The 1991 constitution completely revised the judicial system, which had previously consisted of a lower court in Nouakchott, labor and military courts, a security court, and a Supreme Court in addition to qadi courts, which handled family law cases.
The revised judicial system includes lower, middle, and upper level courts, each with specialized jurisdiction. The security court was abolished, and 43 department-level tribunals now bridge the traditional ( qadi ) and modern court systems. These courts are staffed by qadis or traditional magistrates trained in Koranic law. General civil cases are handled by 10 regional courts of first instance. Three regional courts of appeal hear challenges to decisions at the department level. A supreme court, headed by a magistrate named by the president to a five-year term, reviews appeals taken from decisions of the regional courts of appeal.
The 1991 constitution also established a six-member constitutional court, three members of which are named by the president, two by the national assembly president, and one by the senate president.
While the judiciary is nominally independent, it is subject to pressure and influence by the executive, which controls the appointment and dismissal of judges. The system is strongly influenced by rulings and settlements of tribal elders based on Shari'ah and tribal regulations.
The Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure were revised in 1993 to bring them into line with the guarantees of the 1991 constitution, which provides for due process of law.