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law.|
|Aruba||Based on Dutch civil law|
|Austria||The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB) of 1811|
|Azerbaijan||Based on German, French, Russian and traditional Azerbaijani Law|
|Belgium||The Napoleonic Code is still in use, although it is heavily modified (especially concerning family law)|
|Bolivia||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Influenced by Austrian law. The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.|
|Brazil||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Bulgaria||Civil Law system influenced by Germanic and Roman law systems|
|People's Republic of China||civil law system; based on native customs and practices with Soviet and German influence|
|Republic of the Congo|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||Based on Belgian civil law|
|Cape Verde||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Central African Republic|
|Chile||The Spanish legal tradition exercised an especially great influence on the civil code of Chile. On its turn, the Chilean civil code influenced to a large degree the drafting of the civil codes of other Latin-American states. For instance, the codes of Ecuador (1861) and Colombia (1873) constituted faithful reproductions of the Chilean code, but for very few exceptions. The compiler of the Civil Code of Chile, Venezuelan Andrés Bello, worked for its completion for almost 30 years, using elements, of the Spanish law on the one hand, and of other Western laws, especially of the French one, on the other. Indeed, it is noted that he consulted and used all of the codes that had been issued till then, starting from the era of Justinian.
The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1857. Its technique is regarded as perfect; it is distinguished for the clarity, logic and cohesiveness of its provisions. As mentioned by Arminjon, Nolde, and Wolff ('Traite de droit comparé', Paris, 1950–1952) Andrés Bello may be regarded as one of the great legislators of mankind. The influence of the Napoleonic code is great; it is observed however that e.g. in many provisions of property law, the solutions of the French code civil were put aside in favor of pure Roman law.
|Colombia||Civil code introduced in 1873. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code|
|Costa Rica||First Civil Code (a part of the General Code or Carrillo Code) came into effect in 1841; its text was inspired by the South Peruvian Civil Code of Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz. The present Civil Code went into effect 1 January 1888, and was influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 (from its 1851 draft version).|
|Croatia||Influenced by Austrian and Hungarian law. The Law on Obligations of 2005.|
|Cuba||Influenced by Spanish and American law with large elements of Communist legal theory.|
|Czech Republic||Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68-89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).|
|Denmark||Scandinavian-German civil law|
|Dominican Republic||Based by the Napoleonic Code|
|Ecuador||Civil code introduced in 1861. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code|
|Estonia||Largely influenced by German civil law.|
|Finland||Civil law system based on Swedish law|
|France||Based on the Napoleonic code (code civil of 1804)|
|Guinea||based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree|
|Guinea-Bissau||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Germany||The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch of 1900 ("BGB"). The BGB is influenced both by Roman and German law traditions.|
|Greece||The Greek civil code of 1946, highly influenced by traditional Roman law and the German civil code of 1900 (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch); the Greek civil code replaced the Byzantine–Roman civil law in effect in Greece since its independence (Νομική Διάταξη της Ανατολικής Χέρσου Ελλάδος, Legal Provision of Eastern Mainland Greece, November 1821: 'Οι Κοινωνικοί Νόμοι των Αειμνήστων Χριστιανών Αυτοκρατόρων της Ελλάδος μόνοι ισχύουσι κατά το παρόν εις την Ανατολικήν Χέρσον Ελλάδα', 'The Social [i.e. Civil] Laws of the Dear Departed Christian Emperors of Greece [referring to the Byzantine Emperors] alone are in effect at present in Eastern Mainland Greece')|
|Guatemala||Guatemala has had three Civil Codes: the first one from 1877, a new one introduced in 1933, and the one currently in force, which was passed in 1963. This Civil Code has suffered some reforms throughout the years, as well as a few derogations relating to areas which have subsequently been regulated by newer laws, such as the Code of Commerce and the Law of the National Registry of Persons. In general, it follows the tradition of the roman-French system of civil codification.
