Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification
The legal system of Yemen is based primarily on Islamic legal principles. Article 147 of the Constitution of 1994 provides for a financially and administratively independent judiciary. The major codifications of the law include the Civil Code of 1992; the Law of Civil Procedure and Civil Execution of Judgments of 1992; Law of Shari’a Crimes and Punishments of 1994; and the Commercial Code of 1991.
Judicial Structure and Court System
The judicial system is organized in a three-tiered court structure. At the base are the Courts of First Instance (Mahkama Ibtida’iyya), one of which is located in each district. The Courts of First Instance are broadly empowered to hear all manner of civil, criminal, commercial, and family matters. A single judge may hear a case in these courts. Decision taken in the Courts of First Instance may be appealed to the Courts of Appeal, of which there is one in each province and one in the capital. Each Court of Appeal includes separate divisions for criminal, military, civil, and family issues. Each division is composed of three judges. Above the Court of Appeals is the Supreme Court.
Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges
The Supreme Judicial Council is the administrative authority of the judiciary. The Council reviews policies regarding the structure and function of the judiciary, and supervises appointment, promotion, and transfer of judges. The Council is composed of the President of the Republic, the Ministry of Justice and his deputy, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and his deputies, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the Judicial Inspection Commission, and three senior Supreme Court justices. Laws are published in the Official Gazette and the Ministry of Justice publishes Al-Qahda'iyyah, a monthly journal addressed to the general public that contains decisions taken by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of the Republic, Yemen's highest court, is located in Sana'a. The Supreme Court serves a number of roles. It is empowered to settle jurisdictional disputes between different courts, hear cases brought against high government officials, and serve as the final court of appeal for all lower court decisions. The Supreme Court has eight separate divisions: constitutional (composed of seven judges including the Chief Justice), appeals’ scrutiny, criminal, military, civil, family, commercial, and administrative. Each division is composed of five judges.
Constitutionality of Laws – Judicial Review
The constitutional division of the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of laws and regulations.
In addition to the regular hierarchy of courts, there are a number of additional courts with specialized jurisdictions. These include courts for military, juvenile, tax, customs, and labor matters. These courts and tribunals function in the same manner as the Courts of First Instance and decisions made in them may be appealed to the Courts of Appeal.
Judicial Education and Profession
There are currently five law faculties in Yemen, three in state universities and two in private institutions. Students are trained in both Shari’a and modern law. In addition, there is a Higher Judicial Institute, supervised by the Ministry of Justice, that provides a three-year training program for judges.
In October 1997, the Cabinet approved a program of judicial reform, submitted by the Ministry of Justice, with the aim of strengthening the independence of the judiciary; systematizing judicial appointments, developing standards of performance, and augmenting the capacity of the Judicial Inspection Commission to investigate abuses; and enhancing training and court infrastructure.