Saudi Arabia’s legal system is completely based on Sharia Law. Islamic scholars developed the Islamic scholarly consensus, which is a source of Sharia Law,for both criminal and civil cases such as the criminal, family, commercial, and contract law. Its interpretation is done by judges influenced by the medieval texts of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. At the top of the legal system is the King, who acts as the final court of appeal and as a source of pardon.
In 1970, there was around 300 courts in Saudi Arabia, which made King Faisal to establish the ministry of justice in order to administrate them. The minister of justice, appointed by the king was the chief justice who was assisted by the Supreme Judicial Council. The Supreme Judicial Council was responsible for the following:
Supervising the work of the courts.
Reviewing all legal decisions referred to it by the minister of justice.
Expressing legal opinions on judicial questions.
Approving all sentences of death.
In April 2005, a royal order approved in principle a plan to reorganize the judicial system. On October 1, 2007, a royal order approved the new system. Changes include the establishment of a Supreme Court and special commercial, labor and administrative courts.
The founded of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz, created the current court system and it consists of three main parts:
The largest is the Shari’ah Courts: hear most cases in the Saudi legal system. The Sharia courts are organized into several categories: Courts of the First Instance, Courts of Cassation, and the Supreme Judicial Council.
The Board of Grievances: hears cases that involve the government.
Various committees within government ministries: address specific disputes, such as labor issues.
In 1993, Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) was introduced by King Fahd. It had 61 appointed members. In 1996, it was increased to 90 members. Decisions or suggestions from the Majlis are first sent to the Council of Ministers for review, and then to the King for his approval.
Saudi Arabia does not have a formal constitution. The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia is a constitution-like charter divided into nine chapters, consisting of 83 articles. It is in accordance with Quran and Sunnah, and does not override Islamic Laws.
Article 1 of the Constitution:
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution, Arabic is its language and Riyadh is its capital.
The state’s public holidays are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Its calendar is the Hegira calendar.
The state’s flag shall be as follows:
(a) It shall be green.
(b) Its width shall be equal to two-thirds of its length.
(c) The words “There is but one God and Mohammed is His Prophet” shall be inscribed in the center with a drawn sword under it. The statute shall define the rules pertaining to it.
The state’s emblem shall consist of two crossed swords with a palm tree in the upper space between them. The statute shall define the state’s anthem and its medals.
The authorities of the state consist of the following:
– the judicial authority;
– the executive authority;
– the regulatory authority.
These authorities cooperate with each other in the performance of their duties, in accordance with this and other laws. The King shall be the point of reference for all these authorities.