The Revolutionary Court of Justice, created in 1969, consists of nine judges who deal with cases involving state security. Judicial bodies include a Supreme Court (appointed by the president), a court of appeals, a criminal court, regional and magistrate's courts, labor courts, and courts of common law, where local chiefs apply traditional laws and customs. These courts are based on the French model. Traditional courts in rural areas handle local property, domestic, and probate disputes by applying local customary law. All special courts and secret trials were abolished in 1991. The 1992 constitution called for a special court—not established—to protect freedom of speech and press.
The 1992 constitution also provided for a number of fundamental rights and freedoms including prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention. In practice, judicial inefficiency often results in denial of bail and long pretrial detention, a situation exacerbated by the civil war period.
In January 2000, the TNC adopted bills creating military tribunals in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the commercial capital, to punish dishonorable servicemen and civilians that collaborate with them. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), about 3,000 cases of rape were recorded in the capital Brazzaville following the beginning of the second conflict between the government and militiamen in 1998. In its Human Rights Report for 1999, the US Department of State reported that security forces committed many extrajudicial killings, including summary executions of suspected rebels among displaced civilians, most of them Southerners. The 2002–03 Human Rights Report made similar charges, noting that prison conditions were poor and that the judiciary was unable to ensure fair and expeditious trials. Owing to these deficiencies, it was common practice for citizens to beat thieves caught in the act, sometimes to death.