The judicial system is based on a composite of English common law, Koranic law, and customary law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations, and includes subsidiary legislative instruments enacted locally. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and although the courts are not totally free from influence of the executive branch, they have demonstrated their independence on occasion.
The Supreme Court, presided over by a chief justice, has both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Formerly, appeals from any decision of the Supreme Court went before the Court of Appeals, whose judgments could be taken to the UK Privy Council. The January 1997 constitution provided for a reconfiguration of the courts with the Supreme Court replacing the Privy Council.
Muslim courts apply Shari'ah law in certain cases involving Muslim citizens, and in traditional matters, chiefs rule on customary law and local affairs. District tribunals serve as appeals courts in cases of tribal law and custom. Cases of first instance in criminal and civil matters are handled by administrative officers who function as magistrates in courts located in each of the five administrative regions and Banjul.