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Features - Researching Dutch Law

By Oswald Jansen and George Middeldorp, Published on January 2, 2001

Oswald Jansen is senior-researcher at the Centre for the enforcement of European law, G.J. Wiarda Institute, Utrecht University. He holds an LLM-degree of the University of Nijmegen and his PhD at the University of Amsterdam. His research interest in (public) law enforcement involves Dutch as well as foreign (mainly European) administrative law, Dutch as well as foreign (mainly European) criminal law and European law. He is also deputy judge at the Arnhem criminal court, member of the police complaints Committee of Amsterdam-Amstelland and vice-chairman of the complaints commission Maasdriel.

George Middeldorp is international law librarian and lecturer in international law and air law at the Law Faculty of Utrecht University. There he also teaches legal research skills to both students and academic staff. He received an MA degree in Political Science and an LL.M. degree in International Law (both with Hons) from the University of Amsterdam. George has published the guide Conducting research in public international law; an introduction to the information sources. In addition, he is member of the editorial boards of the Dutch law librarians journal, of a weekly electronic newsletter on legal internet sources (JIB), and of a loose leaf series on transport law.


Table of Contents

The Dutch Legal System
Government: General
Parliament
Ministries
Provinces
Local Communities
Water Boards
Trade and Product Boards
Agencies
Other (Semi) Government Institutions
Legislation
Case Law
Sollicitors/Attorneys
Law Faculties
Law Libraries
Literature
Law Dictionaries
Citation
Discussion List
Miscellaneous Legal Sites

The Dutch Legal System

The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) was founded in 1813. It was part of France from 1795 until 1813, before 1795 the greater part of the current territory was governed by a confederation of sovereign provinces (Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden).

Government Structure

'Central government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Since 1814 there has been a hereditary monarchy occupied in turn by Kings William I, William II and William III, followed by the Princess Regent Emma and Queens Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix' (more information on the websites of the Royal House and the State Archives' Services). 'The King is immune, ministers are politically responsible and subject to criminal law. In practice only the political responsibility of ministers has any real meaning. Legally speaking the King forms part of the government but actually it is the responsible ministers who make policy' (Constantijn Kortmann and Paul Bovend' Eert, The Kingdom of the Netherlands. An introduction to Dutch Constitutional law, Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, Deventer, Boston 1993, p. 5).

Some former colonies are still part of the Kingdom: the Carribean islands Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. They form a federation with the parts of the Kingdom in Europe. The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands forms its constitution, which has a meaning superior to the written Dutch Constitution.

The territory in Europe could be characterized as a decentralised unitary State. Legislative and administrative powers are exercised by central, regional (12 provincies) as well as local bodies (more than 500 gemeenten). There are also other bodies and agencies that have legislative and administrative powers. Examples are the openbare lichamen voor bedrijf en beroep, the zelfstandige bestuursorganen (agencies) and waterschappen (water boards).

Types of Legislation

The most important form of legislation is the legislation made by the central government in cooperation with the Staten-Generaal (Parliament, consisting of two chambres): wetgeving in formele zin (legislation in a formal sense). Lower forms of legislation are rules made by other agencies that belong to central government, such as Algemene maatregel van bestuur and Ministeriële regeling, by the representative organs of provincies (these rules are called Verordeningen), waterschappen (these rules are called Keuren) and gemeenten (these rules are called Verordeningen), by zelfstandige bestuursorganen (agencies) or other openbare lichamen (public bodies).

Examples (in Dutch) of various forms of legislation can be found at Overheid.nl (wetgeving in formele zin as well as algemene maatregelen van bestuur and ministeriële regelingen. Two examples of rules made by gemeenten: gemeente Nijmegen and gemeente Amsterdam.

The Court System

General information (in Dutch) about the court system can be found on the website Rechtspraak.nl. The Dutch judicial system can roughly be divided into two subsystems: the general system and the administrative law system. The supreme court in the general system is the Hoge Raad (Supreme Council), it deals with matters of criminal law, tax law as well as private law. The lower courts are the kantongerechten (courts for petty offences and matters of relatively small importance), the rechtbanken (general courts of first instance) and the gerechtshoven (general courts of second instance). The administrative law system has a few supreme courts: the Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak part of the Raad van State (mainly dealing with planning law as well as environmental law), the Centrale Raad van Beroep (mainly dealing with social security and civil servants matters) and the College van beroep voor het bedrijfsleven (dealing with matters of trade and economic administrative law). The Hoge Raad has administrative law tasks as well (the chamber on criminal matters deals with punitive administrative law matters, tax law is considered a form of administrative law). The courts of first instance in administrative law are the rechtbanken. In tax matters the gerechtshoven are courts of first instance, in some matters of economic administrative law only the Rotterdam rechtbank is court of first instance.

