THE DUTCH CARIBBEAN AND ITS CIVIL LAW SYSTEM

Abstract rules are the starting point

The Netherlands Antilles are an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is composed of three parts: the Kingdom in Europe (popularly known as Holland, north of Belgium and west of Germany), the Netherlands Antilles (in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela), and Aruba (also in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela). Within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles are autonomous except for matters of defense and foreign affairs. Curacao is the largest of five islands that form the Netherlands Antilles. The other islands are Saba, St Martin, Bonaire and Statia.

Civil law as a legal system is probably best understood in comparison with common law. The main difference that is usually drawn between the two systems is that common law draws abstract rules from specific cases, whereas civil law starts with abstract rules, which judges must then apply to the various cases before them.

The civil law system is used in Continental European countries such as France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. The Netherlands Antilles also is a civil law jurisdiction and its civil laws are, to a large extent, similar to the laws of the Netherlands.

The Corporate Code of the Netherlands Antilles, however, differs substantially from Dutch and the Aruban corporate codes. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands (in Dutch: de Hoge Raad der Nederlanden) is the highest court for all three countries. The interpretation of Netherlands Antilles law is based on the wording of the law itself, parliamentary history and judgments of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (and to some extent of the lower courts in the Kingdom).

Karel Frielink
Attorney (Lawyer) / Partner

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