The DPRK's judicial system consists of the Central Court, formerly called the Supreme Court; the courts of provinces, cities, and counties; and special courts (courts-martial and transport courts). Most cases are tried in the first instance by people's courts at the city or county level. Provincial courts try important cases and examine appeals from lower court judgments. Members of the Central Court are named by the Standing Committee of the SPA; lower courts are appointed by the people's assemblies at the corresponding level. A prosecutor-general, who is also appointed by the SPA, is the country's chief lawenforcement officer. He appoints prosecutors at the provincial, city, and county levels. Paralleling the court system is the Central Procurator's Office, a supervisory and investigative body.
Judges at the city and county levels serve two-year terms and are usually Korea Workers' Party members. Prosecution of alleged crimes against the state is conducted outside the judicial system and in secret. Reports from defectors in 2002 were that 150,000–200,000 political prisoners and family members were being detained in DPRK security camps in remote areas.
The constitution declares that courts shall be independent and that judicial proceedings must be conducted according to elaborate procedural regulations. In practice, however, the principles of procedural due process as guaranteed by Western democratic systems are not respected.
The constitution provides for the protection of the inviolability of person and residence, and the privacy of correspondence. However in practice these protections are not always afforded.