Wet Algemene Bepalingen

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The Wet van 15 mei 1829, houdende algemeene bepalingen der wetgeving van het Koningrijk (English Law from 15 may 1829, holding general decrees from the legislation of the Kingdom, short name Wet algemene bepalingen) is a principal law of the Netherlands containing a number of basic precepts pertaining to the applicability of the law in general. It is considered part of the body of constitutional law of the Netherlands, which is composed primarily of Constitution of the Netherlands and the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Constitution of the Netherlands constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Constitution for the Kingdom of the Netherlands is one of two fundamental documents governing the Kingdom of the Netherlands as well as the fundamental law of the European territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is generally seen as directly derived from the one issued in 1815, constituting a constitutional monarchy; it is the third oldest constitution still in use worldwide.



The Wet algemene bepalingen was developed by a legal advisory committee instituted by the Dutch King William I in 1814. It was originally intended to be part of the "General Definitions and Decrees" section of the new Dutch Civil Law, which William I intended to replace the Napoleonic code left over from the French occupation of the Netherlands which had ended in 1813. However, 1815 saw the start of a long period of political discord among the committee members and later the States-General of the Netherlands. This discord had two primary causes:

William I of the Netherlands King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg 1815 - 1840

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The Burgerlijk Wetboek is the Civil Code of the Netherlands. Early versions were largely based on the Napoleonic Code. The Dutch Civil Code was substantively reformed in 1992. The Code deals with the rights of natural persons, legal persons, patrimony and succession. It also sets out the law of property, obligations and contracts, and conflict of laws. Proposed amendments will add a Book on intellectual property. The codification of laws is still being used in Indonesia as a pinnacle of the private laws besides Sharia law and custom laws. The laws initially applied only to Dutch settlers and foreign traders such as Chinese traders, Indian traders and Arab traders during the Dutch colonial era in Dutch East Indies, but after the independence of Indonesia in 1945, the government decided to retain the old Dutch law, expanded in use to indigenous people and Moslems voluntarily. The 1992 reformed version does not apply in Indonesia.

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The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.

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Despite attempts of several parties (including the King), the Southern Dutch dominated parliament rejected the new law in 1822 and pushed for a reformed Napoleonic law. As part of this transformation of the civil law book the "general precepts of law" were split off into a new law, the 1829 Wet Algemene Bepalingen. This law was passed on 15 May 1829 but did not enter into force until October 1, 1838 together with the Civil Law. Ironically, the delay was caused by the Belgian Revolution in which the Southern Netherlands forcibly split off from the kingdom.

Belgian Revolution Conflict in western Europe, 1830–1831

The Belgian Revolution was the conflict which led to the secession of the southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Belgium.

The Wet algemene bepalingen has since proven to be quite a stable law. It is currently one of the oldest laws still in force in the Netherlands, and remains mostly unchanged from its first version. It has been changed three times in its existence (first time in 1988), always to move precepts into the Constitution or another law.


The Wet algemene bepalingen, or Law on general precepts and regulations introduces some basic rules for the applicability of laws throughout the Kingdom. It lays out the foundations for which laws relate to people and land, plus how the judicial power is supposed to behave.

Current precepts

Ex post facto and changing of the law
Article 4 determines that the law is only applicable after it is passed, not before (ex post facto law). Article 5 states that all laws remain in force until repealed or amended by a new law.
Personal over territorial applicability of laws
Article 6 determines that legal rights and responsibilities pertaining to Dutch citizens and the state hold, even if the citizen is abroad.
Territorial applicability of laws
Article 8 determines that the criminal law of the Netherlands applies to all those who are within its borders.
Universal and territorial applicability of civil law
Article 9 determines that Dutch civil law applies equally to citizens and foreigners in the Netherlands, unless explicitly stated by law.
Primacy of territories' law
Article 10 determines that any countries' law is applicable to that country (Dutch law has no primacy in foreign countries).
No court-made law
Article 11 determines that a judge must follow the law in his rulings and may not consider "inner value" or "reason within" the law (i.e. a judge must apply the law as it is written he may not decide to do something else because he disagrees with the law or feels it is badly written). Article 12 states that judges may not render verdicts in the form of a general decree, disposition or regulation (i.e. judges cannot make general rules, but only rule on specific cases).
Right to ruling of the court
Article 13 determines that the court must rule in all cases; no judge may refuse to render verdict by claiming a lack of law, insufficiency or unclarity of law and can be prosecuted if he does.
Rule of international law
Article 13a limits the power of judges and official acts to within the bounds set by international law.

Previous precepts

No law is valid unless it is publicly accessible
Article 1 determined that no law would take effect before it had been properly proclaimed. Article 2 stated that all law is equally applicable throughout the kingdom, valid once it has been proclaimed throughout the entire Kingdom (i.e. all denizens of the Kingdom can know about it) and enters into force 20 days after official publication in the Staatscourant unless otherwise determined in that law. Articles 1 and 2 were rescinded on February 17, 1988 and their regulations were moved to the Constitution.
No common law
Article 3 determined that there is no uncodified law in the Netherlands: there is law and not common law, unless the law explicitly leaves room for it. This article was rescinded on January 1, 1992 and incorporated into the Civil Law books.
Public decency cannot be subverted
Article 14 determined that laws pertaining to public decency or order cannot be subverted or undone by any manner of act or common agreement. This article was rescinded on January 1, 1992 and incorporated into Book II of the Civil Law.
Real estate is ruled by territorial law
Article 7 determined that the law applicable to real estate was the law of the territory in which that real estate was located. This article was rescinded on May 1, 2008 and incorporated into other laws.

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