Judicial Dispute Resolutions

Judicial disputes in Burundi are resolved by the respective Courts depending on the matter as follows:

Constitutional matters

The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction in the State in constitutional matters. It judges the constitutionality of Laws and interprets the Constitution.

  • The Constitutional Court’s is competent to hear the following:
  • Decide on the constitutionality of Laws and regulatory acts in matters other than those in the field of Law;
  • Ensure compliance with the Burundian Constitution, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the state bodies and other institutions;
  • Interpret the Constitution of Burundi, at the request of the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, a quarter of the members of parliament or a quarter of senators;
  • Decide on the regularity of presidential and legislative elections and referendums and announcing the final results;
  • Receive the oath of the President of the Republic, the Vice-Presidents of the Republic and members of the Government before  they are allowed to take office;
  • Find a vacancy for the office of President of the Republic.

In addition, the laws before their promulgation, the bylaws of the National Assembly and the Senate before their implementation, are subject to constitutional review.

The decisions of the Constitutional Court are not subject to appeal.

Civil and Commercial Matters

Civil and commercial matters are handled by the ordinary court system hierarchy in terms of  Law no.1/08 of March 17, 2005 Code of the Judicial Organization and Jurisdiction (Loi No.1/08 du 17 Mars 2005 portant Code de l’Organisation et de la Compétence Judiciaire).

It is to be noted that there are specific jurisdictions namely Supreme Court, Military Court and Corruption Court described hereunder which are governed by their specific laws.

Residence Courts

There are 134 Residence Courts in Burundi. These courts are at the bottom of the judicial hierarchy and are under the supervision and control of the High Courts.

They have the following jurisdiction:

  1. Criminal jurisdiction: hears offenses punishable by up to two years imprisonment regardless of the amount of the fine.
  2. Civil jurisdiction:
    • disputes between private individuals which the amount in dispute does not exceed one million burundian francs;
    • actions relating to unregistered land holdings;
    • actions relating to the liquidation of estates subject to the amount in dispute does not exceed one million burundian francs;
    • matters relating to the rights of individuals and families whose matter is not assigned to another court;
    • actions relating to the expulsion of the defaulting tenant or anyone occupying premises without title or right.

These Courts are not competent to hear eviction matters for commercial leases.

High Courts

The High Courts have jurisdiction over the activities of the courts of their jurisdiction. In the same way, the Courts of Appeal have the right of supervision and control over the activities of the High Courts of their jurisdiction,  and the Supreme Court has the same right regarding the judgments in the second degree by High Courts across the country.

The High Courts are located in all  the provinces.There are 17 High Courts in Burundi.

The High Courts have jurisdiction over both criminal and civil matters which the material or territorial jurisdiction is not assigned to any other jurisdiction.

They also hear appeals of decisions taken by the Residence Courts of their jurisdiction.

Labor Courts

The Labor Courts are specialized courts. They are hierarchically located under the Courts of Appeal.

Burundi  has only  two Labor Courts, one in Gitega and one in Bujumbura.

The Labor courts hears the following matters:

  • individual or collective disputes arising in the course of work between workers and employers relating to contracts of employment or apprenticeship, collective agreements or administrative decisions; and
  • disputes arising between the social security institutions, workers and employers, on the execution of legislation on social security without prejudice.

The judgments made by the Labor Courts are appealable to the Court of Appeal in their jurisdiction.

In jurisdictions where there are no Labor Courts the matters may be heard by the High Court in that jurisdiction.

Commercial Courts

Commercial Courts are specialized courts. They are located at the same hierarchical level as the Courts of First Instance. Burundi has one Commercial Court which is located in Bujumbura.

The Commercial  Court is the Court of First Instance for the following:

  1. disputes between traders on trade or business acts deemed by the law and which are not within the jurisdiction of other courts;
  2. disputes relating to effects of trade.

The Commercial  Court is competent to hear the following, even where the parties are not traders:

  1. disputes between partners, between officers, between directors and partners from among trustees and between commissioners and associates, among liquidators, between liquidators and partners, between partners, directors, auditors or liquidators and company auditors;
  2. matters regarding bankruptcies and concordats thereto in accordance with the Commerce Code;
  3. applications for designations of origin;
  4. actions for correction or cancellation of registration in the trade registry;
  5. applications for appointment of commissioners in order to check the books and accounts of commercial companies;
  6. claims in maritime and river area matters, including the examination of claims in connection with a distribution of funds from the award of a building before;
  7. disputes related to commercial leases.

The judgments of the Commercial  Court may be objected to and appealed.

In jurisdiction where a Commercial Court has not been created ,matters may be heard by the High Court acting in commercial matters.

Court of Appeal

Burundi has three Courts of Appeals. They are located in Bujumbura, Ngozi and Gitega. These Courts have  the following competences:

Repressive Jurisdiction

The Court of Appeal hears appeals of Tribunals of First Instance t’s judgments.

