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Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification

The legal system of Libya is based on a combination of Civil Law and Islamic legal principles. The formal sources of the law, as set down in the first article of the Civil Code, include legislative provisions, Islamic principles, custom, and principles of natural law and rules of equity. In addition, judicial decisions and the thoughts and doctrines of eminent jurists serve as two informal sources of law that guide judicial decision-making. The Libyan judicial system was formerly comprised of separate Sharia’a and secular courts. In 1971, Colonel Qadhafi abolished this system and replaced it with a single system integrating Islamic and secular principles. The major legal codifications include the Civil Code and Civil Code of Procedure of 1954, and the Commercial Code of 1953. All of these underwent significant amendments in 1971.

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Judicial Structure and Court System

The judicial system is composed of a four-tiered hierarchy. At the base are the summary Courts, located in small towns, which hear cases involving misdemeanors of lesser value. The decisions of this court may be appealed to the Courts of First Instance, located in each of Libya's former governorates. These courts are composed of chambers of three judges and have the authority to adjudicate in all civil, criminal, and commercial cases. In addition, the jurors apply the Sharia’a principles in cases involving personal status. Cases from the Courts of First Instance may be appealed to the Courts of Appeal. There are three such courts, located in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha. The Court sits in panels of three judges to hear cases. A separate body called the Sharia’a Court of Appeals hears cases appealed from the lower court involving Sharia’a.

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Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges

The Supreme Council for Judicial Authority is the administrative authority of the judiciary, handling matters of appointment, transfer and discipline.

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Supreme Court

At the apex of the judicial structure is the Supreme Court of Libya, which sits in Tripoli. It is composed of five separate chambers, one each for civil and commercial, criminal, administrative, constitutional, and Sharia’a. The Supreme Court sits in chambers of five judges and rules by majority decision. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal. The Court is presided over by a president, or chairman, who is elected to the position by the General People’s Congress. The General People’s Congress also elects the other members of the Court. The Supreme Court was established by a law in 1953 and was given the power of judicial review of legislation. The Court lost this jurisdiction by virtue of Act No. 6 of 1982, but regained it by Act No. 17 of 1994.

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Special Bodies

Sitting outside of the judicial hierarchy is the Court of the People, created by Law No. 5 of 1988 to hear certain types of political and economic cases.

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Judicial Education and Profession

Law No. 4 of 1981 governs the legal profession. Students may train for the legal profession at the University of Gar-Younis Law School, Benghazi.

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