The judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court with nine judges, which rules on constitutional questions and serves in the last instance on appeals. Supreme Court judges are elected by the Senate and cannot be removed from office. The Supreme Court appoints the judges of the lower courts and of the special courts. All judges are required to hold a law degree.
There are 26 provincial courts, as well as one court of first instance in the National District. The judicial system also includes one judge or court of justice for each of the country's 72 municipal districts, three courts of appeal, a court of accounts, and a land tribunal. There are also justices of the peace. The death penalty was abolished in 1924. Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, in practice the executive branch as well as public and private entities exert pressures on the courts. The constitution guarantees public trials, and indigent defendants have a right to a court-appointed attorney at state expense.
Military courts try military personnel charged with extrajudicial killings. The 1994 constitutional reforms mandated a National Judicial Council. The National Judicial Council has seven members including the president and legislators from both houses of Congress, the president of the Supreme Court, and a second Supreme Court justice.