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Last update: 17-08-2004
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Organisation of justice - General Information

A wide variety of courts and tribunals

All the Member States have a range of courts, each with a well defined jurisdiction.

The Member States' judicial systems are very diverse, reflecting differences in national judicial traditions.
Generally speaking, however, two types of court can be identified within each Member State:
  • those which punish offences against persons, property or society (such as murder, theft, vandalism, etc.); these courts can impose penalties and are called criminal courts;
  • those which resolve disputes between private persons or companies (a divorce, a problem with rent, dismissal, etc.), which are civil courts. Other courts, such as administrative or tax courts, can resolve disputes between private persons or firms and the public authorities.

From one Member State to another, the concept of civil law and the powers of the various courts can vary significantly.

Certain courts may have very general jurisdiction or, on the contrary, may specialise in various areas, such as labour disputes, commercial relations, or family matters.
In addition, each Member State has an appeals system, allowing for the possibility of requesting that a case in which a judgment has already been given be reconsidered by a higher court.
By clicking on the flags of the Member States, you will find useful information on their legal systems, including a description of the courts with civil and commercial jurisdiction.
By clicking on the "Community law" icon, you will find information on the Court of Justice of the European Communities.
By clicking on the "International law" icon, you will find information on international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.


Last update: 17-08-2004

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