The court system in the Netherlands comprises different areas of law and a variety of bodies. Judges are independent and cannot be dismissed by the Minister of Justice and Security.
Areas of law
- Civil law (also known as private law)
Civil law is the umbrella term for the law dealing with conflicts between individual members of the public and/or organisations. The government is working to achieve faster and simpler procedures for straightforward civil disputes.
- Administrative law
Administrative law prescribes the rules that public authorities must keep to in their decision-making and regulates relations between government and citizens. The most important of these rules are laid down in the General Administrative Law Act (AWB).
- Criminal law
Criminal law deals with offences ranging from minor infringements such as failure to stop at a red light to serious offences such as drug trafficking, theft and murder. Cases are brought before the courts by the Public Prosecution Service.
Organisational structure of the courts
The Netherlands is divided into 11 district courts, 4 courts of appeal and 1 Supreme Court. Most cases start at a district court. Every district court has a limited jurisdiction sector, which hears cases such as employment or rent disputes, and civil cases involving claims of up to €25,000. This sector also hears cases involving minor criminal offences (misdemeanours).
To safeguard the quality of the justice system and to make the courts accessible to everyone, the Netherlands is divided into jurisdictions. This division determines, among other things, which district court will hear a given case.
Appeal and cassation
If one of the parties disagrees with the court’s ruling, the case may be referred to a court of appeal and subsequently, through an appeal in cassation, to the Supreme Court.