Since its independence, Cameroon has adhered to the principle of the separation of powers formulated by John Locke and Montesquieu to prevent abuse of power by entrusting it to several bodies, each responsible for a different function and able to act against each other.
However, it was not until 1996 that a real judicial power was affirmed by articles 37 to 42 of the law N° 96/06 of January 18, amended by the law of April 14, 2008 revising the constitution of 02- 06-1972. According to article 37 of the aforementioned law, judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal and the courts (which are part of the judiciary).
The judicial organization in Cameroon is very original due not only to the coexistence of Civil Law and Common Law, the result of Franco-British colonization, but also because of the coexistence of Custom and written law.
Our purpose here is to briefly list the main jurisdictions forming the backbone of the Cameroonian judicial organization and their competences. To do this, we will present on the one hand the common law jurisdictions and on the other hand the exceptional jurisdictions.
1. Common Law Jurisdictions
By common law jurisdiction we mean those which have the power to hear all cases except those which are expressly withdrawn from them by a text.
Due to the judicial pluralism existing in Cameroon, that is to say the coexistence of modern law jurisdictions applying Civil Law and Common Law, and traditional jurisdictions applying customary law, we will present on the one hand the jurisdictions of modern law and on the other hand traditional jurisdictions.
Common law jurisdictions are governed in Cameroon by law N° 2006/015 of December 29, 2006, decree N° 69 / DF / 544 of December 19, 1969 amended by decree N° 71 / DF / 607 of December 3, 1971 on the organization of traditional jurisdictions of eastern Cameroon, supplemented by law N° 79/4 of 29 June 1979.
1. First Degree Modern Law Jurisdictions
Courts of first instance are those which hear a case for the first time. In Cameroon, these are the Tribunal de Premier Instance (TPI) and the Tribunal Du Grande Instance (TGI) with regard to modern law courts.
Court Of First Instance
A Court of First Instance is created for each district. However, depending on the requirements of the service, the jurisdiction of the said tribunal may be extended to several districts. On the material level, the court of first instance is competent to hear;
i. In criminal matters
- Infractions qualified as misdemeanors or contraventions
- Requests for release made by any person detained and prosecuted before him, for an offense within his jurisdiction;
- Crimes committed by minors without co-perpetrator or major accomplice.
ii. In civil, commercial or social matters
- Recovery actions, by simplified procedure of certain, liquid and payable civil or commercial debts not exceeding 10,000,000 FCFA
- Disputes for which the amount of the request is less than or equal to 10,000,000
Its territorial jurisdiction covers the jurisdiction of a department and can be extended to several departments if necessary.
On the material level, the TGI is competent to hear;
i.In criminal matters
- Related crimes and offenses
- Requests for releases made by any person detained and referred to him, for offenses within his jurisdiction;
ii. In civil, commercial and social matters
- Actions and procedures relating to the status of persons, civil status, marriage, divorce, parentage, adoption and inheritance;
- Requests for recovery, by simplified procedure, of certain, liquid and payable civil or commercial debts in an amount greater than 10,000,000 FCFA as well as of commercial debts, certain, liquid and payable whatever the amount, when the he commitment results from a check, a promissory note or a bill of exchange.
iii. In non-administrative matters
- Any request to obtain the prohibition of any person or authority from performing an act for which they are legally incompetent;
- Requests to obtain the accomplishment by any person or authority of an act which he is required to perform by
Article 18 of the aforementioned law N° 2006/015 attributes specific powers to the president of the Tribunal de Grande Instance as well as to the president of the Court of First Instance.
2.First Degree Jurisdictions Applying Customary Law
Traditional jurisdictions in Cameroon are different depending on whether you are in the Francophone or Anglophone regions.
Traditional Jurisdictions In The Francophone Regions Of Cameroon
Article 1 of Decree N° 69 / DF / 544 of December 19, 1969 on the organization of the judiciary and procedure before the traditional courts of eastern Cameroon provides for two traditional courts, namely, the first degree court and the customary court.
i. Jurisdiction of the customary court
The territorial jurisdiction of the customary court is generally determined by its authoring text and most often covers the jurisdiction of traditional communities.
On the material level, it is competent to hear actions for the recovery of civil and commercial debts, actions for compensation for material and bodily damage and contractual disputes.
The Court of First Degree also exercises the powers of the Customary Court in parts of the territory that do not have a Customary Court (article 4 of decree n° 69 / DF / 544 of December 19, 1969).
b. Jurisdiction of the First Degree Court
The jurisdiction and seat of the Court of First Degree is set by the decree that creates it as provided in Article 6 of the aforementioned decree.
On a material level, it is competent to hear matters relating to the status of persons, civil status, marriage, divorce, filiation, successions and real property rights.
Traditional Jurisdictions In The English-speaking Provinces Of Cameroon
The Anglophone part of Cameroon has two traditional jurisdictions, namely the “Alkali Courts” and the “Customary Courts”.
The “Alkali Courts” are competent to apply custom in disputes involving “native” Muslims.
The “Customary Courts” are competent to apply customary law in disputes between non- Muslim “natives”.
3. Second-degree Courts: Courts Of Appeal
According to Article 19 of Law N° 2006/015, a Court of Appeal is created per region. However, depending on the requirements of the service, the jurisdiction of this Court may include several regions. It sits at the capital of the region.
According to article 22 of the aforementioned law, the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear;
- Appeals against decisions rendered by jurisdictions other than the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal itself;
- Appeals against the orders of the investigating judge
- Disputes relating to the execution of decisions;
4. The Supreme Court
According to article 38 of the revised Constitutional Law of January 18, 1996, “the Supreme Court is the highest jurisdiction of the State in judicial, administrative and judgment of accounts”.
The Supreme Court sits at the top of the Cameroonian judicial pyramid and is made up of three chambers, namely:
- The Judicial Chamber
- The administrative chamber
- The accounts chamber
- Any other case provided for by
The Supreme Court is the supervisory body of the Cameroonian judicial system. Its territorial jurisdiction covers the entire Republic of Cameroon.
In terms of material jurisdiction, each of the Chambers of the Supreme Court has its own powers.
i. Competence of the Judicial Chamber
According to article 39 of the revised Constitutional Law of January 18, 1996, “the Judicial Chamber rules sovereignly on:
- Recourse in cassation admitted by law against decisions rendered in the last resort by the courts and
- Decisions of lower courts of the judicial order become final in cases where the application of the law is in
- Any matter which is expressly attributed to it by law.
ii. Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in administrative matters
According to article 40 of the aforementioned constitutional law: “the Administrative Chamber deals with all administrative disputes of the State and other public authorities.
It hears on appeal disputes relating to regional and municipal elections, as well as any other dispute which is expressly attributed to it by law
It rules sovereignly on the decisions rendered in the last resort by the lower courts in matters of administrative litigation.
The exceptional jurisdictions of the Military Court, the State Security Court, the High Court of Justice and the Provincial Social Security Litigation Commission will be the subject of further work.
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