Regarding the theory of 'sources of law' in the Guatemalan legal system, the 'Ley del Organismo Judicial' recognizes 'the law' as the main legal source (in the sense of legislative texts), although it also establishes 'jurisprudence' as a complementary source. Although jurisprudence technically refers to judicial decisions in general, in practice it tends to be confused and identified with the concept of 'legal doctrine', which is a qualified series of identical resolutions in similar cases pronounced by higher courts (the Constitutional Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Amparo', and the Supreme Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Casación') whose theses become binding for lower courts.
|Haiti||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code|
|Hungary||Based on codified Roman law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code|
|Iceland||Based on Germanic traditional laws and influenced by Medieval Norwegian and Danish laws.|
|Italy||Based on codified Roman law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code; civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865|
|Japan||Modeled after European (primarily German) civil law system. Japanese civil code of 1895.|
|Latvia||Based on codified Roman law with strong German traditions in civil and administrative law and procedure, as it was historically before the Soviet occupation, elements of French legal system are also common in Latvian law. While general principles of law are prerequisites in making and understanding the law, case law is also broadly applied to present legal arguments in courts and to explain application of law in similar cases. Rapidly decreasing remains of Soviet understanding of criminal acts can be found in criminal law, while criminal procedure law has been fully modeled after practice accepted in Western Europe. Civil law of Latvia enacted on 1937.|
|Lebanon||Modeled after French civil law|
|Lithuania||Modeled after Dutch civil law|
|Luxembourg||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code|
|Libya||Influenced by Ottoman, French, Italian, and Egyptian sources|
|Macau||Based on the Portuguese strand of the continental tradition, itself much influenced by Germany; also influenced by the law of the PRC|
|Mexico||"The origins of Mexico's legal system are both ancient and classical, based on the Roman and French legal systems, and the Mexican system shares more in common with other legal systems throughout the world (especially those in Latin America and most of continental Europe)..."|
|Mongolia||Civil Code of 2002 based on German BGB|
|Montenegro||First: the General Property Code for the Principality of Montenegro of 1888, written by Valtazar Bogišić. Present: the Law on Obligations of 2008.|
|Mozambique||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Netherlands||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code|
|Norway||Scandinavian-German civil law. King Magnus VI the Lawmender unified the regional laws into a single code of law for the whole kingdom in 1274. This was replaced by Christian V's Norwegian Code of 1687.|
|Paraguay||The Paraguayan Civil Code in force since 1987 is largely influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Argentinian Code|
|Peru||Based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations|
|Poland||The Polish Civil Code in force since 1965|
|Portugal||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code and later by the German Civil Law|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)||Codification derived from German BGB.|
|Romania||Based on the Civil Code of Quebec, but also influenced by the Napoleonic Code and other French-inspired codes (such as those of Italy, Spain and Switzerland)|
|Russia||Civil Law system descendant from Roman Law through Byzantine tradition. Heavily influenced by German and Dutch norms in 1700-1800's. Socialist-style modification in 1900's, and Continental European Law influences since 1990's.|
|São Tomé e Príncipe||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Serbia||First: the Civil Code of Principality of Serbia of 1844, written by Jovan Hadžić, was influenced by the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). Present: The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.|
|Slovakia||Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68-89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).|
|Slovenia||A Civil Law system influenced mostly by Germanic and Austro-Hungarian law systems|
|Spain||Influenced by the Napoleonic Code, it also has some elements of Spain's legal tradition, starting with the Siete Partidas, a major legislative achievement from the Middle Ages. That body of law remained more or less unchanged until the 19th century, when the first civil codes were drafted, merging both the Napoleonic style with the Castilian traditions.|
|Sweden||Scandinavian-German civil law. Like all Scandinavian legal systems, it is distinguished by its traditional character and for the fact that it did not adopt elements of Roman law. It is indeed worth mentioning that it assimilated very few elements of foreign laws whatsoever. It is also interesting that the Napoleonic Code had no influence in codification of law in Scandinavia. The historical basis of the law of Sweden, just as for all Nordic countries, is Old German law. Codification of the law started in Sweden during the 18th century, preceding the codifications of most other European countries. However, neither Sweden, nor any other Nordic state created a civil code of the kind of the Code Civil or the BGB.|
|Switzerland||The Swiss Civil Code of 1908 and 1912 (obligations; fifth book)|
|Timor-Leste||Based on Portuguese civil law|
