Gabon - Judicial system

The civil court system consists of three tiers: the trial court, the appellate court, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has three chambers: judicial, administrative, and accounts. The 1991 constitution, which established many basic freedoms and fundamental rights, also created a Constitutional Court, a body which considers only constitutional issues, and which has demonstrated a good degree of independence in decision-making. Some of its decisions on election freedoms were integrated into the electoral code of 1993, which formed the framework for the first multi-party presidential election held that year. In July 1995, the agreements to reform electoral procedures and to assure greater respect for human rights were approved by a national referendum.

The judiciary also consists of a military tribunal, which handles offenses under military law, a state security court (a civilian tribunal), and a special criminal court for cases of fraud and corruption involving government officials. There is no longer recognition of traditional or customary courts, although village chiefs continue to engage in informal dispute resolution.

The constitution provides for the right to a public trial and the right to counsel, but there is no right to a presumption of innocence. In addition, although the constitution ensures protection from arbitrary interference with privacy and correspondence, search warrants are easily obtained from judges, sometimes after the fact. A significant deterrent to political treason is the weak independence of the judiciary in state security trials where the influence of the executive may be of some import. The State Security Court, last convened in 1990, is constituted by the government to consider state security matters.

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