Sa'udi Arabia - Judicial system



The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power of pardon; access to the king and the right to petition him are well-established traditions. The judiciary consists of lower courts that handle misdemeanors and minor civil cases; high courts of Islamic law ( Shari'ah ); and courts of appeal. Islamic law of the Hanbali school prevails in Sa'udi Arabia, but justice is also based on tribal and customary law. Capital and corporal punishment are permitted; a 12-member Supreme Council of Justice reviews all sentences of execution, cutting, or stoning. A separate military justice system exercises jurisdiction over uniformed personnel and civilian government authorities.

There is no written constitution. The Justice Ministry is responsible for appointment and promotion of judges, who are confirmed by the Royal Court (Royal Diwan). Judges may be removed only by the Supreme Council of Justice or by royal decree. Although independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by law, courts are subject to the influence of royal family members. At the provincial level, governors also reportedly exercise influence over local judges.

Shari'ah summary courts have jurisdiction over common criminal cases and civil suits regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. While summary courts try cases involving small penalties, more serious crimes go to the Shari'ah courts of common pleas. Appeals from both courts are heard by the appeals courts in Mecca and Riyadh. There is also a court of cassation, as well as administrative tribunals that deal with the proceedings involving claims against the government and enforcement of foreign judgments.

The military tribunals have jurisdiction over military personnel and civil servants charged with violation of military regulations.

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