Saudi Arabia has announced new judicial reforms, putting the kingdom on a path to codified law within its Islamic legal system.
Codification is the process of collecting and restating the law of a jurisdiction in certain areas, usually by subject, forming a legal code.
“The Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Penal Code for Discretionary Sanctions, and the Law of Evidence represent a new wave of judicial reforms in the Kingdom,” Saudi state news agency SPA quoted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying late Monday.
“The new laws represent a new wave of reforms that will … increase the reliability of procedures and oversight mechanisms as cornerstones in achieving the principles of justice, clarifying the lines of accountability,” the crown prince said in a statement.
The new laws will be announced over the course of 2021.
A Saudi official told Reuters that reforms are designed to meet the needs of the modern world while adhering to Sharia.
Fitting within Saudi Vision 2030, the reforms are part of aims to diversify the economy away from oil and attract foreign talent and investments and comes as Saudi Arabia pitches itself as a destination for international business headquarters.
Having no codified legal system often resulted in inconsistencies in court rulings and drawn-out litigation procedures, according to CNBC.
The announcement made a specific mention of women in Saudi Arabia, who have long held a lower status to men in terms of legal and economic rights, and whom the crown prince described as being particularly harmed by the lack of written laws over certain issues.
“Discrepancies in court rulings has led to a lack of clarity in the rules governing the incidents and practices, and has hurt many, mostly women,” the SPA quoted the crown prince as saying.
The Saudi crown prince described the current legal system as “painful for many individuals and families, especially women, permitting some to evade their responsibilities. This will not take place again once these laws are promulgated pursuant to legislative laws and procedures,” he said.
His statement added that the forthcoming legal reforms will “tackle lack of clarity in rules governing… prolonged litigations that are not based on established legal provisions, and absence of a clear legal framework for individuals and businesses.”
Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said the new penal code would enhance the application of justice in criminal cases.
Saudi lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers told Arab News the reforms would “contribute to an unprecedented standardization of the system of rulings,” particularly in relation to family law.
“We will bid farewell to the wide and indefinite scope of discretion that a judge enjoys,” she said.
Al-Sharif also told Arab News that the Personal Status Law will deal with provisions related to family matters and regulate provisions related to wills and inheritance.
The Civil Transactions Law will regulate the relationship between individuals and reduce the litigation period in disputes resulting from mutual transactions, she added.
Finally, she said the Evidence Law will separate the evidentiary rules regarding civil and commercial transactions between individuals, such as witness testimony, written evidence, digital evidence, and other various means of evidence.