The Effect of International and European Law

In the famous Costa-Enel case (6/64) the Court of Justice of the European Community has ruled that European law is an integral part of the national legal system of the EC member countries and takes precedence over national law. Therefore one cannot fully ascertain the applicable law without researching the relevant European law. The Eur-Lex database contains, inter alia, all Community legislation in force. See also the extensive Guide to European Databases, by Mirela Roznovschi.

Another judicial institution, which is increasingly influencing Dutch law, is the European Court of Human Rights, the judicial organ of the European Convention on Human Rights. More information can be found in Ann Burnett's Guide to Researching the Council of Europe.

As to the effect of general public international law in the Dutch legal order one has to look at articles 93 and 94 of the Constitution. These articles provide for the direct effect (self-execution) of provisions of treaties and of resolutions of international organisations if they are binding on all persons by virtue of their contents. When the Dutch judge rules that such a provision has direct effect, a citizen can invoke the provision in his case and the provision will then prevail over conflicting Dutch law. The question of direct effect is well explained by Brölmann and Vierdag in their contribution to The Integration of International and European Community Law into the National Legal Order. A Study of the Practice in Europe, edited by Eisemann, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1996, pp. 433-459.

Treaties, to which the Netherlands is a party, were officially published until 1951 in the Staatsblad and since then in the Tractatenblad, which is freely accessible as from 1-1-95 at the website Overheid.nl.

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Government: General

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Parliament

The Kamerstukken (parliamentary documents), Handelingen (minutes of parliamentary sessions), Kamervragen (questions by MPs + answers from the government) and the agendas are freely available as from 1-1-95 at the website Overheid.nl.

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Ministries

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Provinces

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Local Communities (gemeenten)

Websites of local communities can be found via

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Water Boards (waterschappen)

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Trade and Product boards (bedrijfs- en productschappen)

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Agencies (zelfstandige bestuursorganen)

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Other (semi) Government Institutions

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Legislation

Dutch

Paid Subscriptions

Dutch legislation is officially published in the Staatsblad (acts) and the Staatscourant (ministeral decisions).

The collected texts of the legislation in force are also available in:

  • Sdu Wettenbank (online database), published by SDU
  • Algemene Databank Wet- en Regelgeving (cd-rom and online database), published by Kluwer
  • Schuurman en Jordens (series of booklets), published by Tjeenk-Willink (subsidiary of Samsom)

Free Internet Services

English Translations

Printed Sources

  • The Netherlands Arbitration Act 1986 ; [with notes by] Pieter Sanders [and] Albert Jan van den Berg ; [transl. from the Dutch], Deventer [etc.] : Kluwer, 1987, ISBN 90-6544-297-9
  • The Dutch penal code / transl. [from the Dutch] by Louise Rayar and Stafford Wadsworth ; in collab. with Mona Cheung ... [et al.] ; rev. by Hans Lensing ; introd. by Grat van den Heuvel and Hans Lensing, Littleton, Colorado : Rothman, 1997, ISBN 0-8377-0050-7
  • The Extradition Act is published in International Criminal Law in the Netherlands / ed. by Bert Swart and André Klip, Freiburg im Breisgau: Edition Iuscrim, 1997, ISBN 3-86113-960-X
  • Niederländisches Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch / F. Nieper, A.S. Westerdijk (Red.) ; [übers. aus dem Niederländischen], München [etc.] : Beck [etc.], 1995-...., ISBN 3-406-39640-2
  • Netherlands Business Legislation, translated by Peter Haanappel, Ejan Mackaay, Hans Warendorf, Richard Thomas (looseleaf + website), The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999-..., ISBN 9041107908
  • New Netherlands civil code : patrimonial law (property, obligations and special contracts) = Nouveau code civil néerlandais : le droit patrimonial (les biens, les obligations et les contrats particuliers) = Nieuw Nederlands Burgerlijk Wetboek : het vermogensrecht (zakenrecht, verbintenissenrecht en bijzondere overeenkomsten) ; transl. by P. P. C. Haanappel [and] Ejan Mackaay, Deventer [etc.] : Kluwer, 1990, ISBN 90-6544-482-3
  • New Netherlands civil code : Book 8, Means of traffic and transport = Nouveau code civil néerlandais : Livre 8, Des moyens de transport et du transport / transl. by P.P.C. Haanappel, Ejan Mackaay, Deventer : Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1995, ISBN 90-41-10129-2
  • Electricity regulation in the Netherlands : new guide to Dutch electricity law / Annelies E. H. Huygen, Leiden : DSWO Press, Leiden Univ., 1995, ISBN 90-6695-113-3

