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The Judiciary is the Gateway to Reform - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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For the past two years, Saudi Arabians have been anticipating a decree pertaining to the Saudi judicial system to be issued at any given moment. I remember sitting among a group of friends a year and a half ago discussing reform in Saudi Arabia with all its achievements and how serious the state was about them.

A friend said, “I will not believe any talk about reform in Saudi Arabia as long as no firm decisions are made regarding the Saudi judicial system.” Many of those observing the general state of affairs in Saudi felt the same way.

Today, Riyadh is issuing historic decisions within the framework of “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s project to develop the judiciary,” to which he has allocated a huge budget of seven billion Saudi Riyals (the equivalent of approximately US $1.8 billion).

What is meant by reform in this context is an overall and comprehensive development of the judiciary in a manner that is consistent with what the state is witnessing in terms of progress and modernization. Developing the judiciary and its systems is the main gateway to all the steps required for reform and modernization in Saudi – or any other state.

The wheel of change and reform will not turn unless there is a judicial system to act as a ‘catalyst’ to facilitate its revolutions and guarantee its safety. The importance of the decree can be summed up in a number of fields; most notably through the dissemination of a ‘law’ culture throughout the various segments of society. This in turn will result in facilitating the interests of citizens, spreading an understanding of specialization whilst designating the cases in question to the specialized tribunals.

This decree includes the establishment of administrative courts, general and criminal courts, and specialized tribunals dealing with personal status and commercial law, the latter of which has become a critical need, especially since the Saudi market is a free and open one with tremendous opportunities both internally and abroad. There has been a dire need for these latest resolutions, and the same applies to industrial tribunals, which were included in these latest developments.

This regulation will mean the creation of educational and professional opportunities and specializations in the legal field and in defense, which in turn will reflect on investment opportunities within Saudi. Companies and capitalists will not wait for disputes to be resolved or for a ruling that will take several years to be reached in overcrowded courts – not because of bureaucracy but rather by virtue of the system that obstructs progress with its limited number of judges and specialists.

This latest decree will present an element of guarantee to capitalists, since it will identify the owner of the capital in question, in addition to answering questions related to ‘when’ and ‘how’ – which is essential to the economy and the stability of the state.

Other benefits include the addition of what we may refer to as ‘technocrats’ to the Saudi judicial body; those with the competent legal and jurisprudential knowledge in the field. This will greatly expand the horizons of knowledge; the combination of experts and scientific and administrative experience will serve to propel the momentum forward towards a knowledge that the state requires. This will lead to a modern judicial system that is capable of apprehending the world’s events from a more comprehensive perspective that takes all sciences into consideration.

The judiciary is the gateway to reform and its development is crucial, especially since Saudi is fast progressing towards the future. Saudi’s reality today presents a historic opportunity to advance into a new a stage of reform and development in various fields, which would open up new prospects for Saudi Arabia and its sons – one of the most important being education. Education and the judiciary are like twins; alike and inextricably linked.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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