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Libya Table of Contents


Court Structure

With the acceptance of the primacy of Islamic law, the dual religious-secular court structure was no longer necessary. In November 1973, the religious judicial system of qadi courts was abolished. The secular court system was retained to administer justice, but its jurisdiction now included religious matters. Secular jurisprudence had to conform to sharia, which remained the basis for religious jurisprudence. In 1987 the court system had four levels: summary courts (sometimes referred to as partial courts), courts of first instance, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court (see fig. 11).

Summary courts were located in most small towns. Each consisted of a single judge who heard cases involving misdemeanors. Misdemeanors were disputes involving amounts up to Libyan dinar (LD) 100 (for value of the Libyan dinar--see Glossary). Most decisions were final, but in cases where the dispute involved more than LD20 the decision could be appealed.

The primary court was the court of first instance. One court of first instance was located in each area that formerly had constituted a governorate before the governorates as such were abolished in 1975. Courts of first instance heard appeals from summary courts and had original jurisdiction over all matters in which amounts of more than LD100 were involved. A panel of three judges, ruling by majority decision, heard civil, criminal, and commercial cases and applied sharia to personal or religious matters that were formerly handled by the qadi courts.

The three courts of appeals sat at Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha. A three-judge panel, again ruling by majority decision, served in each court and heard appeals from the courts of first instance. Original jurisdiction applied to cases involving felonies and high crimes. Sharia judges who formerly sat in the Sharia Court of Appeals were assigned to the regular courts of appeals and continue to specialize in sharia appellate cases.

The Supreme Court was located in Tripoli and comprised five chambers: civil and commercial, criminal, administrative, constitutional, and sharia. A five-judge panel sat in each chamber, the majority establishing the decision. The court was the final appellate body for cases emanating from lower courts. It could also interpret constitutional matters. However, it no longer had cassation or annulment power over the decisions of the lower courts, as it did before the 1969 revolution. Because there was a large pool of Supreme Court justices from which the panel was drawn at a given time, the total number of justices was unfixed. All justices and the president (also seen as chairman) of the court were appointed by the GPC; most likely the General Secretariat made the actual selections. Before its abolition, the RCC made Supreme Court appointments.

Data as of 1987