Internet Sources

CD-Rom

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Case Law

Dutch

Paid Subscriptions

The main Dutch law reports are Nederlandse Jurisprudentie (NJ), Administratiefrechtelijke Beslissingen (AB), Kort Geding (KG) and Rechtspraak van de Week (RvdW). These are both available in journal and in cd-rom (Kluwer Juridische Bibliotheek) format, published by Kluwer.

SDU also publishes several law reports, devoted to specialized branches. These reports are published in both journal format and in the online database SDU Jurisprudentie.

Free Internet Services

English Translations

English translations of Dutch case law are scarce. There are a few periodicals however, which publish English summaries of case law:

  • Netherlands Yearbook of International Law ("Netherlands judicial decisions involving questions of public international law"). Most of these summaries are reproduced in the International Law Reports.
  • Netherlands International Law Review ("Netherlands judicial decisions involving questions of private international law")
  • Uniform Law Review ("International Transport Law Conventions: A Digest of Recent Decisions by Courts in the Netherlands", by R. Cleton)

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Sollicitors/Attorneys

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Law Faculties

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Law Libraries

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Literature

Bibliographies

The textbook Introduction to Dutch Law (see below) contains an extensive bibliography, edited by E.H. Hondius, of English language publications on Dutch law. In addition, the E.M. Meijers Institute of Legal Studies of the University of Leiden has published the cd-rom Dutch law in translation, which contains bibliographic references to academic publications concerning Dutch law.

Data Juridica is a bibliography on cd-rom of Dutch law journal articles, published by Kluwer. In addition, both the Index to Legal Periodicals and the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (available in paper edition and on cd-rom) contain many references to journal articles, dealing with Dutch legal issues.

In order to search the book collections of Dutch law libraries see the catalogues accessible through their websites (hyperlink to section Law libraries), referred to above.

Textbooks

General

  • Chorus, J.M.J. (ed.), Introduction to Dutch Law, The Hague [etc.] : Kluwer, 1999, ISBN 90-411-1120-4

Civil Law

  • Hebly, J.M., The Netherlands civil evidence act 1988, Deventer: Kluwer, 1992, ISBN 90-6544-656-7
  • Rooij, R. van & Polak, M.V., Private International Law in the Netherlands, Deventer: Kluwer, 1987 (ISBN 90-411-0084-9) with update of 1995 (ISBN 90-6544-286-3)
  • Netherlands reports to the ... international congress of comparative law, Deventer : Kluwer, 1970-....

Commercial Law

  • Schuit, S.R. & Helleman, J. van, Dutch Business Law, loose leaf, Deventer: Kluwer, 1988- ..., ISBN 90-6544-974-4
  • Hartkamp, A.S. & Tillema, M.M.M., Contract Law in the Netherlands, The Haque [etc.] : Kluwer, 1995, ISBN 90-41100-39-3
  • Schuit, S.R. & J.E. Janssen, M&A in the Netherlands - Acquisitions, Takeovers and joint ventures; Legal and taxation, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1996, ISBN 90-411-0319-8
  • Vijver, N.R., Securities regulation in the Netherlands, Deventer: Kluwer, 1994, ISBN 90-6544-801-2
  • Schuit, S.R., Corporate law and practice of the Netherlands : legal and taxation, The Hague [etc.] : Kluwer Law, 1998, ISBN 90-411-0568-9
  • Wessels, B., Business and Bankruptcy law in the Netherlands, The Hague [etc.] : Kluwer, 1999, ISBN 90-411-9746-X
  • Berg, A.J. van der, Delden, R. van & Snijders, H.J., Netherlands Arbitration Law, Deventer: Kluwer, 1993, ISBN 90-6544-770-9

Tax Law

  • Spenke, G. te, Taxation in The Netherlands, Deventer: Kluwer, 1995, ISBN 90-6544-871-3

Economic Law

  • Eijsvoogel, P.V., Telecommunications regulation in the Netherlands, The Hague [etc.] : Kluwer, 1997, ISBN 90-411-0371-6
  • Ottevanger, T.R., Competition law of the European Community, the Netherlands and Belgium, The Hague [etc.] : Kluwer Law International, 1998, ISBN 90-411-0577-8

