Table of contents:
- Development of the legal system
- Modern legislation
- Rule of Law
- Sources of law
- Criminal pen alties
- Courts and judiciary
- Country Constitution
- Evidence of the parties and the rights of the defendants
- Basic prohibitions
- International criticism
2023 Author: Henry Conors | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 12:05
The laws of Saudi Arabia are strict and binding on everyone, including visitors. The public practice of any religion other than Islam is illegal in the country, as is the intention to convert others to that faith. However, the Saudi authorities allow the private practice of religions other than Islam, so you can bring a Bible into the country if it is for personal use. Islamic codes of conduct and dress must be strictly observed. Women must wear a conservative, loose attire, as well as a full-length abaya and headscarf. Men are not allowed to wear shorts in public. Extramarital sexual activity, including adultery, is illegal and subject to severe prison sentences, as is the possession or sale of alcohol.
Development of the legal system
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, located in the middle of the Middle East, is the largest country in the region and the birthplace of Islam. The current state of SaudiArabia was founded and united in 1932 by Ibn Saud. King Abdullah, a descendant of Ibn Saud, currently controls the country. Saudi Arabia is known for its oil and natural gas production and contains more than 20% of the world's oil reserves. The population is just over 26 million people. Among them, 90% are Arabs and 10% are Afroasiatics. The only religion is Islam. The population is young, there are only 3% of people over 65 in the country, and the average age is 25.3 years. Life expectancy is 74 years. The most important cities are Riyadh (capital), Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. Most of the territory is a sandy desert. At the same time, the country has an important coastline in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, which creates a certain political weight of Saudi Arabia in the world.
Abdul Aziz Al Saud - the first king of Saudi Arabia and the founder of the country's judicial system. Sharia, the main source of law in modern SA, was intensively developed by Muslim judges and scholars between the seventh and tenth centuries. From the time of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th c. n. e. Sharia was adopted as the basis of law in the cities of the Muslim world, including the Arabian Peninsula, and supported by the rulers, eclipsing the urf (Islamic customary law). Nevertheless, in the countryside, the urf continued to dominate, and was the main source of law among the Bedouins of Najd in central Arabia until the early 20th century.
By the 11th century, four main Sunni schools of Islamic fiqh jurisprudence were established in the Muslim world, each with its own interpretationsSharia: Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi and Hanafi. In 1925, Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Neida conquered the Hijaz and merged it with his existing territories to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The system of Sharia courts and state tribunals established by Abdul Aziz remained largely in place until the 2007 judicial reform.
Until 1970, the judiciary was the responsibility of the Grand Mufti, the country's highest religious authority. When the current Grand Mufti died in 1969, the then King Faisal decided not to appoint a successor and took the opportunity to transfer responsibility to the Ministry of Justice.
The legal system is Sharia, based on various Islamic texts and regulating the activities of all believers in the country. What a European considers normal at home can be insulting in Saudi Arabia and be a punishable act with public flogging, imprisonment, deportation, amputation and even death.
In addition to the general police force, Islamic moral codes are overseen by an organization of volunteers and officials who enforce Saudi Sharia law on behalf of the ruling royal family, in particular the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
In Saudi Arabia, everything revolves around five (20-30 minutes) daily prayers. Almost all organizations close during every prayer, except for hospitals, airports, public transportand taxi. Religious police patrol the streets and send idle people to the nearest mosque. Therefore, it is better not to go out during these periods in order to avoid claims from Mutawa.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has implemented several reforms in Ottawa as part of the Vision 2030 initiative to boost tourism in the country. These include the restriction of patrols during working hours and a significant reduction in the list of reasons for delaying or arresting foreigners.
Public criticism of the king, the royal family or the government of Saudi Arabia is unacceptable and will attract the attention of Ottawa or other police. Criticizing the flag of Saudi Arabia is considered an insult as it carries an Islamic confession of faith. Desecration or any other misuse of the flag may result in severe pen alties.
Rule of Law
The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, Islamic law, derived from the Koran and the Sunnah (Traditions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Sharia sources also include Islamic scientific consensus developed after Muhammad's death. Its interpretation by judges in Saudi Arabia is influenced by 18th-century Wahhabism. The only Sharia in the Muslim world was adopted by Saudi Arabia in an uncodified form. This and the lack of judicial precedent has led to uncertainty about the scope and content of Saudi law.
So the government announced its intention to codify Sharia in 2010. January 3, 2018 was reachedprogress in this direction since the publication of a compendium of legal principles and precedents. Sharia was also supplemented by regulations. Nevertheless, Sharia remains the fundamental law of Saudi Arabia, especially in areas such as crime, family, commercial and contract law. Features of land and energy law are due to the fact that a significant part of the property of Saudi Arabia is assigned to the royal family.
