His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently announced that the Kingdom will continue refining its legal system with the amendment and introduction of four significant laws: Family law, Civil Law, Criminal Law, and the Law of Evidence being at the forefront at this effort.
The objective of this initiative is to create a modern model of an efficient judicial and legislative system that comes within the framework of Islamic Sharia and is consistent with its objectives. Moreover, the improved legal system comes in line with the developments and changes of life, in its broad spectrum, which are necessary to keep pace with the legal and regulatory practices and developments in force worldwide and in tandem to be consistent with international conventions.
As a Saudi practicing lawyer, who spent years litigating cases in courts in the Kingdom and across the world, I find it imperative for me to pay tribute to the role and thought of HRH, the Crown Prince, in this comprehensive development process of the legal system in Saudi Arabia. After all, it is not surprising that a person who studied law would know the importance of a solid, clear, consistent, and effective legal system in supporting and enabling the Kingdom’s ambitious “Vision 2030”. It is also not strange for him to have an insightful legal thought and vision that targets and prioritizes his country’s significant interests.
In my opinion, there is no reform more critical and of more profound impact on a nation than laying down the foundational rules of life on a comprehensive and detailed legislative system, based on sustainable and clear foundations of Sharia, and characterized by transparency, clarity, equality, and consistency.
Like a number of my colleagues, I have previously written about the subject. Indeed, I have highlighted that the development and codifying of the Kingdom’s laws will serve it internally and reinforce its ability to observe its obligations under international laws, agreements, and treaties.
While allowing the Kingdom’s legal system to benefit from international best practices and developments, this futuristic move, led by the Crown Prince will also enable the Kingdom to develop, codify, and implement Sharia principles that promote, among other things, the legal protection of contracts and obligations. In fact, the Kingdom has already moved to abolish some discretionary laws on punishment and eliminated court decisions made on suspicion.
In addition to being fully compatible with the principles of Sharia, the intended developments will also be in line with the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. There is no doubt that the review, development, and codifying of the Kingdom’s legislative system will enrich the practiced jurisprudence, including the rich jurisprudential analysis included in past and current Saudi court rulings.
It is also worth noting that these reforms came with the rapid developments and improvements that the justice system in the Kingdom has witnessed during the past few years. These developments represent a qualitative transformation that proves to the world two important aspects; first: the comprehensiveness of Islamic law, its validity and suitability for all times and situations, its ability to develop and evolve without losing its essence and fundamental aspects, and its ability to adapt and deal with new issues and changing circumstances.
And, second: the seriousness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in implementing its reform plans and policies that go beyond the economic and social landscapes to include the judicial aspects. By developing the legal and legislative environment in a manner that makes it more sustainable, flexible, and effective, the Kingdom ensures that the implementation of its development plans is carried out to their fullest potential.
The paradigm shift made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in developing and modernizing the justice system, which includes the success of remote/virtual litigation and the ability to handle many legal matters electronically, is a truly phenomenal success.
There is no doubt that these reforms will be fundamental pillars in consolidating the principles of justice, fairness, and equality. They will also strengthen guarantees of individual rights and achieve justice for all. For example, the development and codifying of family law will contribute, in part, to empowering women to protect their rights more effectively and efficiently than before.
My experience as a lawyer confirms to me that the justice system in the Kingdom, with the previous developments it has witnessed, is ready for these systemic legislative reforms that will help judges, lawyers, and advocates to carry out their work in an institutional framework that supports the fair delivery of justice.
In fact, among the essential elements of a fair trial, which the Sharia emphasizes in the first place, is the legal certainty and predictability of judgments. This legal certainty is among the most important outcomes of this ongoing reform process. It will enhance confidence in the Saudi judiciary and the Saudi business environment and contribute to affirming individuals’ and entities’ rights in the Kingdom through the establishment of clear, publicized, understandable, and predictable legislation.
Finally, while addressing these legal reforms, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “What I can do is encourage the power of law.” In reality, however, the Crown Prince has done much more than this! He has in fact placed the Kingdom and its legal system on a fast track towards an unprecedented sustained renaissance bound to bring glory and distinction to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.