ARUBA, CURACAO AND ST. MAARTEN AND THEIR CIVIL LAW SYSTEMS

Abstract rules are the starting point

Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are autonomous parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is composed of four parts: (i) the Kingdom in Europe (popularly known as Holland, north of Belgium and west of Germany) and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela), (ii) Aruba, (iii) Curaçao and (iv) St. Maarten. Within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten (also in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela) are autonomous except for matters of defense and foreign affairs.

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. Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten also are civil law jurisdictions and their civil laws are, to a large extent, similar to the laws of the Netherlands. Their Corporate Codes, however, differ 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 four countries. The interpretation of Dutch and Dutch Caribbeam 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

(15 July 2014)
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