The keys to good governance, as articulated by the United Nations Development Program,
are rule of law, participation, and accountability and transparency.
The institutions of the judiciary branch play an important role in two of these
areas: the judiciary is the bedrock of a society functioning according to the rule
of law, and it can ensure that other institutions of government and individual leaders
are held accountable for their actions.
The essays on the judiciaries in the Arab region survey the historical sources of
the law in each country; sources of judicial independence; legal codifications;
the basic judicial structure and authority; and, where information was obtainable,
the legal profession and legal training. The legal systems of the Arab world derive
from multiple sources of the law, such as Islamic and Shari’a legal traditions,
French Civil Law, English Common Law, Egyptian Law, and Ottoman Law.
While most states formally guarantee the independence of the judiciary in the constitution
and other official government texts, actual independence depends largely on the
administrative authority that governs the judicial branch. In general, judiciaries
administered by members of the judicial branch or with some representation by the
judicial branch exhibit more independence than judiciaries governed exclusively
by organs of the executive branch.
Most judiciaries in the Arab region are organized in a hierarchical structure, with
a diminishing number of courts at each level. A Court of Cassation or Supreme Court,
serving as the final court of appeal, is generally found at the apex of the hierarchy.
A number of courts with specialized jurisdiction sit outside this hierarchy. These
courts commonly include juvenile, constitutional, military, administrative, and
security courts. In some states, religious courts are considered to be specialized
The countries of the Arab region range from those possessing a great number of institutions
of higher learning to countries not possessing any such institution. Much of the
legal profession in the Arab Region, as in many other countries of the world, is
organized in a Bar Association. The legal profession is often governed by a legislative
Of the three main branches of government in the Arab region, the institutions of
the judiciary are the least likely to have a presence on the Internet. Where government
or institution websites containing relevant information exist, links have been given.