The Ministry of Justice oversaw the nation's court system, which comprised the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, people's revolutionary courts, and a system of people's courts. High-level judges were appointed by the minister of justice. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals heard cases involving national officials and appeals from lower courts. People's revolutionary courts heard accusations related to national security, mercenary activity, or war crimes. They presided over both military and civilian cases, with senior military officers serving in a judicial capacity in military cases. Appeals were heard by appellate courts in each provincial capital.
People's courts were established in the late 1970s by the National Court Administration of the Ministry of Justice as part of a nationwide reorganization along Marxist-Leninist lines. The people's court system comprised criminal, police, and labor tribunals in each provincial capital and in a few other towns. The MPLA-PT Political Bureau appointed three judges--one professional and two lay magistrates--to preside over each people's courtroom and assigned them equal power and legal standing. Although the professional judges had substantial legal training, lay judges were appointed on a rotating basis from among a group of citizens who had some formal education and several weeks' introductory legal training. Some were respected leaders of local ethnic groups. No juries were empaneled in either civil or criminal cases, but judges sometimes sought the opinion of local residents in weighing decisions.
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