UPDATE: An Introduction to the Legal System and Legal Research in Chad

By Nadjita F. Ngarhodjim

Updated by Miarom Bégoto

Miarom Bégoto holds a Bachelor's degree in Private Law from the University of N'Djamena in Chad and two Masters in Private Law and Public Law, Human Rights option from the University of Lyon 2 and Grenoble 2, France. He teaches at the National School of Administration of Chad. He has held senior positions in the Chadian administration including the Ministry of Justice and the former Supreme Audit Institution, which became the chamber in the Supreme Court. Elected as a member of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, he’s currently the chairperson.

Published March 2019

(Previously updated by Nadjita F. Ngarhodjim in January 2012)

See the Archive Version!

1. Historical Background

The landlocked state of Chad is situated at the junction of Central, North East and West Africa. The colony of Chad became a Republic on 28th November 1958 within the French Community established by the Constitution of 4 October 1958 inaugurating the French Fifth Republic.

On 11th August 1960, the Republic of Chad became an independent State under François Tombalbaye, its first President. A new Constitution came into force on 28 November 1960. The political and legal system established by this new constitution, like those of many other former French colonies in Africa, was very similar to those of the French Fifth Republic. The main differences with the French system were that all the executive power is concentrated in the hand of the President, that the Parliament comprised only one house, the National Assembly, and that there was no Constitutional Council. The 1960 Constitution was repealed by the Constitution of 16th April 1962, which established one-party system.

On 13 April 1975, President Tombalbaye was killed in a military coup perpetrated by a group of army officers. On 15 April 1975, a High Military Council, chaired by General Felix Malloum, and a Provisional Government were established. The 1962 Constitution was suspended. The coup inaugurated a period of political instability in Chad. Very soon, the new military regime had to face armed rebellions, especially in the northern part of the country. A series of talks led to the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity (Gouvernement d'union nationale de transition - GUNT) under the leadership of Goukouni Weddei, a former rebel leader, supported by Libya. The formation of the new government did not succeed in bringing the situation to normalcy as the country was divided into several regions controlled by armed factions. Furthermore, the relationship between Goukouni Weddei and his Prime Minister, Hissein Habré, himself a former rebel leader, was tense. The Libyan troops supporting Goukouni Weddei left N'Djamena in 1981, and a year later, in 1982, Goukouni was overthrown by Hissein Habré, who set up an authoritarian regime where fundamental rights and freedoms were suspended.

In 1990, Hissein Habré was toppled by his former right-hand man and Chief of Defense Staff, Idriss Déby. The new President proclaimed a democratic regime with the restoration of civic rights and freedoms. In 1993, an inclusive National Conference was held, which inaugurated a transitional period culminating in the adoption a new Constitution and the holding of general elections. There has been, since then, five presidential elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016), all held under poor conditions of transparency. The 2006 election, organized during a period where the regime was faced with armed rebellion in the north and the east, was boycotted by major opposition parties.

Under the pressure of the international community (especially France, the European Union, and the United States of America), the regime initiated dialogue with the political opposition and the armed groups. An agreement was entered into with the political opposition on 13 August 2007 to work together on the framework for fairer and freer elections. At the last moment, the major opposition leaders and parties once again boycotted the 2011 presidential elections, claiming that conditions were not met for a free and fair poll and that the 13 August 2007 Agreement had not been fully implemented prior to the election.

Since the adoption of the 1996 Constitution, three legislative elections were organized, in 1997, 2002 and 2011.

2. The Constitutional Framework

The current Constitution of Chad was adopted by referendum on 31st March 1996. It was amended by the Constitutional Act 08/PR/2005 of 15 July 2005. The amendment abolished the Senate, one of the two houses of the Parliament, established an economic, social and cultural council, and removed the limitation of presidential terms in office, allowing President Déby to run for a third term in 2006, a fourth term in 2011 and a fifth in 2016.

Following these last elections, President Déby Itno, in accordance with his campaign promises, launched the organization of regional consultations which led to the holding, from 19 to 27 March 2018, of a National Forum on the Reform of Institutions; the forum was challenged by a fringe of opposition and civil society and resulted in a constitutional amendment, thus giving birth to the Constitution of the Fourth Republic, promulgated on 4 May 2018 (Constitutional Law N°002/PR/2018).

In terms of the 2018 Constitution, Chad is a Republic founded on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice. The separation of powers is enshrined in the Constitution, which establishes a so-called full executive composed of a president, head of state, head of government, elected by direct universal suffrage for a six-year term, renewable once (article 66). He is responsible only in case of high treason.

The members of the Government are responsible to the President of the Republic (Article 85). However, the Government is obliged to provide the National Assembly with all explanations on its management and activities (Article 145).

