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No return to previous powers of Saudi religious police

JEDDAH: There will be no return to the previous powers of the religious police, which were regulated last year by a Cabinet decree, an expert with in-depth knowledge of Saudi governmental affairs told Arab News.
The source was speaking in response to an inquiry relating to an active hashtag created by some social media users propagating inaccurate news that the religious police’s powers would be restored in full.
“The story is related to a statement attributed to the religious police official spokesperson, Turki Al-Shalil, which said there’s a soon-to-be announced project to improve and enhance the force’s field operation,” the expert said.
“We always knew the religious police field operations required improvement and enhancement. There’s nothing new there as the guidelines that were announced last year were targeted to end the violations and curb the powers of this body so they revert to their original brief of guiding and assisting people, not arresting or interrogating them, which isn’t their responsibility,” he added.
“More importantly, the religious police reform and governing guidelines were announced last year by a Cabinet decree, and anyone who knows anything about how governments work will tell you that a Cabinet decree can only be undone by another Cabinet decree, and there have been no such new decrees announced.”
In April last year, the government barred the religious police from pursuing suspects or making arrests.
“Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or the religious police, will not be allowed to pursue, question, request identification from, or arrest, suspects,” said a Cabinet statement in April last year.
“Members must instead report suspected crimes to the police or drug authorities, who will carry out law enforcement actions. Members are now also required to show identity cards while carrying out official duties,” the statement said.

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