Because the Sharia applied by the SA courts is not codified and the judges are not bound by judicial precedent, the scope and content of the law is unclear. A study published by the Albert Shanker Institute and Freedom House criticized a number of aspects of the SA's administration of justice and concluded that the country's "practice" is at odds with Saudi Arabia's concept of the rule of law. The study claims that cuddies (judges) make decisions without due process, and only the most courageous lawyers challenge a cuddy's verdict, and appeals to the king are based on mercy, not justice or innocence.
Sources of law
The Quran is the original source of the law of Saudi Arabia. Muslim countries that accept Sharia usually determine which parts of Sharia are enforceable and codify them. Unlike other Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia regards the uncodified sharia as a whole as the law of the land and does not interfere with it.
In addition, there are such documents in the field of law, which in Saudi Arabia are not included in the lawrelate. Royal decrees (nizam) are the other main source of law, but they are called regulations rather than laws, indicating that they are subject to sharia. They complement Shariah in areas such as labor, commercial and corporate law. In addition, other forms of statutes (laiyah) include Royal Orders, Resolutions of the Council of Ministers, Resolutions of Ministers and Circulars. Any Western commercial laws or institutions are adapted and interpreted in terms of Sharia law.
Criminal pen alties
Criminal pen alties in Saudi Arabia include beheading, hanging, stoning, amputation and flogging. Serious criminal offenses include not only internationally recognized crimes such as murder, rape, theft and robbery, but also apostasy, adultery and witchcraft. At the same time, judges often impose an execution in Saudi Arabia for theft that resulted in the death of the victim. In addition to regular police forces, Saudi Arabia has the Malachite Secret Police and the Mutawa Religious Police.
Western human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the activities of both Malachite and Mutawa, as well as a number of other aspects of human rights in Saudi Arabia. These include the number of executions, the range of crimes subject to the death pen alty, the lack of safeguards for defendants in the criminal justice system, the use of torture, the lack ofreligious freedom and the extreme disadvantage of women.
Crimes subject to the death pen alty in Saudi Arabia:
- Aggravated murder.
- Robbery resulting in death.
- Crimes related to terrorism.
- Drug trafficking.
- There have been death sentences in Saudi Arabia for deaths.
Categories of offenders exempt from the death pen alty:
- Pregnant women.
- Women with small children.
Courts and judiciary
The Sharia court system is the backbone of the SA judiciary. Judges and lawyers form part of the ulema, the country's religious leadership. There are also government tribunals that deal with disputes regarding specific royal decrees and, since 2008, specialized courts, including the Complaints Board and the Specialized Criminal Court. The final appeal from Sharia courts and state tribunals goes to the king. Since 2007, the laws of Saudi Arabia and the pen alties handed down by the courts and tribunals have been implemented in accordance with the rules and procedures of Sharia evidence.
Sharia courts have general jurisdiction over most civil and criminal cases. Cases are de alt with individuallyjudges, with the exception of criminal cases involving a sentence of death, amputation or stoning. In these cases, the case is heard by a panel of three judges. There are also two courts for the Shia minority in the Eastern Province dealing with family and religious matters. Courts of Appeal sit in Mecca and Riyadh and review decisions for compliance with Sharia.
There are also non-Sharia courts covering specialized areas of law, the most important of which is the Board of Complaints. This court was originally set up to hear complaints against the government, but since 2010 has also had jurisdiction over commercial and some criminal cases such as bribery and forgery. It acts as a court of appeal for a number of countries and government tribunals.
The Judiciary is made up of qadis who issue binding rulings on specific court cases, muftis and other members of the Ulema who issue general but highly influential legal opinions (fatwas). The Grand Mufti is the most senior member of the judicial institution, as well as the highest religious authority in the country, and his opinions are very influential in the Saudi judiciary. The judiciary, that is, the body of the qadi, consists of about 700 judges. That's a relatively low number, according to critics, for a country of over 26 million.
Quran, declared by the constitution of Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy, and has no legalobligation to approve a separate basic law. Therefore, in 1992, the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia was adopted by royal decree. It describes the duties and processes of the governing institutions, yet the document is not specific enough to be considered a constitution. The document states that the king must abide by sharia and that the Quran and Sunnah are the country's constitution. The interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah remains essential and this is being done by the Klems, the Saudi religious establishment.
The Basic Law states that the monarchy is the system of government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The rulers of the country must be from among the sons of the founder of King Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud and their descendants. The most honest of them will receive devotion according to the Book of Almighty God and the Sunnah. The government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia derives its authority from the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, shura (consultation) and equality, in accordance with the Islamic Sharia.
The country's first code of criminal procedure was introduced in 2001 and contains provisions borrowed from Egyptian and French law. Human Rights Watch noted in a 2008 report that judges were either unaware of the code of criminal procedure or were aware of it but generally ignored the code. Criminal law is regulated by Sharia and includes three categories: Hudud (fixed punishments of the Qur'an for specific crimes), Qisas (punitive punishments in private) and Tazir - generalcategory.
