Saudi Arabia Announces Major Legal Reforms, Paving The Way For A Codified Law

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, attends the 41st Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, on January 5, 2021.

Royal Council of Saudi Arabia | Anadolu Agency | fake images

Saudi Arabia has announced new judicial reforms, putting the kingdom on the path to codified law, a major step in the deeply conservative country whose legal system is based on Islamic law.

“The Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Penal Code for Discretionary Sanctions and the Evidence Law represent a new wave of judicial reforms in the Kingdom,” Saudi state news agency SPA said, citing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday night. .

“The new laws represent a new wave of reforms that … will increase the reliability of oversight procedures and mechanisms as cornerstones to achieve the principles of justice, clarifying the lines of responsibility,” the crown prince said in a statement. He said the new laws will be announced in the course of 2021.

A Saudi official told Reuters that the reforms are designed to meet the needs of the modern world while adhering to Sharia.

The announcement is the latest in a series of dramatic economic and social reforms launched by the 35-year-old crown prince with the aim of modernizing the kingdom. It fits into its Vision 2030 agenda, which aims to diversify the economy away from oil and attract foreign talent and investment, and it comes when Saudi Arabia presents itself as a destination for international business headquarters.

“This is an important step on the path to global best practices that give companies the confidence to invest,” Tarek Fadlallah, Nomura Asset Management CEO Middle East, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Not having a codified legal system often resulted in inconsistencies in court rulings and lengthy litigation procedures. The announcement made specific mention of women in Saudi Arabia, who have long had a lower status than men in terms of legal and economic rights, and whom the crown prince described as particularly handicapped by the lack of written laws on certain topics.

“Discrepancies in court rulings have led to a lack of clarity in the rules governing incidents and practices, and it has harmed many, mostly women,” the crown prince quoted the SPA as saying.

Women’s rights in the kingdom, although improved in some areas such as driving, employment and freedom of movement in recent years, remain a major target of criticism from human rights groups and some foreign governments. Several Saudi driving activists remain in prison and allege they are being tortured, charges that the Saudi state denies.

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the kingdom’s royal court, tweeted about the reforms Monday night, describing the news as “an important step in legal reform and one that recognizes that the Saudi legal system has a way to go to meet international standards and that the leadership appreciates the urgency and importance of such reform. ”

“Highlighting its impact on women is particularly interesting,” Shihabi added.

The crown prince described the current legal system as “painful for many individuals and families, especially women, allowing some to evade their responsibilities. This will not happen again once these laws are enacted in accordance with laws and procedures. legislative, “he said. The statement did not describe further details about what specific practices and sanctions would be changed.

Its statement added that upcoming legal reforms “will address the lack of clarity in the rules governing … protracted litigation that is not based on established legal provisions, and the absence of a clear legal framework for individuals and businesses.”


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