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
Yemen's judicial structure is unusual (though not unique) in three respects: first, Islamic jurisprudence plays a larger role in legal and judicial training than in most other Arab states. Second, the judiciary is unusually unified; Yemen does not have the series of specialized courts that has arisen in many Arab countries. Third, the executive branch has a strong presence in the Supreme Judicial Council, though there has been some promise of reform to enhance judicial independence.
- Constitutional provisions for the judiciary
Yemen�s constitution dates back to 1991, with significant amendments introduced in 1994. The constitution includes some general rule of law guarantees as well as some specific provisions for the judiciary:
Article 147 The judicial authority is autonomous in its judicial, financial and administrative aspects and the Public Prosecution is one of its sub-bodies. The courts shall judge all disputes and crimes. Judges are independent and not subject to any authority, except the law. No other body may interfere in any way in the affairs and procedures of justice. Such interference shall be considered a crime that must be punished by law. A charge regarding such interference cannot be nullified with the passing of time.
Article 148 The judiciary is an integrated system. The law organizes this system in terms of ranks, responsibilities, the terms and procedures of appointment, transfer and promotion of judges, and their other privileges and guarantees. Exceptional courts may not be established under any conditions.
Article 149 Members of the judiciary and Public Prosecution office shall not be dismissed except under the conditions stipulated by the law. They may not be transferred to non-judicial posts except with their own consent, the approval of the relevant judicial council, unless that was taken as a disciplinary measure. The law shall regulate the disciplinary trial of the judiciary and it shall organize the legal profession.
Article 150 The judiciary shall set up the Supreme Judicial Council. The law shall organize it, clarify its functions and system of nominating and appointing its members. The Supreme Judicial Council shall execute these guarantees for the judiciary in the fields of appointment, promotion, discharge and dismissal according to the law. The Council shall study and approve the judicial budget in preparation for inserting it as one item within the overall budget of the state.
Article 151 The Supreme Court of the Republic is the highest judicial authority. The law shall specify how it can be formed, clarify its functions and the procedures to be followed before it. It shall undertake to do the following:
a. Judge cases and pleas that laws, regulations, bylaws and decisions are not constitutional;
b. Judge disputes over conflict of jurisdiction;
c. Investigate and give opinions regarding appeals referred by the House of Representatives which relate to its membership;
d. Rule on appeals of final judgments in civil, commercial, criminal, personal and administrative disputes and disciplinary cases according to the law;
e. Try the President of the Republic, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, his deputies, the ministers and their deputies in accordance with law.
Article 152 Court sessions are open to the public unless a court determines, for reasons of security or public morals, to hold sessions behind closed doors. In all cases, verdicts shall be announced in an open session.
- Structure of court system
Yemen's courts of general jurisdiction have three levels: first instance (ibtida'iyya), appeals, and the Supreme Court. Higher level courts are divided into specialized sections (civil, criminal, commercial, and personal status).
The Supreme Court is given a number of duties: it serves as a court of appeals (on points of law, as a court of cassation), an administrative court, a constitutional court, a court for trying high officials, and a court adjudicating election disputes and conflicts of jurisdiction among other courts. It does so generally by forming specialized chambers for these areas. It also has a military division.
- Personal status issues
Yemen has no separate personal status courts. Personal status issues are handled by the courts of general jurisdiction (sometimes in specialized chambers). Islamic law informs Yemeni jurisprudence and legal training, reducing the gap between personal status and other areas of law.
- Prosecution system
Yemen has adopted a niyaba system and the niyaba is constitutionally defined as a judicial organ. The head of the niyaba is appointed by the president.
- Appointing/assigning/evaluation of judges
Yemen has a Supreme Judicial Council, as prescribed by the constitution. The Council exercises significant authority over the judiciary, although the senior judicial positions are direct presidential appointments.
The Council is headed by the president and has two other executive branch members (the minister of justice and the deputy minister). The other members are judicial, though all are presidential appointments (directly or indirectly).
Judicial inspection is conducted by a special office in the Ministry of Justice composed of judicial personnel. Any disciplinary issues for judges or members of the niyaba are handled by the Supreme Judicial Council.
- Administration and Relationship with Ministry of Justice
The budget for the judiciary is largely the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, although the constitution has strong provisions for fiscal and administrative autonomy for the judiciary. The constitution grants the Supreme Judicial Council a significant role in drafting draft budget. The Supreme Court, however, has an independent budget which is overseen by its president.
The Ministry of Justice has a close administrative relationship between the Ministry with the Supreme Judicial Council and other judicial organs. The president has pledged to introduce reforms that would remove him from heading the Supreme Judicial Council. Unlike some other Arab states, Yemen has no constitutional stipulations for the membership of the Council, meaning that such a reform could be accomplished by ordinary legislation.
- Specialized courts
Yemen has an unusually unified judicial system. The courts of general jurisdiction do have specialized chambers to deal with some matters (such as public funds, or juveniles). Bu there is not the series of specialized courts (administrative, personal status, constitutional, security, etc.) that have arisen in many Arab countries. The constitution prohibits exceptional courts.
- Judicial education
Yemen has a High Judicial Institute, established in 1981. It offers a mandatory three-year course of study for new members of the judicial corps who have recognized law degrees. The Institute has expressed interest in offering more specialized and advanced training, but at the current state it focuses almost all of its resources on general training for new judges to supplement their law school education