The legal system is based on both Belgian and tribal law. The courts include courts of first instance, appellate courts, a Supreme Court and the Court of State Security. Many disputes are adjudicated at the local level by administrative officials or traditional authorities. Although 1977 amendments to the constitution and the new constitution proposed in 1992 guarantee an independent judiciary, in practice the president and the government have been able to influence court decisions.
The constitution guarantees defendants the right to counsel and a public trial. Appellate review is afforded in all cases except those involving national security and serious crimes adjudicated by the Court of State Security. Since August 1998, and because of the war, the president appealed for a provisional court (la Cour d'Ordre Militaire). The judges are soldiers who apply the law vigorously, and sometimes the rights of the defendants are totally ignored.