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Middle East
Saudis to overhaul judicial system
Supreme court to be established but Sharia law to retain central role.
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2007 21:12 GMT

The justice system has come under heavy attack in the media after cases of arbitrary sentencing [AP]


Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, Saudi Arabia's king, has announced an overhaul of the country's judicial system, fulfilling a pledge he made several months ago to reform the current heavily-criticised administration.

The move includes the establishment of a supreme court as well as commercial, personal status and labour tribunals.
Justice in Saudi Arabia is currently administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Sharia law.

Judges have considerable discretion in issuing rulings, with defendants, who often have no legal representation, unable to appeal rulings.

'Qualitative change'

 

Abdullah Al-Asheikh, the Saudi justice minister, said: "The new Judiciary Law and Court of Grievances Law were prepared with utmost care and will bring about qualitative change in the kingdom's judicial system."

 

Two supreme courts, a general court and an administrative court, will replace the supreme judiciary council, which has been the country's highest tribunal until now.

 

A royal decree issued on Tuesday said the Saudi king had allocated a budget of $1.8 bn "for the King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz project to revamp the judicial sector, which aims at upgrading the judiciary and developing it in a comprehensive and integrated manner."  

 

At the moment, judges, who are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the supreme judicial council, have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.

 

The justice system has come under heavy attack in the media following several cases of arbitrary sentencing in the kingdom. 

 

Human rights and businesses are likely to be the chief beneficiaries of the changes.

Source:
Agencies
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