Hudud crimes include theft, robbery, blasphemy, apostasy and fornication. Kisas' crimes include murder or any crime that involves inflicting bodily harm. Tazir represents the majority of cases, many of which are defined by national regulations such as bribery, human trafficking and drug abuse. The most common punishment for the crime of Tazir is flogging.
Evidence of the parties and the rights of the defendants
Conviction requires proof in one of three ways. The first is unconditional recognition. Alternatively, evidence from two male witnesses or four in the case of adultery is accepted. Women's evidence usually carries half the weight of men in Sharia courts, but women's testimony is generally not allowed in criminal trials. Evidence from non-Muslims or Muslims whose teachings are considered unacceptable, such as Shiites, may also be disregarded. Finally, confirmation or denial of the oath may be required. Taking an oath is taken especially seriously in a religious society such as the SA, and refusing to take an oath will be seen as an admission of guilt leading to condemnation.
With all this, the rights of the accused are systematically violated. Laws and punishments in Saudi Arabia are stalling and falling catastrophically behind the world level due to the fact that there is no criminal code, so there is no way to know what is considered a crime and what is a right. Since 2002, there has been a criminal procedurecode, but it does not include all international standards of the fundamental rights of the accused. For example, the code gives the prosecutor the power to issue arrest warrants and extend pre-trial detention without judicial review. Another example is that statements obtained through torture and other degrading treatment are accepted by the courts.
Responders have few rights. The judicial system is subject to serious international abuses such as arrests without a warrant, degrading treatment during interrogations, prolonged detention, court hearings and even sentencing without prior notice, judicial delays and various obstacles to the collection of evidence. There is no bail in the country and defendants can be held without formal charges, and it is not uncommon for tourists to be executed in Saudi Arabia.
Defendants are prohibited from hiring a lawyer due to intimidating injunctions. To try to address this issue, the Shura Council approved in 2010 the creation of a public defender program. After that, the statement of the accused began to be taken into account, although inequality in society still exists, for example, the testimony of a man is equal to the testimony of two women. Trials are secret, and there is no jury system. During legal proceedings against a foreigner, the presence of foreign representatives of embassies in Saudi Arabia is not allowed. The defendant may appeal the decision to the Department of Justice or, in serious cases, to the Court of Appeal. Death sentences or amputation being consideredby a panel of appeals of five judges. With regard to everything related to death sentences at the discretion of the court, the Council of Surya requires unanimity in the decision of the court of appeal. The King has the final say on all death sentences.
The laws of Saudi Arabia you need to know before you go to the country. Checklist of basic do's and don'ts to ensure a safe ride:
- If a tourist takes medicine with him, you must have a doctor's prescription with you.
- Pork import prohibited.
- Pornographic material or nudity, especially women, is prohibited.
- Electronic devices may be inspected and seized by customs upon arrival and departure.
- Punishment for drug smuggling involves the execution of a person in Saudi Arabia.
- Photographs of government buildings, military installations and palaces are not allowed.
- Photography of local residents is prohibited.
- Binoculars may be confiscated at the port of entry.
- It is forbidden to have 2 passports in Saudi Arabia. Second passports will be confiscated by the immigration authorities.
- Tourist must have a photocopy of their passport for identification.
- Alcohol is prohibited and illegal throughout the country.
- It is recommended to be careful with the local drink "arak". In addition to being illegal, it contains harmful impurities such as methanol.
- Personal use, trafficking or smugglingdrugs in Saudi Arabia are illegal and the punishment is the death pen alty.
Western organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced both the Saudi criminal justice system and its harsh punishments. However, most Saudis reportedly support the system and say it ensures low crime rates.
The Code of Criminal Procedure, introduced in 2002, lacks some basic protections, but as mentioned above, judges ignored them anyway. Those arrested are often not informed of the crime they are accused of, they are not given access to a lawyer, and they are ill-treated and tortured if they do not confess. At trial, there is a presumption of guilt, and the accused does not have the right to examine witnesses and examine evidence or have legal protection. Most trials are held behind closed doors, that is, without the public and the press. The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as beheading, stoning, amputation and flogging, as well as the number of executions, are subject to harsh global criticism. The great concern of international institutions sounds in connection with the low level of women's rights in SA.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, women's rights in Saudi Arabia were limited compared to other countries due to the strict application of Sharia law.
Previously, Saudi laws for women did not allow women to vote or beelected, but in 2011 King Abdullah allowed women to vote in the 2015 local elections. Saudi Arabia had more female university graduates than males in 2011, and the female literacy rate was estimated at 91%, still lower than the male literacy rate. In 2013, the median age at first marriage for Saudi women was 25. In 2017, King Salman ordered that women be allowed access to public services such as education and he althcare without the consent of a guardian. In 2018, a decree was issued allowing women to drive. Thus, the laws of Saudi Arabia for women have been relaxed.
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