Saudi Gazette/Okaz reports a terrific way to start up the new year in Saudi Arabia: a new legal system!
I’ve long argued—and in 2007 the Saudi government acknowledged—that massive reform of the Saudi legal system was required to enable the country and its citizens to enter the modern world. While Shariah law might well provide a solid basis for a legal system, its implementation in Saudi Arabia has been seriously wanting. Too many cases have been left to the idiosyncratic decisions of individual judges who, while no doubt trying their best, fail to achieve basic fairness and justice for victims and perpetrators alike.
Now, those changes are starting to be made, though the article notes that it may well take 20 years before they are complete. The first steps involve the creation of a new Supreme Court, replacing the Higher Judicial Council. Further, there will be new courts created to implement laws concerning labor, commercial practice, and personal status law, i.e. family law.
It’s often been said that a long journey begins with the first step. This is indeed a first step on a long, but necessary journey. I do hope that it doesn’t take 20 years to complete, however.
Judicial reforms to start Jan. 1
Muhammad Odiab and Adnan Shabrawi
DAMMAM/JEDDAH – Saudi judicial reforms will start Jan. 1 and the process to bring about structural and procedural changes will take 20 years, said Minister of Justice Sheikh Abdullah Aal Al-Shiekh. “This is only the beginning of the overhaul plan and there will be more future reform plans,” he said. A budget of nearly SR7 billion has been allocated for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Project for Developing the Judicial System.
The project entails developing new court systems, building new courts and training judges. A new Supreme Court – to replace the existing Higher Judicial Council – will be tasked with execution of Islamic Shariah laws and monitoring compliance, and reviewing death penalties handed down by Appeals Courts.
The King will appoint the head of the Supreme Court. Judges’ salaries, appointments and other administrative matters will come under the purview of the Judicial Council. Also, there will be specialized courts for commercial, labor, and personal status cases. – Okaz/SG