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Reform and the Will to Change… Towards a State of Laws and Institutions

Reform and the Will to Change… Towards a State of Laws and Institutions

Saturday, 13 February, 2021 - 12:45

In order to understand the changes, transformations and decisions, taking place in Saudi Arabia, we must avoid linking them to their timing, the nature of the stage we are in, or the degree to which society is ready to accept and embrace them. Indeed, these issues now go far beyond all of these considerations because they are not luxuries any longer; they are necessary for the state and society. In other words, the matter concerns the strategic vision of the decision-maker, who is actualizing it in accordance with a timetable for goals’ realization and in line his people’s interests and aspirations.

This process starts with the swift steps being taken to entrench a civil state since Prince Mohammad bin Salman became the crown prince, steps based on his considering that reform and development are two pressing needs that have become requirements of contemporary life and requisites to arriving at a better place regarding humanitarian and social issues.

Whenever it comes to Saudi Arabia, I find lavish praise or foul criticism, and what we aspire to is relative objectivity and communicating the raw reality of the situation. Neutral observers can see that the steps Saudi Arabia is taking today compel reflection, examination and admiration.

With the process it is undergoing today, Saudi Arabia is emphasizing that the reality on the ground is changing and that it is taking the path of reform, radical solutions and naming issues explicitly. Countries cannot rise and develop without a contemporary civilized vision and a modernization of their thought and behavior. For their contents determine whether societies progress or lag behind.

Saudi Arabia had been accused of being closed in on itself in earlier stages, and it paid a price because of the influence puritanical ideology had had in the country. Nevertheless, it managed, in a historical moment, during King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s reign, to break free from its shackles and take the path of progress, development and alignment with novel realities, with this now becoming the climate it lives in.

Among the indications of this extraordinary transformation in thought, planning and decision-making, is the manner in which critical and sensitive issues have been dealt with. For example, “years ago, what was known as the initiative to codify judicial verdicts was drafted.” After examination - as the Crown Prince has said - it became clear that it “does not meet society’s needs and aspirations.” Thus, “I decided to prepare initiatives for four regulatory systems, Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Penal Code for Discretionary Sentences and the Law of Evidence. These initiatives took the latest legal developments and modern international judicial practices into consideration, in a manner that does not contradict Islamic law’s provisions and accounts for the Kingdom’s obligations to international charters and agreements that it had joined.”

In my assessment, these decisions are historic, courageous and courageous, and they would not have been launched and progressed swiftly and systematically if Crown Prince Mohammad hadn’t been behind them.

It is obvious that Saudi Arabia is determined to develop its judicial apparatus and environment and reform the laws, which the Crown Prince had said “preserves rights, entrenches the principles of justice and transparency, safeguards human rights, facilitates comprehensive development, and enhances the Kingdom’s global competitiveness by establishing institutional, objective, clear and precise references.”

These are undoubtedly steps in the right direction and are aligned with the concept of globalization, rendering Saudi Arabia among the modern contemporary states, as it is benefiting from its accumulated knowledge and others’ experiences. Experts are aware of the significance of these laws, their dimensions, impact and implications, as well as the decisive and positive way in which they will reflect on society, socially, economically and from a legal rights perspective. Because of my legal studies at university and my membership in the Public Prosecution Bureau, the Human Rights Commission and the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, I can say that my country needed to prepare and study these legislations so they could be implemented, as they close significant gaps and push towards the consolidation of the concept of a state of institutions and laws.

The controversy of the discrepancy in court ruling, long judicial waiting period and the absence of a clear legislative framework for individuals and the business and construction sectors will become a thing of the past once these laws are issued. As the Crown Prince has said, they will contribute to “curbing individual discretion in the issuance of verdicts, improve standards of integrity, merit and performance of judicial agencies, and the reliability of oversight procedures and mechanisms.”

These are crucial laws that safeguard human rights and close the door to inconsistency of discretionary punishments. Sentences will only be issued per legal articles found in the penal code, and punishment will be limited to that stipulated by the code; the courts’ only role will become to implement the code.

The Code for Discretionary Sentences means that no punishments can be issued if it is not stipulated by the code, which is an advanced enhancement of the criminal justice system that entrenches judicial safeguards and is consistent with legal regulations and international judicial principles. The Personal Status Law fortifies women’s empowerment and their ability to attain rights and strengthens children’s rights, as it sets a minimum age for marriage, closing the door to the underage marriages of the past. History will write these courageous decisions that contribute to the protection of human dignity with gold.

With its constant movement, our country is confronting challenges, and the Crown Prince has developed the state’s apparatuses from the roots and created a structural, administrative revolution that focused on economic, investment and developmental sectors. Today, the judicial environment is being addressed through reform and development. The political executive is dead set on taking the path of reform. This is how states are run, with sound planning for a regular life. Even the most optimistic and idealistic of people couldn’t have fathomed these reforms and the transformation of their lives, developments that had been dreams and fantasies in the past.

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