Tunisia is a Civil Law Republic, founded upon a constitution that embodies the principles of sovereignty of the people and separation of powers between the branches of government. The Republic is divided into twenty-three regions, each of which has its own local government and is competent to conduct and manage local affairs.
Judicial powers are vested in the Court of Justice (Court de Cassation). The judicial branch of government has criminal, administrative and civil systems.
The civil court system is divided into four levels; the District Courts, Courts of First Instance, Appeal Courts, and the Supreme Court.
District Courts have jurisdiction to hear matters the value of which does not exceed TD 7,000 as well as matters relating to nationality and labor issues. A single judge hears cases in the District Courts. Appeal of a judgment from a District Court is made to the Courts of First Instance.
A Court of First Instance is located in each of Tunisia’s twenty-three regions in Tunisia. The Courts of First Instance are vested with the power to hear all civil and commercial matters without regard to the monetary value of the claim, including divorces and applications for immediate relief in urgent matters. The Courts of First Instance also hear appeals of decisions from the District Courts. Each Court of First Instance is composed of a panel of three judges.
Cases which began in by the Courts of First Instance, may be appealed to the Appeal Courts. Appeals of District Court judgments decided by Courts of First Instance may not be appealed to the Appeal Courts, but, rather, relief may be sought from the Supreme Court.
The Appeals Courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions rendered by the Courts of First Instance except where the decision was an appeal from a decision of a District Court. The Appeal Courts cover several regions, and, therefore, cases from several Courts of First Instance are heard by the same Appeals Court.
The Tunisian Supreme Court examines decisions appealed from either the Appeals Court or from the Courts of First Instance sitting in its appellate capacity to determine whether the law was correctly applied by the lower court. The Supreme Court does not examine the substantive aspects of the case on appeal, and only points of law may be appealed to it. Submitting a matter to the review of the Supreme Court does not automatically stay execution of the original judgment. A stay of execution may be granted by the First President of the Supreme Court; the applicant making the motion for such a stay must deposit a bond with the court to secure the judgment.
In the event that the Supreme Court voids a lower court judgment, the matter is resubmitted to another judge or panel of judges of the court which rendered the original judgment. For example, a voided judgment from the Appeals Court covering several regions would be resubmitted to an Appeals Court covering a different area. In the event that the court, on rehearing the matter, fails to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the application of law, the matter is heard by the full panel of the Supreme Court whose decision on the case is binding.
The criminal court system is very similar in structure to the civil court system. Misdemeanor offenses are handled by the District Courts, while all other criminal offenses, except felonies, are submitted to the Courts of First Instance for determination. Felony crimes are submitted to the criminal courts division of the Appeal Courts after an indictment has been issued by a judge based on the findings of the grand jury (Chambre des Mises en Accusation).
The administrative court system is responsible for resolving disputes between individuals and the government and any governmental subdivision or agency.