Sources On Arab Judiciaries
United Arab Emirates
Constitutional Provisions On The Judiciary
Structure Of Court System
Personal Status Issues
Appointing/ Assigning/ Evaluation Of Judges
Administration And Relationship With The Ministry Of Justice
Specialized Courts And Their Jurisdictions
Arab Judicial Structures
A Study Presented To The United Nations Development Program
by Nathan J. Brown
Jordan�s judiciary has evolved over the past century: it began the twentieth century under Ottoman rule and large elements of Ottoman law remained effective in Jordan until recently. Jordan then experienced a British mandate, though British influence over the legal system remained restricted. Since full independence in 1947, Jordan�s legal and judicial structure has grown to resemble that of other Arab countries such as Syria and Egypt.
- Constitutional provisions for the judiciary
Jordan�s constitution contains detailed provisions for all of the country�s courts and judicial structures:
Article 97 Judges are independent, and in the exercise of their judicial functions they are subject to no authority other than that of the law.
Article 98 Judges of the civil and shari�a courts shall be appointed and dismissed by a royal decree in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Article 99 The courts shall be divided into three categories: (i) Civil Courts (ii) Religious Courts (iii) Special Courts
Article 100 The establishment of the various courts, their categories, their divisions, their jurisdiction and their administration shall be by virtue of a special law, provided that such law provides for the establishment of a High Court of Justice.
Article 101 (i) The courts shall be open to all and shall be free from any interference in their affairs. (ii) The sittings of the courts shall be public unless the court considers that it should sit in camera in the interest of public order or morals.
Article 102 The civil courts in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan shall have jurisdiction over all persons in all matters, civil and criminal, including cases brought by or against the Government, except those matters in respect of which jurisdiction is vested in religious or special courts in accordance with the provisions of the present Constitution or any other legislation in force.
Article 103 (i) The civil courts shall exercise their jurisdiction in respect of civil and criminal matters in accordance with the law for the time being in force in the Kingdom, provided that in matters affecting the personal status of foreigners or in matters of a civil or commercial nature which in accordance with international usage are governed by the law of another country, such law shall be applied in the manner designated by the law. (ii) Matters of personal status are those which are defined by law and in accordance therewith fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the shari�a courts where the parties are Muslims.
Article 104 The religious courts shall be divided into: (i) The shari�a courts; and (ii) The tribunals of other religious communities.
Article 105 The shari�a courts shall in accordance with their own laws have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the following matters: (i) Matters of personal status of Muslims. (ii) Cases concerning blood money (diya) where the two parties are Muslims or where one of the parties is not a Muslim and the two parties consent to the jurisdiction of the shari�a courts. (iii) Matters pertaining to Islamic awqaf.
Article 106 The shari�a courts shall in the exercise of their jurisdiction apply the provisions of the shari�a law.
Article 107 The organization of the affairs Muslim awqaf and the administration of their financial matters, among other matters, shall be regulated by a special law.
Article 108 The tribunals of religious communities are those for the non-Muslim religious communities that have been or will be recognized by the government as established in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Article 109 (i) Tribunals of religious communities shall be established in conformity with the provisions of laws pertaining thereto. Such laws shall define the jurisdiction of such tribunals in matters of personal status and awqaf constituted for the benefit of the community concerned. Matters of personal status of any such community shall be the same matters as are, in the case of Muslims, within the jurisdiction of the shari�a courts. (ii) Such laws shall determine the procedure to be followed by the tribunals of the religious communities.
Article 110 Special courts shall exercise their jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of the laws constituting them.
- Structure of court system
The civil court system has general jurisdiction; special courts and religious courts retain jurisdiction in areas specified by the constitution or by law.
The civil (nizamiyya) courts have three levels. Cases are first heard in either primary or magistrate (sulh) courts) according to their seriousness. Appeals are then directed to the Court of Appeals for both courts. At the apex of the appeal structure stands the Court of Cassation.
The civil courts also include the High Court of Justice, which hears directly all administrative cases. There are also specialized sections of the court for technical matters including taxation and customs.
- Personal status issues
Personal status issues are handled by the religious court system. Since the great majority of Jordanians are Muslims, the shari�a courts form the primary venue for hearing personal status cases. The constitution protects the separate status of the religious courts, which remain distinct from the civil courts.
- Prosecution system
Jordan follows a niyaba system in which investigation and prosecution of crimes is pursued as a quasi-judicial function. The niyaba is part of the Ministry of Justice.
- Appointing/assigning/evaluation of judges
Jordan has a High Judicial Council. Unlike some of its counterparts in the Arab world, the Council is headed by a judge and thus represents an important guardian of judicial independence. Its composition is largely judicial, but it also includes a representative from the Ministry of Justice. The Council plays an important role in the appointment, assigning, and evaluation of judges.
Nonetheless, it does not exercise its authority with complete independence from the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry has been drafting a law to transfer this remaining authority to the Council (and other judicial reforms are also under consideration), but as of this writing no judicial reform has been passed into law. Adoption of a law would render Jordan�s judiciary among the most independent in the Arab world.
- Administration and Relationship with Ministry of Justice
The budget and administration of the courts remains largely within the Ministry of Justice.
The relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary in recent years has reflected the growing independence and professionalism of Jordanian judges. Calls for political reform have extended to the judiciary, as some Jordanians have felt that the judiciary has reached the level where it can administer most of its own affairs. Plans to arrange for this through new legislation have met no overt resistance and are proceeding but have not yet borne fruit.
- Specialized courts
Besides the specialized sections of the regular courts, Jordan has several specialized courts, as the constitution allows.
Two special quasi-judicial bodies are specifically required by the Constitution. Both blend judicial and non-judicial members in light of their special responsibilities. Neither is a standing body; both are formed only when needed:
The High Tribunal, according to article 57 of the constitution, consists of �the Speaker of the Senate as President and eight members, three of whom shall be selected by ballot by the Senate from amongst its members and five members to be selected from amongst the judges of the highest Civil Court in order of seniority. In case of necessity, the number shall be completed from the presidents of the lower courts, also in order of seniority.� The Tribunal is granted two major powers. First, it is the body that tries ministers. Second, it has the right to interpret the Constitution when requested by the cabinet or either house of parliament. Its interpretations are binding.
The Special Tribunal may, upon request of the Prime Minister, interpret the provisions of any law that have not bee interpreted by the courts. It consists of the President of the highest civil courts, two other senior judges, a senior administrative official appointed by the cabinet, and a senior official appointed by the concerned minister. Its interpretations are binding.
In addition, Jordan has both military and state security courts. The end of the state of emergency has removed the military courts from trying security crimes. Instead, the state security court (with a blend of military and civilian judges) tries such cases. A special state security prosecutor brings cases to this court. Its judgments may be appealed to the High Court.
There have been calls for construction of a specialized constitutional court, and Jordan�s National Charter of 1988 endorses these efforts, but no such court has yet been constructed. Jordan�s civil courts have asserted a right to judicial review of the constitutionality of legislation, but the decision asserting this right remains controversial.
- Judicial education
The Jordanian Ministry of Justice established the Jordanian Judicial Institute in 1988. It works to train new judges and raise the legal knowledge of existing judges.