The Peruvian legal system is based generally on the Napoleonic Code. The 1993 constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary. Peru's highest judicial body, the 16-member Supreme Court, sits at Lima and has national jurisdiction. The nine-member Court of Constitutional Guarantees has jurisdiction in human rights cases. Superior courts, sitting in the departmental capitals, hear appeals from the provincial courts of first instance, which are divided into civil, penal, and special chambers. Judges are proposed by the National Justice Council, nominated by the president, and confirmed by the Senate; they serve permanently until age 70. Justices of the peace hear misdemeanor cases and minor civil cases.
The 1993 constitution abolished the death penalty (except for treason in time of war) and limited the jurisdiction of military tribunals; it also established the Public Ministry, including an independent attorney general, to serve as judicial ombudsman. Despite such reforms, the Peruvian judicial system still suffers from overcrowded prisons and complex trial procedures. Many accused persons (especially those accused of drug trafficking or terrorism) may spend months or even years in prison before they are brought to trial.
Although the judicial branch has never attained true independence, provisions of the 1993 constitution establish a new system for naming judges which may lead to greater judicial autonomy in the future. The 1993 constitution also provides for a human rights ombudsman (the Office of the Defender of the People), a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees empowered to rule on the constitutionality of legislation and government actions, a National Judiciary Council, and a Judicial Academy to train judges and prosecutors. The Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees has seven members; three of them are in some way associated with the president or his party. To declare a law unconstitutional, at least six of the judges must agree.