The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature (Article 146). It comprises a single court order of which the Supreme Court is the highest court in judicial, administrative, constitutional and auditing matters (Article 147). The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal, the High Military Court, the Courts and the Justices of the Peace (justice de paix).

The Supreme Court, resulting from the 4th Republic, is endowed with expanded powers since merging the Constitutional Council, the Court of Accounts, the College of control and monitoring of oil revenues which become chambers within it (Article 157). Other institutions include the High Council of Autonomous Communities and Traditional Chiefdoms; the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, the National Commission of Human Rights, the High Authority for Media and Audiovisual.

The territorial organization is conceived around a two-level decentralization comprising the provinces and the communes (Article 201). Regarding the Ordinance No.001 / PR / 2019 of 11 February 2019, Chad has 23 Provinces, 112 departments and 405 communes.

3. The Law-Making Process

Passing laws in Chad is not the monopoly of the Parliament. Such power belongs concurrently to the Parliament and the Executive Branch (article 137). There is a reserved legislative domain defined by the Constitution (article 127). All other matters that have not been expressly identified to be within the ambit of the reserved legislative domain fall under the executive domain. Existing legislation on matters belonging to the executive domain can be modified by a decree taken after consultation with the Supreme Court (article 138). Any subsequent intervention of the Parliament in the executive domain shall be established by the Supreme Court before its eventual modification by decree.

During the discussion of a bill, if the Government is of the view that a proposal or an amendment falls outside the reserved legislative domain, it can draw the attention of the Parliament by raising the inadmissibility (irrecevabilité) of such a proposal or amendment. In case of disagreement between the National Assembly and the President of the Republic, either party can defer the matter to the Supreme Court that shall take a decision within eight days (Article 140 of the Constitution).

4. Sources of Law

Sources of law in Chad include the Constitution, international treaties ratified by Chad, Acts of Parliament, Regulations, ordinances, and customary law.

4.1. The Constitution

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. All the other sources of law shall be in conformity with its provisions. The Constitution was adopted by referendum and shall be amended by referendum or by the National Assembly through a 3/5 majority vote.

The initiative to revise the Constitution belongs concurrently to the President of the Republic, after a decision taken in the Council of Ministers and to the members of the National Assembly.

The draft or proposed revision must be voted by a majority of 3/5 of the Members of the National Assembly and approved by referendum or by a two-thirds majority vote of the Members of the National Assembly.

No review procedure may affect territorial integrity, independence or national unity; to the republican form of the state, to the separation of powers; to secularism; fundamental freedoms and rights and political pluralism (Article 227).

4.2. Cooperation, Treaties and International Agreements

Chad is a civil law country. International treaties are dealt with under Title XV (Articles 22 & 225) of the Chadian Constitution. International treaties are negotiated and ratified by the President of the Republic. However, some treaties shall necessarily be ratified, and their ratification requires the authorization of the Parliament. These include peace treaties, defense treaties, trade treaties, treaties relating to the use of the national territory or the exploitation of natural resources, agreements relating to the international organization, those who engage the finances of the State or those relating to the state of the people can be approved or ratified only after authorization of the National Assembly and take effect only after approval or ratification.

Treaties involving the transfer, the exchange, and the addition of territory need the consent of the people to be expressed by means of referendum. Other treaties are negotiated by the Government. The President of the Republic shall be informed of such negotiations.

International treaties and agreements shall be compatible with the Constitution. If the Supreme Court, at the request of the President of the Republic or the Speaker of the National Assembly, finds that a provision of a treaty is not compatible with the Constitution, such a treaty cannot be ratified unless the Constitution is amended. Once a treaty is lawfully ratified and published, it has an authority that is superior to national legislation.

4.3. Acts of Parliaments

Acts of Parliament in Chad are passed by the National Assembly. Such acts may originate from the Government (projet de loi) or from a Member of the National Assembly (proposition de loi). Once a bill is passed, it is sent on to the Government and signed into law by the President of the Republic within 15 days (8 days in case of emergency) following its transmission. During these 15 days, the president can refer the law to the National Assembly for a new deliberation of the law or some of its articles. This reference suspends the period of promulgation (Article 87).

The Constitution identifies a domain where the Parliament can intervene by means of legislation. Within this domain, there is a distinction between matters for which the Parliament sets the rules and those for which it only determines the fundamental principles that need to be subsequently complemented by rules and regulations to be taken by the Executive Branch (article 127).

The Parliament can pass laws to regulate civic rights and fundamental guarantees for the exercise of public freedoms, taxation, citizenship, the status and the capacity of persons, matrimonial regimes, inheritance and liberal gifts, the determination of criminal offences and applicable sentences, criminal proceedings, amnesty, the establishment of new courts, the status of judges, etc.

