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Legal Proceedings In Saudi Arabia

By Author: Hejailanlaw Firm
Total Articles: 3

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was created on September 23rd 1932, and from the very beginning the government ruled that it would govern according to the rule of Sharia law. The basic principles of Sharia law were laid down between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. Islamic law continues to evolve even now, but there is no codified set of rules and no system of judicial precedent.

This means that when deciding a case according to Islamic law, judges look to the writings of jurists that they regard as authoritative. In the Sunni tradition there are several schools of Islamic law, and the one that applies in Saudi Arabia is the Hanbali school. The texts that Saudi jurists consider to be authoritative were compiled between the 13th and 17th centuries and as a result these take no account of many of the problems that arise today. Obviously, these were long before the Industrial Revolution.

Under Islamic law the government can issue “regulations” as opposed to “laws”. However, to some extent the government’ hands are tied because no legislation can conflict with established Islamic law principles. Theoretically, Islamic law is meant to cover everything, but because the principles go back so many centuries it cannot do so. Therefore, in practice, in many areas government legislation is the only law. However, where the subject is covered by Islamic law the government tends not to legislate. This means that in some areas there is no government legislation at all, such as in the area of contract law for instance.

There are two different types of courts in Saudi Arabia. The Sharia Courts deal with all criminal proceedings and all civil cases other than some which are specifically allocated to specialist tribunals. The most important of the latter is the Board of Grievances. This deals with most categories of commercial and company disputes, and also any disputes involving the government or government agencies. The Board of Grievances is divided into a number of circuits covering various areas, such as the Commercial Circuits which deal with company and commercial disputes. There are other specialist tribunals which cover specific areas such as banking, insurance, securities, and labour disputes for instance.

Proceedings in Saudi courts are by nature inquisitorial. This means that very often a judge will raise a question during the proceedings that has not been mentioned by either side, and it is also not uncommon for a judge to commence new lines of enquiry after the submissions of both sides from legal counsel in Saudi Arabia have been closed.


Proceedings Are Not Open To The Public

The Civil Procedure Rules of both the Sharia Courts and the Board of Grievances state that court proceedings are open to the public, but in practice this is not the case. Judges only allow the parties to a lawsuit and their lawyers to enter the courtroom, so the proceedings are not reported, and the court’s records are not open to the public. There are no court fees in the KSA and the courts do not usually award any costs to the successful party. On a few rare occasions this has happened, but the amounts awarded were small and well below the cost of employing legal services in Saudi Arabia.

Any claimant in the Saudi courts can issue a lawsuit without having first sent a formal demand letter. However, in cases where the defendant is a public authority a claim must first be filed with that authority and a lawsuit can only be issued if the claim has not been rejected and a period of 60 days has passed without any response. If a defendant is summoned to appear before the court and fails to do so, the claimant can apply to have the defendant brought before the court by the police. If it is not possible to do this a default judgment will be entered.

The types of remedies available to a successful claimant under Saudi law are limited. In general, they are the right to rescind a contract, and restitution, or damages for actual tangible losses. There is no method of obtaining damages for loss of future income and profits, or for damages to the claimant’s reputation.

The Law Firm of Salah Al-Hejailan is a full-service 35 + lawyer firm with a total of over 60 staff in offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar. It is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Saudi Arabia.

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