Finding Foreign Criminal Procedure Codes

Professor Joseph Weiler, Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law, recently posted an entry on his blog about a criminal defamation charge lodged against him in France for publishing a negative book review. [See also Libel Accusation from a Book Review on Slaw] That post got me thinking about how one would go about finding a criminal procedure code of a foreign country. It’s good to know in case someone charges me with a crime because of any of the book reviews I’ve written.

Image from The Life of Emile Zola

Discovery Tools

To find a foreign code of criminal procedure, first you need to identify the title of the code. With the title, you can search for full texts on the Internet or libraries who own the codes in catalogs. Reynolds & Flores’ Foreign Law Guide, a continually-updated subscription database, lists titles and sources of official texts of criminal procedure codes and major related legislation in the vernacular for over 170 jurisdictions. The FLG also includes English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish translations, if available, and links to full texts on the web. Here’s an excerpt from the FLG entry for France, for example:

Code de procedure pénal. Loi 93-2 of 14 Jan 1993 in Journal officiel 5 Jan 1993 implements, for the code of criminal procedure, a great range of reforms and amendments made by Loi 92-1,336 of 16 Dec 1992 in Journal officiel 23 Jan 1992…Official text of the code and of the relevant secondary legislation (Décrets or Décrets en Conseil d’État and Arrêtés), when it exists, is on LegiFrance at Current text, consolidated texts to date, in English and Spanish translations also on the LegiFrance database at…Criminal procedure code amended by Loi 291 of 5 Mar 2007 in Journal officiel 2007 pg. 4,206. These amendments liberalized procedures and conditions for detention and during the investigative phase and also strengthen the adversarial aspects in the preliminary stages of criminal procedure.

Free resources that similarly list sources of criminal procedure codes include Globalex and GLIN. Globalex is a collection legal research guides for over 100 countries edited by Mirela Roznovschi at New York University Law Library. Most of the guides include sections on major codes in English translation. The aim is to update the guides at least once a year. The Law Library of Congress’ Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) indexes legislation worldwide, with a special focus on Latin American countries. You can also do no-cost searches for library holdings of criminal procedure codes in public catalogs such as, AMICUS (Canada), COPAC (UK union catalog), and the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, all national catalogs worldwide, electronic full texts/eBooks, book trade, including second-hand, used books), 

Full Texts

Criminal procedure codes can be published as separate monographs, as parts of foreign official gazettes of law (see Government Gazettes Online), as appendices to books, and in legal databases or country law portals. Ministry of justice websites sometimes include such codes. Sometimes journal articles include useful excerpts. Below I list some major compilations of full text sources of criminal procedure codes. Note that some of these are unofficial, non-authoritative sources, and they may not include the most current version of a criminal procedure code or law:


American Series of Foreign Penal Codes (F.B. Rothman/W.S. Hein print series) includes English translations of the criminal procedure codes for China, France, Germany, Israel, and Turkey.

Buffalo Criminal Law Center (BCLC): Criminal Law Resources on the Internet, which the law center last updated in 2002, includes materials for Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Tunisia.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) International Humanitarian Law (IHL): National Implementation Database lists over 170 jurisdictions under “Implementing Laws & Regulations – by State.” Users can search for documents by keyword. 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Legal Tools Database: once you accept the Terms and Conditions of Use, you can search the National Implementing Legislation Database by keyword or browse by States. For example, you can find Mexico’s Código Federal de Procedimientos Penales (2009). Note that even though the database lists over 100 countries, it does not have criminal procedure codes in full text for all those countries.

Legislationline (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)) includes the criminal procedure codes of about 30 European countries in English translation. It also includes legislation on police, prisons, the right to a fair trial, and the death penalty.

Lexadin (The World Law Guide) covers extensive legislation, including criminal procedure codes, from over 200 countries.

Sammlung ausländischer Strafgesetzbücher in deutscher Übersetzung = Collection of Foreign Criminal Laws in German Translation (Max-Planck Institute for 

Foreign and International Criminal Law) lists information about ordering criminal procedure codes for Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Jurisdictions looking to reform their criminal procedures might also want to see the Model Codes of Post-Conflict Criminal Justice: Model Code of Criminal Procedure (v.2)(United States Institute of Peace (USIP)).


  1. Emmanuel Barthe

    Wow ! Lyonette, many thanks for that.

  2. Awesome! Thank you!