Overview of the Saudi Judiciary:
Since its inception by King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia has been keen to uphold citizens’ rights. In order to realize the principle of justice, the Kingdom made numerous efforts, established several courts that adjudicated -- according to Islamic law -- all civil, criminal, commercial, and family cases, and provided litigants with all judicial guarantees at all levels. The courts were distributed throughout the Kingdom so that everyone could have easy and convenient access to justice services.
King Abdul-Aziz laid a sound foundation for the judiciary according to Islamic law. After the unification of the Kingdom, a single judicial presidency was established in Makkah, the Western Region, on 24/7/1344 A.H. (7/2/1962) to supervise the courts of Hijaz and its dependencies, whereas single judges assumed their roles in major cities of Najd and its dependencies by considering all cases in their cities and surrounding villages. On 21/2/1346 A.H. (20/8/1927), a royal decree established courts in Hijaz at three levels:
- 1- Summary courts
- 2- Major courts, and annex courts. (Both types are general courts.)
- 3- Judicial control body (appellate court). The decree stated the jurisdiction.
In addition to these courts, there was a type of special court called the Commercial Council. This dealt with commercial and maritime disputes. In 1375 A.H. (1955), two presidencies of judicial panels were established as follows: The Judicial Presidency in the Western Region, also overseeing the Northern, Asir, and Jazan Regions. The Judicial Scrutiny Commission, as well as several courts and notarial panels, were affiliated with it.
The Judicial Presidency in the Central Region, also overseeing the Eastern Region, Ha’il and its dependencies, in addition to several courts and notarial panels. On 18/10/1379 A.H. (15/4/1960), they were unified into a single judicial presidency based in Riyadh as the sole authority supervising the judiciary, including the Judicial Presidency in the Western Region as a branch. In 1381 A.H. (1961) an independent appellate court was created in Riyadh, with a branch in Makkah.
In 1382 A.H. a royal decree established the Ministry of Justice to oversee courts and meet their financial and administrative needs. The Ministry started its functions in 1390 A.H.
At the end of 1389 A.H. (1970) a judicial body known as the Supreme Judicial Commission was formed, coinciding with the time the Ministry of Justice started its work in 1390 A.H. (1970). This commission was the basis for the Supreme Judicial Council established in 1395 A.H. (1975) under the Law of the Judiciary. The council consisted of two bodies (a permanent body and a plenary body). Article 5 of the Law of the Judiciary of 1395 A.H. stated judicial hierarchy as follows:
- 1- The Supreme Judicial Council.
- 2- The Court of Cassation.
- 3- General and summary courts.
In 1428 A.H. the new Law of the Judiciary was issued by the royal decree No. M/78 dated 19/9/1428 A.H. The law introduced major additions that restructured the judiciary. It also established the Supreme Court, appellate courts, and special first instance courts.
Ministers of Justice