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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

5 - Modern Comparative Law Development: National Provisions Concerning Legality


This chapter examines how states have accepted various aspects of the principle of legality as a matter of law. These aspects include non-retroactivity of crimes (nullum crimen sine lege), non-retroactivity of punishments (nulla poena sine lege), requirement of a preexisting statutory text (praevia lege scripta), limitation or prohibition of special courts for crimes or retroactively created courts, and prohibition of collective punishments. It also looks at which states require retroactivity of more lenient punishment (lex mitior). It considers these materials in the context of the different legal systems in which they arise. It concludes with a section on the meaning of these national materials for international law.


The material used in this study of criminal law legality in national systems is collected in three appendices to this book. Appendix A lists in chart form the states that accept nullum crimen and nulla poena, and those that implement lex mitior. Appendix B lists the constitutional provisions, and in a few cases, other provisions, existing in 1946–47, after the end of World War II. Appendix C sets out the texts of the provisions as they exist today (or the most recent available texts). Appendix C also includes statutory and other material that has been found on these subjects in states where there are no constitutional materials.

Unless otherwise stated, the current constitutional texts and translations are taken from the exhaustive set, Constitutions of the Countries of the World (Wolfrum, Rüdiger H., Grote, Rainer & Flanz, Gisbert H. eds., Oxford Univ. Press [formerly published by Oceana]
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(trans. Berman, Harold J. & Spindler, James W.), quoted in Berman, Harold J., Soviet Criminal Law and Procedure: The RSFSR Codes 25 (Harvard Univ. Press 1966) [hereinafter Berman]
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