The Court of Appeal also hears matters of offenses committed by persons below:

  1. a career magistrate other than a judge of the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General of the Republic, the Court of Appeal, the Administrative Court and the Prosecutor General at the Court of Appeal;
  2. communal administrator;
  3. any public officer appointed by Decree.

Law enforcement judgments of the Court of Appeal are subject to objection and appeal. Some of these judgments may be appealed through the Judicial Chamber of the Supreme Court.

Civil Jurisdiction

The Courts of Appeal hear appeals of judgments at first instance by the High Courts, Labor Courts And Commerce Courts of their jurisdiction.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest ordinary court of the Republic of Burundi. Its jurisdiction covers the entire territory of the Republic and its seat is in Bujumbura. The Supreme Court has administrative authority and jurisdiction to hear matters that do not fall in the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court is divided into chambers, whose competences are different:

  • The judicial chamber only hears jurisdiction matters.
  • The Administrative Chamber hears appeals against the decisions made by the Administrative Courts and the Court of Appeal sitting in administrative matters. The Administrative chamber also hears appeals against regulatory and individual acts of the President of the Republic, and it decides on other remedies provided by specialized Laws. The decisions and judgments of the administrative chamber can be opposed and appealed.
  • Cassation chamber hears appeals formed against judgments and all other decisions by lesser courts and the other chambers.

In addition, it hears matter of revision of judgments and rulings cast res judicata rendered by all jurisdictions of the Republic, and repressive and civil matters.

Administrative matters

Burundi has two administrative courts, one located in Bujumbura the other in Gitega. These courts have competence to hear the following matters:

  • annulment of abuse of power against decisions of administrative authorities;
  • request for interpretation, in assessing the legality of decisions, agreements or administrative acts that brought them under their jurisdiction.;
  • appeals of validity, execution, revocation, termination or resolution of administrative contracts;
  • appeals against public officials and disciplinary sanctions by the status of the public service;
  • actions for reinstatement or damages  and interests resulting from the violation of the status of the civil service;
  • appeals against decisions on tax and customs matters;
  • actions related to incompatibilities between public functions and mandates.

Corruption matters

Corruption and related offences are handled by Anti-Corruption Court which is a specialised jurisdiction and has competence on the whole territory of Burundi. The seat for the court is located in Bujumbura.

Military matters

There is only one Military Court for the entire Burundi which has its seat in Bujumbura. The Military Court has jurisdiction only over offenses committed by officers of the Armed Forces of a grade equal to or higher than that of major and officials who are similar to those that were  assimilated under a Decree for the following offences:

  1. of criminal offenses committed by active military service;
  2. serious military offenses criminalized by the Military Penal Code;
  3. Infractions in regime of firearms and ammunition committed by civilians.

The Military Court hears appeals of judgments in first instance by the Council of war.

Extrajudicial Dispute Resolutions

Arbitration was introduced into Burundi by the Burundian Code of Civil Procedure of 2005. In the same line, CEBAC (Centre Burundais d’Arbitrage et de Conciliation), which is an internal arbitration institute in Burundi, was created in 2004. The introduction of this form of alternative dispute resolution was an excellent addition to complement the courts as well a natural addition to a country that already has a history of conflict resolution.

Burundi’s Code of Investment provides to parties an alternative should they wish to arbitrate. This law allows the competence of international arbitration centers for disputes arising out of investment in Burundi. It states in Article 17 that “the settlement of the disputes relating to the application of the code of the investments between the Government and the investor and which are not regulated by friendly way realizes in accordance with the laws basic payments and of procedure in force in Burundi. When it is made recourse to the international arbitration, this one will conform to the rules of arbitration of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes relating to the investments in force at the time of the realization of the investments on which the disagreement is dependent.”

Even though the above provision has provided for parties to arbitrate using the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Burundi, apart from signing the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States that established this autonomous international institution, Burundi has not signed any of its further documents such as its rules and regulations.

It could be argued that parties may still use the Center to arbitrate, as the Center’s Additional Facility Rules authorize the Center’s Secretariat to administer certain categories of proceedings between States and nationals of other non-Contracting States, these are:

  1. Fact finding proceedings;
  2. Conciliation or arbitration proceedings for the settlement of investment disputes between parties one of which is not a Contracting State or a national of a Contracting State;
  3. Conciliation or arbitration proceedings between parties at least one of which is a Contracting State or a national of a Contracting State for the settlement of disputes that do not arise directly out of an investment, provided that the underlying transaction is not an ordinary commercial transaction. 

The above proceedings are undertaken upon the approval of the Secretary-General outside the jurisdiction of the Centre. The provisions of the Convention as well do not them or to recommendations, awards or reports which may be rendered therein.