Saturday, May 23, 2009

Judicial reforms in the works

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia intends to develop its judicial system by making use of the experiences of the American, British, French, Malaysian and Jordanian legal systems, said Omar Al-Suwailem, director of the project for the development of the judicial system and its facilities.
“We have selected a number of international judicial systems in order to adopt their best practices while formulating the Kingdom’s strategic plan for judicial development,” Al-Madinah Arabic daily quoted Al-Suwailem as saying in its report yesterday.
A plan has been made to develop the Kingdom’s judiciary that envisages allocating a budget for providing justice to individuals; number of judges needed for every 100,000 people; number of officials to assist a judge; average days required to pass judgment on a case and the application of modern technology.
Officials will study the five judicial systems and take into consideration issues such as types of courts, number of judges and reform plans, Al-Suwailem explained.
A team has already conducted a survey of the Kingdom’s existing judicial system to identify shortcomings and make proposals for improvement.
At present, there are 266 Shariah courts in the Kingdom with 1,600 judges, but the country requires more than 4,000 judges. A judge looks into 1,184 cases annually and Saudi courts looked into 691,938 cases in 2007, the paper said.
The project has signed an agreement with KBMG Al-Fouzan and Al-Sadhan Company to provide consultancy services to its technical team. “The company has good experience in developing judicial systems in some countries and some of its experts have good knowledge of the Kingdom's judicial system,” Al-Suwailem said.
Muhammad Al-Nujaimi, professor at the Saudi Higher Institute of Law and member of the American Academy for Shariah Scholars, said many judges in the Kingdom were seeking jobs in other countries due to poor pay and heavy workload.
“Judges are offered high salaries in foreign countries. Working as private legal professionals is also highly lucrative. That is why most legal firms in the Kingdom are run by former judges,” he said.

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