|Turkey||Modeled after the Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907.|
|Ukraine||Civil Code of Ukraine of 2004|
|Uzbekistan||Represents an evolution of Soviet civil law. Overwhelmingly strong impact of the Communist legal theory is traceable.|
|Vietnam||Communist legal theory and French civil law|
Common law and equity are systems of law whose sources are the decisions in cases by judges. Alongside, every system will have a legislature that passes new laws and statutes. The relationships between statutes and judicial decisions can be complex. In some jurisdictions, such statutes may overrule judicial decisions or codify the topic covered by several contradictory or ambiguous decisions. In some jurisdictions, judicial decisions may decide whether the jurisdiction's constitution allowed a particular statute or statutory provision to be made or what meaning is contained within the statutory provisions. Statutes were allowed to be made by the government. Common law developed in England, influenced by Anglo-Saxon law and to a much lesser extent by the Norman conquest of England which introduced legal concepts from Norman law, which had its origins in Salic law. Common law was later inherited by the Commonwealth of Nations, and almost every former colony of the British Empire has adopted it (Malta being an exception). The doctrine of stare decisis or precedent by courts is the major difference to codified civil law systems.
Common law is currently in practice in Ireland, most of the United Kingdom (England and Wales and Northern Ireland), Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India (excluding Goa), Pakistan, South Africa, Canada (excluding Quebec), Hong Kong, the United States (excluding Louisiana) and many other places. In addition to these countries, several others have adapted the common law system into a mixed system. For example, Nigeria operates largely on a common law system but incorporates religious law.
In the European Union, the Court of Justice takes an approach mixing civil law (based on the treaties) with an attachment to the importance of case law. One of the most fundamental documents to shape common law is Magna Carta which placed limits on the power of the English Kings. It served as a kind of medieval bill of rights for the aristocracy and the judiciary who developed the law.
|Antigua and Barbuda||based on English common law|
|Australia||based on English common law|
|Bahamas||based on English common law|
|Bangladesh||based on English common law|
|Barbados||based on English common law|
|Belize||based on English common law|
|British Virgin Islands||based on English common law|
|Canada||based on English common law, except in Quebec, where a civil law system based on French law prevails in most matters of a civil nature, such as obligations (contract and delict), property law, family law and private matters. Federal statutes take into account the bijuridical nature of Canada and use both common law and civil law terms where appropriate.|
|Cyprus||based on English common law as inherited from British colonisation, with civil law influences, particularly in criminal law.|
|Dominica||based on English common law|
| England and Wales
|primarily common law, with early Roman and some modern continental influences|
|Fiji||based on English common law|
|Gibraltar||based on English common law|
|Myanmar||based on English common law|
|Grenada||based on English common law|
|Hong Kong||principally based on English common law|
|India||based on English common law (except Goa, Daman and Diu which follow a Civil Law based on Portuguese Civil Law)|
|Ireland||based on Irish law before 1922, which was itself based on English common law|
|Israel||based on English common law from the period of the British Mandate, also incorporating civil law and fragments of Jewish and Sharia law for family law cases|
|Jamaica||based on English common law|
|Kiribati||based on English common law|
|Marshall Islands||based on U.S. Law|
|Nauru||based on English common law|
|New Zealand||based on English common law|
|based on Irish law before 1921, which was itself based on English common law|
|Palau||based on U.S. Law|
|Pakistan||based on English common law with some provisions of Islamic law|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||based on English common law|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||based on English common law|
|Singapore||based on English common law, but Muslims are subject to the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which gives the Sharia Court jurisdiction over Muslim personal law, e.g., marriage, inheritance and divorce.|
|Tonga||based on English common law|
|Trinidad and Tobago||based on English common law|
|Tuvalu||based on English common law|
|Uganda||based on English common law|
|United States||Federal courts and 49 states use the legal system based on English common law which has diverged somewhat since the mid-nineteenth century in that they look to each other's cases for guidance on issues of first impression and rarely, if ever, look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth
State law in the U.S. state of Louisiana is based upon French and Spanish civil law (see above)
Religious law refers to the notion of a religious system or document being used as a legal source, though the methodology used varies. For example, the use of Jewish Halakha for public law has a static and unalterable quality, precluding amendment through legislative acts of government or development through judicial precedent; Christian Canon law is more similar to civil law in its use of civil codes; and Islamic Sharia law (and Fiqh jurisprudence) is based on legal precedent and reasoning by analogy (Qiyas), and is thus considered similar to common law.
