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Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification

The legal system of Sudan is based chiefly on Islamic legal principles in the north of the country, with some influences from Common Law traditions. In addition legal precedents, custom provides guidance in judicial decision-making. The Sources of Judicial Decisions Act of 1983 specifies that all matters not explicitly governed by legal codifications be subject to Shari’a principles. The primary codifications of law include the Penal Code of 1991, the Civil Procedure Act of 1983, the Criminal Procedure Act of 1983, and the Civil Transactions Act of 1984. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and the Interim Constitution limit the application of these laws to the north while granting the southern states the right to legislate in accordance with their people’s beliefs and customs or to amend national legislation with the approval of the Council of States. The Constitution of 1998 provides for an independent judiciary that is responsible to the President of the Republic, but the Interim Constitution states that the National Judiciary is independent of both branches of government. It is headed by a National Judicial Service Commission presided by a Chief Justice appointed by the president in consultation with his vice presidents.

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Judicial Structure and Court System

The judicial system is a multi-layered structure of courts with two separate hierarchies, respectively for civil and for criminal matters. There are four levels of courts for civil matters and five levels for criminal matters. The Town Benches are the lowest courts. The decisions rendered in these courts may be appealed to the District Courts, which also have original jurisdiction in some cases. Decisions rendered by the District Courts may be appealed to the Province Courts, which are broadly empowered to hear cases concerning companies, trademarks, business names, bankruptcy, and personal status cases for non-Muslims. Finally, the Courts of Appeal are located in each provincial capital.

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Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges

The President appoints all judges, including those of the Supreme Court, in consultation with the institution of the presidency and on the recommendations of the National Judiciary Service Commission (NJSC). Judges may be removed only with the approval of the NJSC. The president of the Government of Southern Sudan, however, appoints all judges in Southern Sudan.

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Supreme Court

At the apex of the structure sits the Supreme Court or Court of Cassation, which serves as the final court of appeal.

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Constitutionality of Laws – Judicial Review

The Constitutional Court, established by the Constitutional Court Act of 1998, is separate from the judicial structure. Interim Constitution of 2005 stipulates that the nine justices of the Court are appointed by the President upon approval by two-thirds of the entire membership of the Council of State. The Court is empowered to enforce the Interim Constitution and the constitutions of the Southern Sudan and the states. It may judge the constitutionality of laws presented by the President, the National Legislature, the government of Southern Sudan, or state governments, and to hear cases of individual persons related to the constitutionally guaranteed rights, and adjudicate in the case of jurisdictional conflicts between lower courts.

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Judicial Education and Profession

The legal profession is governed by the Regulation of the Legal Professional Act of 1966 and the Advocates Act. There are two main law faculties in Sudan, located in Khartoum University and the Khartoum branch of the Cairo University. The course of study at Khartoum University is five years, and four years at Cairo University. Upon receiving the degree, candidates must pass the legal profession examination and undergo one year of practical training in order to practice law.

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