Saudi Arabia unveils new reforms paving way for codified law

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Feb. 9 (UPI) — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced new judicial reforms that put the country on track toward establishing a codified system of law.

The crown prince announced the four new draft laws concerning personal status, civil transactions, penal code discretionary sentences and the law of evidence late Monday in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

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The statement described the laws as “a new wave of reforms” that are meant to “preserve rights, bolster the principles of justice, enforce transparency, protect human rights and achieve comprehensive and sustainable development, in a manner to reinforce the Kingdom’s global competitiveness.”

The laws are the latests reforms by the crown prince who in the past few years has instituted previous progressive changes, such as expanding the rights of women and lessening punishments for minors, as part of a his Vision 2030 plan to reduce the kingdom’s economic dependency on oil through diversification that was announced in 2016.

The statement quoted the crown prince as stating the four new laws will “contribute to the ability to predict court decisions, increase the level of integrity and efficiency of judicial institutions and increase the reliability of procedures and oversight mechanisms as cornerstones in achieving the principles of justice, clarifying the lines of accountability and ensuring the consistency of legal references in a manner that limits discrepancies in courts’ decisions.”

Lacking a codified law led to confusion over one’s obligations under the legal system, he said, adding that it also caused protracted litigation and harm, especially to women.

“This will not take place after these laws are promulgated pursuant to legislative laws and procedures,” Mohammed said.

A previous draft of the code of juridical decisions had been crafted a few years ago, but was insufficient to meet society’s needs, he said, and a new draft was to be made to adhere to current and judicial international standards while being consistent with Islamic law.

The new laws will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and concerned government bodies for review and consideration before being submitted to the Shura Council where they will be promulgated, he said.

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