Algeria - Judicial system

After independence in 1962, Algeria's judicial system was reorganized. The former French magistrates were replaced by Algerians and the judiciary was extended into regions of the country previously ignored.

The judicial system now includes civil and military courts. Within each wilayat is a court of first instance for civil and some criminal cases. At the head of the system is the Supreme Court. The Special Court of State Security was abolished in 1995.

The constitution guarantees independence of the judiciary. However, executive branch decrees have restricted some of the judiciary's authority. Judges are appointed by the executive branch without legislative approval, and the government can remove judges at will. A judge's term is 10 years.

Algeria's present legal codes, adopted in 1963, are based on the laws of Islam and of other Northern African and Socialist states, as well as on French laws. Efforts were made to harmonize the laws and legal procedures with those of the Maghreb nations. A first plan for judicial reorganization was approved in 1965; this was followed in 1966 with the beginning of large-scale structural reforms. A new civil code was promulgated in 1975 and a new penal code in 1982.

In civilian courts, Shari'a (Islamic law) is applied in resolving social issues. Defendants in civilian courts are afforded a wide range of procedural protections including a public trial, right to counsel, right to confront witnesses, and right of appeal.

Military courts have jurisdiction in cases involving military personnel and have heard some cases in which civilians are charged with security-related and terrorism offenses.

The Constitutional Council reviews the constitutionality of treaties, laws, and regulations. The Constitutional Council is not part of the judiciary but it has the authority to nullify unconstitutional laws. The Constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. In criminal cases, the suspect must be charged or released within 48 hours of incommunicado detention. However, the 1992 Antiterrorist Law provides up to 12 days of prearraignment detention.

President Bouteflika announced a major reorganization of the judiciary in August 2000. He changed approximately 80% of the heads of the 187 lower courts and all but three of the presidents of the 37 higher-level courts. By the end of 2001, women sat at the head of 26 courts.

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