Maintaining the independence of the judiciary is the responsibility of the Superior Council of Magistrates, which was set up in 1964 and includes the president of the republic as chairman, the minister of justice, the president and vice president of the Supreme Court, and others. A Constitutional Court is the highest court of jurisdiction in constitutional matters. The Supreme Court sits in Lomé; there is also a sessions court (Court of Assizes), and Appeals Courts. Tribunals of first instance are divided into civil, commercial, and correctional chambers; labor and children's tribunals; and the Court of State Security, set up in September 1970 to judge crimes involving foreign or domestic subversion. A Tribunal for Recovery of Public Funds handles cases involving misuse of public funds.
The judicial system blends African traditional law and the Napoleonic Code in trying civil and criminal cases. In practice, the judiciary is subject to the influence and control of the executive branch.
Defendants in criminal cases are presumed innocent and are afforded the right to counsel. Village chiefs or a Council of Elders may try minor criminal cases in rural areas. Appeals from such rulings may be taken to the regular court system.
Trials are open and judicial procedures are generally respected. However, the judicial system suffers from the lack of personnel and remains overburdened.