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A Modern Judiciary - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The best way to examine a society is through its judicial system. Although the societies in our part of the world have developed on various levels; industry, agriculture and transportation, the judiciary has largely remained untouched.

However; in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has incorporated the judicial system in his reform plan, introducing new developments and allocating a budget of 7 billion Saudi Riyals (US$ 1.8 billion) for the project. The reason behind this great interest to develop the judiciary is because courts are the place in which a society unites or divides.

The judiciary, as a major and powerful institution, is expected to grow and develop with the society before any other institution. Societal growth and development manifests in court as car accidents, personal status disputes, and as victims of environmental, individual, governmental, private, domestic and foreign crises.

Crimes today are committed using guns, medical needles, credit cards and photocopying machines, and conflicts range from minor to complex and even collective ones. Moreover, the notion of evidence has also evolved; thus we advanced from the stage of only swearing under oath before the court to providing criminal evidence that conclusively proves what the naked eye cannot see.

Present-day disputes have become complicated, because money in and of itself has changed in value and form. Additionally, the concept of the efficiency of judges has undergone a transformation; a competent judge no longer relies on his/her insightful nature or his/her stature alone, today’s judges need to be well-informed in contemporary fields of knowledge as well.

Everything related to prosecution appears to be a new feature; however the content remains unchanged and intact. “Justice is the basis of governance,” so the saying goes. Integrity compels the judge to serve justice and to regard all individuals as equals with equal opportunities to plead their cases fairly before him/her whilst being granted the necessary time and means. Rights have been overlooked due to deficiencies on the judges’ part or due to the weakness of the authority under which they serve.

In fact, judges in our region find themselves in an unenviable situation: they work as civil servants and yet are granted the least amount of facilities and capabilities. The difference between foreign and domestic courts is vast; in foreign countries the judge spends two weeks in deliberations with all parties related to the case whereas domestically, judges barely have any time to hear from the complainant parties due to the large volume of cases that require consideration.

Today’s judges could be in a more advantageous position than the judges that preceded them if they were granted better tools  they can now view the image of the disputed land in question via satellite, for example. Moreover, contested paternal cases can be resolved in laboratories after consulting various test results. In the past, some judges would ascribe children to parents after comparing their feet to their alleged parents. Nowadays, a criminal could be tracked down using a hair, drop of blood or an imprint left behind in the scene of crime.

Furthermore, judges are now able to trace back monetary transactions from records of financial transfers that had been disbursed years before. However, the fact remains that although the tools and means have evolved; likewise, needs have become more elaborate and communities have grown while courts have come to resemble airports teeming with impatient people seeking to resolve their cases. As for those claiming their rights, whether over a meal or a deal worth billions of dollars  they are equally important cases in their eyes.

Judges are required to serve justice but cannot do so until they obtain the necessary tools. This is why this considerable budget has been allocated for an overall and comprehensive development of the judiciary.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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