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- Legal System
The legal system in Lesotho is based on Roman–Dutch law and English Common Law, combined with customary law. The judicial system is made up of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, subordinate courts and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The High Court has jurisdiction to hear the most serious civil and criminal cases, and appeals from the lower courts. It has supervisory jurisdiction over all the courts in Lesotho. It consists of the Chief Justice, who is appointed by the chief of state on the advice of the prime minister, and a number of puisne judges, appointed by the chief of state on the advice of the JSC. Appeals from the High Court come before the Court of Appeal, which meets twice a year.
The majority of Justices on the Court of Appeal are South African jurists. The court does not operate by trial by jury. Rather, judges make rulings alone, or in criminal trials with 2 other judges as observers. There are magistrates’ courts in each of the 10 districts, and more than 70 central and local courts. General laws in Lesotho operate alongside customary laws. Customary law consists of the customs of the Basotho, written and codified in the Laws of Lerotholi, which are applied in local customary courts. Whether customary or general law will be applied in a case is generally determined by the nature of the case, criminal or civil, and the people involved. It is usual for common law to be implemented in urban areas, whilst customary law is more often found in rural areas. Local courts, or Basotho Courts, are the courts of first instance for any matter involving customary law. Appeals from local courts come before the central courts, and appeals from the central or local courts come before the judicial commissioners’ courts, from which further appeals may be made to the High Court. Lesotho has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
Lawyers can practice as both advocates and attorneys as there is no formal distinction between the two. The professional body for lawyers is the Law Society of Lesotho, which has its office in Maseru. The Faculty of Law, National University of Lesotho, which has undergraduate and Master’s programmes in law, was established in 1981, though law courses had been offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences since 1965. Webber Newdigate, Sello-Mafatle Chambers, and Harley and Morris are leading firms in Maseru.
Information from the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013
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