Constitutional and Administrative Law

  • Kortmann, C.A.J.M. & Bovend'Eert, P.P.T., The Kingdom of the Netherlands: an introduction to Dutch constitutional law, Deventer: Kluwer, 1993, ISBN 90-6544-712-1
  • Brouwer, J.G., A Survey of Dutch administrative law, Nijmegen : Ars Aequi Libri, 1998, ISBN 90-6916-302-0

Criminal Law

  • Swart, B. & Klip, A. (eds.), International Criminal Law in the Netherlands, Freiburg im Breisgau : Ed. Iuscrim, Max-Planck-Institut für Ausländisches und Internationales Strafrecht, 1997, ISBN 3-86113-960-X

Labour Law

  • Jansen, E.P., Labor Law in the Netherlands, Deventer: Kluwer, 1994, ISBN 90-6544-807-1
  • Troskie, H., An Introduction to Strikes in the Netherlands, Den Bosch: BookWorld Publications, 1995, ISBN 90-75228-06-6

Sociology of Law

  • Blankenburg, E.R. & Bruinsma, J.F., Dutch legal culture, Deventer [etc.] : Kluwer, 1994, ISBN 90-6544-766-0

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Law Dictionaries

General Overview

English

  • Foster, T., Dutch legal terminology in English : a practical reference guide, Leiden: Academic Press Leiden, 1999, ISBN: 90-74372-19-8
  • End, Aart van den (ed.): Juridisch lexicon = The legal lexicon, Zeist : Gateway, 1995, ISBN 90-73489-06-7 (also available on cd-rom)

French

  • Leliard, J.D.M., Gerechtelijke terminologie : Nederlands-Franse lijst van termen en uitdrukkingen uit het burgerlijk procesrecht en de rechterlijke organisatie = Terminologie judiciaire : liste française-néerlandaise de termes et locutions dans le domaine de la procédure civile et de l'organisation judiciaire, Antwerpen: Maarten Kluwer, 1993, ISBN: 90-6215-052-7 (pbk)
  • Moors, J., Dictionnaire juridique français-néerlandais Nederlands-Frans juridisch woordenboek, Brugge [etc.] : Die Keure, 1999, ISBN: 90-5751-197-5

German

  • Scheer, M.K., Wörterbuch der deutschen und niederländischen Rechtssprache, Deventer [etc.] : Kluwer, 1989, ISBN 90-6544-350-9
  • Langendorf, H., Wörterbuch der deutschen und niederländischen Rechtssprache : Lexikon für Justiz, Verwaltung, Wirtschaft u. Handel, Deventer : Kluwer, 1997, ISBN: 3-406-34797-5

Spanish

  • Oosterveld-Egas Repáraz, M.C. & van Kanten, E.F., Juridisch woordenboek Nederlands-Spaans; Diccionario jurídico neerlandés-español, Apeldoorn [etc.] : Maklu, 1990, ISBN: 90-6215-271-6

Multilingual

  • K. Boele-Woelki (ed.), Nederlandse rechtsbegrippen vertaald : Frans, Engels, Duits (Dutch legal terms translated: French, English, German), 's-Gravenhage : T.M.C. Asser Instituut, 1998, ISBN 990-6704-104-1
  • Le Docte, Edgard, Dictionnaire de termes juridiques en quatre langues = Viertalig juridisch woordenboek = Legal dictionary in four languages = Rechtswörterbuch in vier Sprachen, Antwerpen [etc.] : MAKLU, 1995, ISBN 90-6215-480-8

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Citation

The Leidraad voor juridische auteurs contains guidelines how to cite Dutch legislation, case law, parliamentary documents and literature. On the Leidraad’s website you will also find a database of abbreviations of law journals, legislation, institutions, officials and legal terms.

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Discussion List

JURIST-L@nic.surfnet.nl (Lawyers inform Lawyers on networking=Juristen informeren juristen over netwerkgebruik; Internet voor Juristen; discussion is in Dutch; Netherlands-based list). Send the following message to listserv@nic.surfnet.NL or listserv@hearn.bitnet:

subscribe jurist-L Yourfirstname Yourlastname

Archives at http://www.lns.nl/lns/discus.html and http://mailmunch.law.cornell.edu/mhonarc/DUTCH/; related page at http://listserv.surfnet.nl/archives/index.html and archives at http://listserv.surfnet.nl/archives/jurist-l.html.

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Miscellaneous Legal Sites

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