The main kinds of religious law are Sharia in Islam, Halakha in Judaism, and canon law in some Christian groups. In some cases these are intended purely as individual moral guidance, whereas in other cases they are intended and may be used as the basis for a country's legal system. The latter was particularly common during the Middle Ages.
The Islamic legal system of Sharia (Islamic law) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is the most widely used religious law, and one of the three most common legal systems in the world alongside common law and civil law. It is the most protected divine law, because, the majority of the rulings of Sharia law are based on the Qur'an and Sunnah, while a small fraction of its rulings are based on the Ulema (jurists) who used the methods of Ijma (consensus), Qiyas (analogical deduction), Ijtihad (research) and Urf (common practice) to derive Fatwā (legal opinions). An Ulema was required to qualify for an Ijazah (legal doctorate) at a Madrasa (school) before they could issue Fatwā. During the Islamic Golden Age, classical Islamic law may have had an influence on the development of common law and several civil law institutions. Sharia law governs a number of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, though most countries use Sharia law only as a supplement to national law. It can relate to all aspects of civil law, including property rights, contracts or public law.
The Halakha is followed by orthodox and conservative Jews in both ecclesiastical and civil relations. No country is fully governed by Halakha, but two Jewish people may decide, because of personal belief, to have a dispute heard by a Jewish court, and be bound by its rulings.
Canon law is not divine law, properly speaking, because it is not found in revelation. Instead, it is seen as human law inspired by the word of God and applying the demands of that revelation to the actual situation of the church. Canon law regulates the internal ordering of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. Canon law is amended and adapted by the legislative authority of the church, such as councils of bishops, single bishops for their respective sees, the Pope for the entire Catholic Church, and the British Parliament for the Church of England.
|Afghanistan||Islamic law & American British Law after invasion|
|Egypt||Islamic law is ensured in Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution.|
|The Gambia||English common law, Islamic law and customary law|
|Ghana||Based on English common law|
|Iran||Shia Islamic law|
|Mauritania||mix of Islamic law and French Civil Codes, Islamic law largely applicable to family law.|
|Morocco||mix of Islamic law and French Civil Codes, Islamic law largely applicable to family law.|
|Nigeria||Sharia in the northern states, common law in the south and at the federal level.|
|Oman||Sharia and tribal custom laws|
|Saudi Arabia||Islamic law|
|Sudan||Based on Islamic law|
|Vatican City||Based on principles of Italian and canonical law|
Civil law and common law
|Botswana||Based on South African law. An 1891 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana).|
|Cyprus||Based on English common law (Cyprus was a British colony 1878–1960), with admixtures of French and Greek civil and public law, Italian civil law, Indian contract law, Greek Orthodox canon law, Muslim religious law, and Ottoman civil law.|
|Israel||Originally (1948) based on English common law; in the process, influenced by German civil law—for instance, between 1962 and 1981, the Knesset issued twenty (20) wide-ranging laws, which were clearly influenced by civil law, and were in the form of codes. Religious law plays a role, especially in matters of personal status and family law, and judicial and legislative decisions take into account Jewish law (halakhah) on occasion.|
|Jersey||The Bailiwick of Jersey's legal system draws on local legislation enacted by the States of Jersey, Norman customary law, English common law and modern French civil law|
|Lesotho||Based on South African law. An 1884 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to Basutoland (now Lesotho).|
|Based on French and Spanish civil law, but federal laws (based on common law) are also in effect in Louisiana because of federal Supremacy Clause.|
|Malta||Initially based on Roman Law and eventually progressed to the Code de Rohan, the Napoleonic Code with influences from Italian Civil Law. English common law however is also a source of Maltese Law, most notably in Public Law|
