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The Saudi judiciary: An imperfect picture - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Numerous Saudi state entities have had their fair share of criticism and remarks. This includes vital and major sectors such as health, education and the judiciary, all of which are administrative apparatuses that are directly linked to a citizen’s interests and rights, and all of which function as a bridge between the state and the populace. These entities have all been under the microscope and received critical remarks, proposals for development and comparisons with other experiences. However, the judiciary in Saudi Arabia has always been the most prominent subject for dialogue and debate, and has become an “easy” target for criticism. Some of its shortcomings – which could otherwise be explained as mere anomalies or mistakes – have been broadly generalized and used to condemn the entire judicial apparatus, with all its various sectors and personnel.

This manner of generalization is an easy and over simplistic way of dealing with the challenges of development. The judicial authority in Saudi Arabia, in general, is an operative and productive one as can be evidenced by the efficient and mature manner in which it has handled legal proceedings over the past years, in different districts and in a variety of fields and cases. Generally speaking, the Saudi judicial system is widely accepted and looked upon positively, both with regards to its traditional branches as well as its newly established sectors where modern technologies are used.

In fact, the prestige of this sector has led to the establishment of specialized courts as well as the Commission for Investigation and Prosecution, all of which have seen a great deal of advancement in their general performance. We have witnessed an accumulation of competence and expertise and anyone who has dealt with the ombudsman office, the Sharia’a courts, the Commission for Investigation and Prosecution and other specialized courts would testify to this.

Many are now witnessing the development and positive change in the judicial sector, where people’s various legal proceedings are being handled extremely proficiently. We must shed light on the positive aspect of this issue in order to avoid broad generalizations. The Saudi people themselves need to be fair and assess this particular sector more objectively, rather than emotionally, for the latter is of no benefit. Today, there are many judges and legal experts in Saudi Arabia who are working and interacting with the most important issues of Sharia’a law, as well as administrative and international legal proceedings. Furthermore, these significant efforts are being exerted behind closed doors and away from the limelight, they are being accomplished successfully and effectively without clamor, yet they are passing by unnoticed.

In any seminar, lecture or gathering in which Saudi affairs are highlighted, it is always easy to touch upon the Saudi judiciary and use it as an easy target for criticism. The truth of the matter is that the issue is not that simple, nor is it fair for generalizations to be made. There are many examples of success stories and landmark verdicts that serve to consecrate the principles of justice, honesty and equality. Of course there are shortcomings, mistakes and violations, but these must be dealt with in a manner far removed from defamation or broad generalizations. The evidence on the ground – represented by the accomplishments of legal figures and experts in the country – reflects the remarkable progress being achieved. Unfortunately, this receives very little exposure and the public are shown an imperfect picture, whereas they deserve to know the truth.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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