To many, the functioning of Saudi courts is a complete mystery because of a lack of published cases. This has all changed because the Board of Grievances has now started publishing its judgments.
This is part of a move for greater transparency in the Saudi legal system. In most other countries, judgments are published regularly so that lawyers and non-lawyers can get an understanding of how the courts function.
Hamam Kadi from Hatem Ghazawi & Partners believes that “government policy in general has become more transparent.” People have the “freedom to share information without government censorship,” said Kadi.
“Publishing the factual information is better than having everyone speculate and produce inaccurate details. In general, the board’s judgments are solid, and it is better published.”
The Board of Grievances is a specialist court comprising the administrative court, which hears claims against the government; and commercial circuits, which hears business disputes. The first batch of judgments which have been published on the Board of Grievances website at jobs.bog.gov.sa/BogRules/ were all issued in 2007.
Over 600 judgments have been published so far. On the administrative side there are cases dealing with civil servants’ employment disputes, government contracts and complaints against administrative decisions. The commercial judgments deal with agency disputes, companies, construction agreements and sales, among others. There are also a number of criminal cases including abuse of power, bribery and forgery.
Many of the judgments make fascinating reading, even to non-lawyers. The greatest surprise to someone new to Saudi judicial proceedings must be the quality of the judgments and the impartiality of the courts. One can only wonder why it has taken so long for these judgments to be made public, since they are a great advertisement for the Saudi legal system.
One major problem facing people dealing with courts is that the circuit staff are not qualified. They don’t have enough legal knowledge, and most of them don’t know how to use a computer.
Enforcing judgments used to be exhausting, but after the Enforcement Implementing Rules was enacted this year, things are looking better. “In all fairness, I believe that the Board of Grievances is a competent court,” says Kadi.
The judgments of the Shariah Courts are due to be published also. This is welcome news to anyone who wants to know how the Saudi legal system functions.