Saudi Arabia announces legal reforms that pave the way for a codified law

Saudi Arabia announces legal reforms that pave the way for a codified law

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

The Saudi Royal Council | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has announced new judicial reforms, putting the kingdom on the path to codified law – a big step, given that the highly conservative country does not have a codified legal system to keep pace with Sharia, or Islamic law, currently in place.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying late Monday, “The Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Discretionary Penal Code and the Evidence Law represent a new wave of judicial reforms in the Kingdom.” evening.

The Crown Prince said that the reforms “will help predict court rulings, increase the level of integrity and efficiency of judicial institutions, and contribute to increasing the reliability of procedures and oversight mechanisms.” According to his statement, the new laws will be announced in 2021.

The news is the latest in a series of dramatic economic and social reforms launched by the 35-year-old crown prince aiming to modernize the kingdom. It fits with its Vision 2030 agenda that aims to diversify the economy away from oil and attract foreign talent and investment to the Kingdom, and it comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is presenting itself as a destination for international business headquarters.

“This is an important step on the road towards global best practices that give companies the confidence to invest,” Tariq Fadlallah, CEO of the Middle East region at Nomura Asset Management, told CNBC on Tuesday.

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The lack of a codified legal system has often resulted in inconsistent court rulings and lengthy and drawn-out litigation procedures. The declaration specifically referred to women in Saudi Arabia, who have always held inferior status to men in terms of legal and economic rights, which the crown prince described as being particularly affected by the lack of written laws on certain issues.

The Saudi Press Agency quoted Bin Salman as saying, “The contradictions in court rulings have led to a lack of clarity in the rules governing accidents and practices, and have affected many, most of them women.”

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

Ali Al-Shehabi, a Saudi analyst close to the kingdom’s royal court, tweeted about the reforms late Monday, describing the news as “an important step in legal reform and a step that acknowledges that the Saudi legal system has a way to reach international standards and that the leadership appreciates urgency.” And the importance of this reform. ”

“Highlighting her influence on women is especially interesting,” Al-Shehabi added.

The Crown Prince described the current legal system as “painful for many individuals and families, especially women, which allows some to evade their responsibilities, and this will not be repeated once these laws are issued according to laws and legislative procedures.” The statement did not specify further details about the specific practices and penalties that will be changed.

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His statement added that the forthcoming legal reforms “will address the lack of clarity in the rules governing … lengthy litigation that is not based on solid legal provisions, and the absence of a clear legal framework for individuals and companies.”

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