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Criminal Court System

The Constitution charges the courts with administering justice in accordance with the laws of the state; with upholding the Constitution; with protecting the rights and interests of the state; with protecting state, public, and cooperative property; and with safeguarding the personal, political, and property rights of the citizens. Courts try cases of treason; sabotage; embezzlement of state, cooperative, and public property; theft; robbery; swindling; and other crimes based on the criminal code. They also try cases involving losses inflicted on private citizens, on the state, and on cooperative and public enterprises and organizations according to the civil code (see Major State Organizations).

Courts punish persons convicted of crimes, but they also serve as educative and political agencies. They correct, reeducate, and reform criminals. They are called on to train citizens in the spirit of "dedication to the fatherland" and in the cause of "socialist democracy"; to uphold the strict and undeviating observance of the law; to train citizens in the careful treatment of state, cooperative, and other public property; and to support the observation of labor discipline, the honoring of state and public duty, and respect for the rules of communal life. The courts are expected to promote popular attitudes of loyalty, patriotism, peaceful behavior, and enthusiasm for socialism; to uphold conformity with the laws and respect for public property and labor discipline; and to involve citizens in state and civic affairs.

The court system consists of the Supreme Court, aymag courts, city courts, and special courts. Except in special cases for which provisions are made by law, all cases in all courts are tried by permanent judges in the presence of assessors, who are elected representatives sitting on the bench with the judges. The assessors hear the evidence, may question witnesses and the accused, examine the case as presented by the procurator, and participate in findings and sentences. When a question of law or its interpretation arises, however, the judge's opinion rules. An assessor may serve for no more than twenty days per year, unless the nature of a case or crime requires the period to be extended. Citizens twenty-three years or older who have never been convicted by a court are eligible for election as judges and assessors.

According to the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest judicial body. It is elected by the People's Great Hural for a term of four years, and it is responsible and accountable to the People's Great Hural and its presidium (Article 66 of the Constitution as amended). It consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors, as may be determined by the People's Great Hural. The Plenum of the Supreme Court consists of the chairman, the deputy chairman, and all members meeting together in a general session. The Presidium of the Supreme Court consists of a committee of selected members. There is a judicial chamber in charge of criminal cases, another in charge of civil cases, and a third in charge of overseeing the work of all the judicial organs of the state.

The Supreme Court directs, inspects, and reviews the work of all the lower courts. It supervises all judicial work in the state, and it formulates national legal policies. The court holds a general session at least once a month, that is attended by the procurator or the procurator's deputy. Decisions at general sessions are adopted by voice majority of the membership. Such sessions may change previous interpretations of the laws, but not the Constitution. Only the Presidium of the People's Great Hural has the right to examine and change decisions reached in the Supreme Court's general sessions or in court cases. The Presidium of the Supreme Court reviews the work of all lower courts and investigates the general causes of crime in the country. The Supreme Court also may take jurisdiction over certain cases, presumably those posing serious difficulties, problems of legal procedure or jurisprudence, or serious dangers to the state that ordinarily would be tried by military or by railroad courts.

In 1989 there were about 100 circuit courts throughout the country - 5 to 7 in each aymag. Circuit courts serve about 340 counties, or somons, and towns. Each circuit court has jurisdiction over several somons in dealing with citizen complaints and with criminal and civil cases. Judges and jurors are elected for three-year terms - the judges by the regular session of the aymag assemblies, the jurors by direct elections. The courts promote knowledge of the laws, and they work for crime prevention.

Each aymag and city court consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors. Judges and assessors are elected for two-year terms by the local assemblies of people's deputies. These courts can try all criminal cases except those that fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the special courts, and the state arbitration organs. These courts also engage in crime prevention propaganda and the popularization of the law. They report on their own work to aymag and municipal assemblies.

There also are special military and railroad transport courts. Each is staffed by a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors; all are elected by the People's Great Hural to three-year terms. Military courts try cases involving military personnel, fire fighters, and militia members. Railroad courts try cases connected with the operation of railroad lines and with criminal and civil offenses committed by railroad workers. A trial is carried out under the chairmanship of one judge, assisted by two assessors.

The Constitution establishes the Office of the Procurator of the Republic. It vests the position with supreme supervisory power over the strict observance of the laws by all ministries and other central administrative bodies, and by the institutions and organizations subordinate to them; by local bodies; by all public and cooperative organizations; by all officials; and by all citizens. The procurator is appointed by the People's Great Hural to a four-year term and is responsible and accountable to the People's Great Hural and its presidium. The procurator appoints aymag, somon, and municipal procurators for three-year terms. These local procurators are subordinate only to the procurator of higher rank.

Thus the procuratorial system parallels that of the courts, and its chain of command extends unbroken from top to bottom. The Office of the Procurator serves as a check on the entire court system, as well as on the government apparatus. As such it wields enormous power and is a strong arm of the party for enforcing its national policies.

The procurator is authorized to review the activities of the Ministry of State Security and its field organizations, all organizations of inquiry, all militia units, and all judicial organizations. The procurator's staff reviews all cases, takes account of sentences, and checks on the legality of detentions and on prison conditions. It supports public prosecution work in each locality, issues arrest warrants and confirms indictments, protests against laws it considers illegal or unconstitutional, checks the legality of resolutions, ensures that state orders and regulations are properly issued, and supervises all public prosecutors and the investigative apparatus.

The deputy procurator is appointed by the procurator for a three-year term, subject to confirmation by the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. The incumbent is charged with reviewing the investigative organs of the Ministry of State Security and the militia; with checking prison conditions and the legality of detentions; with reviewing legal judgments, rulings, and decisions of regular and special courts; and with participating in Supreme Court preparatory and judicial sessions as the procurator's representative.

The assistant procurator is appointed by the procurator and confirmed by the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. The assistant procurator supervises the coroners, the Office of the Military Procurator, and the border guards; is responsible for prompt action on all statements and complaints from state and public institutions and private citizens; and supervises the legal personnel on the procurator's staff and legal training in the country.

At the local level, aymag and municipal procurators issue arrest warrants, direct coroners and militia organs in crime investigations, and review the investigative activity of the organs under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Coroners, under direction of the procurators, are required to make prompt inquiry into all criminal cases. They appear in court in criminal cases as expert witnesses and in civil cases as defenders for workers and the state. They may be members of the medical bureaus that are attached to all courts in order to examine victims injured in crimes, to perform autopsies, and to conduct scientific investigations. Bailiffs at each level are appointed by the court chairman. They see that the decisions and sentences imposed by the courts are carried out.

All persons charged with a violation can be handed over, together with the evidence against them, to the courts of local assemblies by official and public organizations, local authorities, procurators, militia members, or citizens. An accused person has the right to be tried within one month of arrest or is automatically absolved.

Court proceedings are conducted in Mongol, but a person not speaking the language has the right both to an interpreter and to use his or her own language in court. Accused people are guaranteed the right to defend themselves. All cases are heard in public, except for special cases in which the law provides for closed courts.

Verdicts, decrees, and decisions of all courts except the Supreme Court may be appealed by the defense or by the prosecution. Decisions and sentences legally in force can be protested only by the chairman of the Supreme Court, by the state procurator, or by the minister of state security.

Last Update: 2010-12-07