|Namibia||Based on South African law. South Africa conquered South-West Africa (now Namibia) in 1915, and a 1919 proclamation by the Governor-General applied the law of the Cape Province of South Africa to the territory.|
|Philippines||Based on Spanish law; influenced by U.S. common law after 1898 Spanish and Philippine-American Wars, personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims|
| Puerto Rico
|Based on Spanish law; influenced by U.S. common law after 1898 (victory of the U.S. over Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898 and cession of Puerto Rico to the U.S.); federal laws (based on common law) are in effect because of federal Supremacy Clause.|
|After the 1763 Treaty of Paris awarded French Canada to Great Britain, the British initially attempted to impose English Common Law, but in response to the deteriorating political situation in the nearby Thirteen Colonies, the Quebec Act was passed in 1774, which allowed a mix of English Common Law and customary civil law, based on the Coutume de Paris. Codification occurred in 1866 with the enactment of the Civil Code of Lower Canada, which continued in force when the modern Province of Quebec was created at Confederation in 1867. Canadian federal law in force in Quebec is based on common law, but federal statutes also take into account the bijuridical nature of Canada and use both common law and civil law terms where appropriate.|
|Based on Roman and continental law, with common law elements dating back to the High Middle Ages|
|Seychelles||The substantive civil law is based on the French Civil Code. Otherwise the criminal law and court procedure are based on the English common law. See Seychelles Legal Environment.|
|South Africa||An amalgam of Roman-Dutch civil law and English common law, as well as Customary Law.|
|Sri Lanka||An amalgam of English common law, Roman-Dutch civil law and Customary Law|
|Swaziland||Based on South African law. A 1907 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the Roman-Dutch common law of the Transvaal Colony (now part of South Africa) to Swaziland.|
|Thailand||The Thai legal system became an amalgam of German, Swiss, French, English, Japanese, Italian, and Indian laws and practices. Even today, Islamic laws and practices exist in four southern provinces. Over the years, Thai law has naturally taken on its own Thai identity.|
|Vanuatu||Consists of a mixed system combining the legacy of English common law, French civil law and indigenous customary law.|
|Zimbabwe||Based on South African law. An 1891 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).|
Civil law and religious law
|Egypt||Family Law (personal Statute) for Muslims based on Islamic Jurisprudence, Seaerate Personal Statute for non Muslims, and all other branches of Law are based on French civil law system|
|Indonesia||Based on civil law of Holland and adat (cultural law of Indonesia)|
|Jordan||Mainly based on French Civil Code and Ottoman Majalla, Islamic law applicable to family law|
|Morocco||Based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law system|
|Qatar||Based on Islamic law and Egyptian civil law system (after the French civil law system)|
|Syria||Based on Islamic law and French civil law system|
|United Arab Emirates||Based on Islamic law and Egyptian civil law system (after the French civil law system)|
Common law and religious law
|Malaysia||based on English common law, personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims|
|Nigeria||Sharia is applied in some northern states|
|Pakistan||based on English Common Law, some Islamic law applications in inheritance. Tribal Law in FATA|
|India||The most prominent example of a hybrid legal system is the Indian legal system. India follows a mixture of civil, common law and customary or religious law. Separate personal law codes apply to Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. Decisions by the Supreme Court of India and High Courts are binding on the lower courts. Further, most of the laws are statutory and it also has a constitution which signifies the Civil nature of law in India.|
Systems by geography
Despite the usefulness of different classifications, every legal system has its own individual identity. Below are groups of legal systems, categorised by their geography. Click the "show" buttons on the right for the lists of countries.
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