Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification
The legal system of Algeria is based on Civil Law and Islamic legal traditions. The principal of an independent judiciary is enshrined in Article 138 of the Algerian Constitution. As a practical matter, however, military courts have assumed many judicial functions since Algeria declared a state of emergency in 1991. The Military Tribunal courts try matters relating to espionage, state security, and other offenses committed by military personnel. They consist of three civil judges and two military judges.
The codifications of Algerian law include the Civil Code of 1975, the Code of Civil Procedure of 1966, the Commercial Code of 1975, the Criminal Code of 1966, and the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1966. Judicial matters are administered by the Supreme Judicial Council, which is presided over by the president. The Minister of Justice serves as the council’s vice-president. The duties of the Council include ensuring the functioning of the judiciary in accordance with the law and nominating judges. The Ministry of Justice oversees the legal profession. Cases are reported and laws are published in the Journal Officiel.
Judicial Structure and Court System
The structure of the judiciary is three-tiered. At the first level are the tribunal courts, or daira, which are composed of a single judge. Civil and commercial litigation and some criminal matters are submitted to the tribunal courts. At the second level are the provincial, or wilaya, courts, which consist of panels of three judges. In all there are 48 wilaya courts, organized regionally into four chambers: civil, criminal, administrative, and accusation. These courts hear appeals from the tribunal courts.
Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges
The High Judicial Council, established by the 1976 constitution, is responsible for presiding over issues of judicial discipline and implementation and the appointment of judicial officials. The president of the nation serves as president of the council, and the minister of justice serves as vice president. The council is also charged with advising the president on the exercise of his power to pardon.
The highest judicial authority in Algeria is the Supreme Court. Located in Algiers, the Court comprises a Private Law chamber for civil and commercial cases, a Social Division that administers social security and labor cases, a Criminal Court, and an Administrative Division. Specialized criminal courts in Oran, Constantine, and Algiers have exclusive jurisdiction over economic crimes against the state. Their decisions may not be appealed. A separate Council of State with jurisdiction over administrative matters was re-established (after its abolition in the 1960s) in 1998. A Tribunal of Conflicts adjudicates jurisdictional disputes between the Council of State and the Supreme Court.
Constitutionality of Laws – Judicial Review
The Constitutional Council, which was established by the Constitution of February 1989, rules on the constitutionality of laws. Article 166 of the Constitution establishes that three persons may call upon the Constitutional Council to render an opinion: the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National People’s Assembly (Al-Majlis Al-Chaabi Al-Watani), and the Speaker of the National Council (Majlis Al-Oumma). Article 163 of the Constitution further indicates that the Constitutional Council is the final authority in electoral matters, including determining the legality of elections and referenda.
A High Islamic Council and a High Security Council serve as consultative bodies in the areas of religious and security affairs, respectively. A High Court of State hears crimes committed by the President.
Judicial Education and Profession
There are several law faculties in Algeria, including those at University of Alger, University of Oran, and University of Constantine. Law 91-04 of January 1991 and Law 91-03 of January 1991 govern the legal system and the practice of law in Algeria.