The Parliament determines the fundamental principles of the administrative organization of the territory, the organization of national defense, the autonomy of local institutions, public health, social affairs and child rights, private properties, the protection of the environment and the conservation of natural resources, labor law, public estate, etc.

4.4. Acts of the Executive Branch: Rules and Regulations

The Executive intervenes in the law-making process principally by regulating matters within the executive domain, and secondarily by taking measures to complement the matters for which the Parliament has determined the fundamental principles.

The President of the Republic has statutory power. The President signs all the decrees deliberated by the Council of Minister and the ordinances. Decrees other than those relating in particular to the dissolution of the National Assembly, the referendum, the referral to the Supreme Court, the appointment of the Members of the Government and the institutions of the Republic are countersigned by the ministers responsible (Article 100).

4.5. Ordinances

The President of the Republic may, for the implementation of its program, request the National Assembly to allow it to legislate, by ordinance, on matters that are normally within the scope of the reserved legislative domain. Such an authorization is time-bound, and the Government shall table all the ordinances that it has passed during the authorized period before the National Assembly when the latter is sitting. Failing to do so makes the ordinances null and void. Ordinances are passed by the Council of Ministers, which shall request for the opinion of the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court.1

4.6. Customary Law

Customary and traditional rules are applicable in communities where they are recognized, provided that they are not in conflict with the law. Customary and traditional rules promoting inequality between citizens are prohibited, and those governing matrimonial regimes and inheritance require the consent of the parties concerned.2

5. Main Legislation

Upon its accession to international sovereignty, the Republic of Chad chose to maintain colonial pieces of legislation, until such a time that they are replaced by national laws. The most important such a colonial piece of legislation is the Civil Code. Chad is still using the 1958 edition of the French Civil Code. In 1999, the government drafted a Persons and Family Code (Code des personnes et de la famille) which is yet to be validated and passed into law by the Parliament to replace the Civil Code. To date, this project, which has been the subject of several challenges, still remains pending at the National Assembly.

Other important pieces of legislation include:

All of these ordinances were ratified by the National Assembly during its session opened in October 2018.

6. The Judiciary System

The judiciary is independent from the Executive and the Legislature. Judges remain in function on a permanent basis, and they are only subject to the law in the exercise of their function.

The judiciary comprises the Supreme Court which is the highest court in judicial matters, Courts of Appeal, the High Military Court, Tribunals and the Justices of the Peace.

The administration of the judiciary (including the appointment, promotion, discipline and responsibility of judges, etc.) is the responsibility of the High Council of the Judiciary (HCJ). The HCJ proposes Judges to the President for appointment and promotion. The Council is chaired by the President of the Republic, with the Minister of Justice and the Chairperson of the Supreme Court respectively as first and second Vice-Chairs. The other members of the HCJ are judges elected by their peers. When sitting on disciplinary matters, the HCJ is presided over by its second Vice-Chair.

Article 157 of the Constitution provides that the Supreme Court comprises five chambers, including: the Judiciary Chamber, the Administrative Chamber, the Constitutional Chamber, the Audit Chamber and a non-permanent chamber composed of seven (7) deputies and four (4) judges of the Supreme Court elected by their peers to sit in cases of high treason.

As a result, all the tasks assigned to the former Constitutional Council and the former High Court of Justice are now devolved to the Supreme Court.

7. Legal Education and Legal Research

There are ten public universities in Chad, of which seven have a faculty of law: the University of N'Djamena, Moundou, Ati, Doba, Sarh, Roy-Fayçal and the Adam Barka University of Abéché. None of them has a functional law reporting system. Two other universities have been recently created; Mongo and Pala (established in 2016) don’t have a law faculty.

The Chadian Legal Database (Banque tchadienne des données juridiques), hosted by the Center for Development Study and Training (Centre d'étude et de formation pour le développement - CEFOD) manages Legitchad, which is an online compendium of Chadian legal documents, including laws, codes, decrees, and the Chadian Law Review (Revue juridique tchadienne) which is available online.

Acts of Parliament, Decrees, and other official sources of law and documents are published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Chad (Journal officiel de la République du Tchad), edited by the National Printing House of Chad (Imprimerie nationale du Tchad) on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Government.

Most legal information about Chad (including the Constitution, Codes, Acts of Parliament, Ordinances, Decrees, jurisprudence, Official Gazette, law review, etc.) can be found on the Web page of Legitchad managed by the Chadian Legal Database (Banque tchadienne des données juridiques) located within the Center for Development Study and Training (Centre d'étude et de formation pour le développement - CEFOD). Some of these resources are accessible on the Website of the CEFOD.

8. Selected Websites Relevant to Legal Research

8.1. State Institutions' Official Websites

8.2. Legislation and Jurisprudence

8.3. Business Law

8.4. Human Rights

1 Article 132 of the 2018 Constitution.

2 Articles 161 to 163.