There are several civil courts, criminal courts, and a court of appeal situated in Bangui. At the apex is a Supreme Court, also located in Bangui, the members of which are appointed by the president.
There are also provisions for a High Court of Justice, a body of nine judges created to try political cases against the president, members of congress and government ministers, which has never convened.
The 1994 constitution reorganized the judiciary, which consists of regular and military courts. A Constitutional Court was formed in 1996 to determine if laws passed by the National Assembly conform to the constitution: three of its judges are appointed by the president, three by the president of the National Assembly, and three by fellow judges. New courts of justice were created in 1997 in both urban and rural areas, and a juvenile court in 1998. The functioning of these courts is undermined by inefficient management, shortage of trained personnel, increasing salary arrears, and a general lack of material resources. The legal system is based on the French civil law system. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to counsel, to public trial, and to confront witnesses. Trials are public and frequently broadcast on national radio.
In 2001, the lone operating criminal court met only once for a period of two months due to lack of funds; there was a large backlog of criminal cases. In 2003, François Bozizé seized power in a coup and suspended the constitution.