Ibrahim Almanaa


Omar Alsunaidi

Senior Associate

The Judiciary in Saudi Arabia

Published on
October 2, 2023
Updated on
October 2, 2023
Read time
5 mins

In accordance with the concepts embraced by every legal system and the sources from which it derives its provisions, these systems can generally be divided into two main legal systems, as commonly recognized in comparative law:

  1. The Anglo-Saxon system relies on unwritten law and judicial precedents as its primary legal sources. This system emphasizes the concept of a unified judiciary, founded on principles of equality and the equal treatment of both government authorities and individuals under a single standard of law.
  2. The Roman Civil legal system relies on written law and legislation, particularly as the primary source of law. It follows the concept of a dual judiciary, where the general judiciary resolves disputes among individuals, and the administrative judiciary resolves disputes between individuals and the government as a public authority.

The judiciary in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, in general, embraced the concept of a dual judiciary, similar to the Roman Civil system. This article will discuss the general judiciary and the administrative judiciary in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Criminal Court - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Sara Alissa & Nojoud Alsudairi.

The General Judiciary

The general judiciary in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has undergone various stages of development since its inception. However, a significant milestone that cannot be overlooked is the date of October 1, 2007, when the Judiciary Law was enacted. This law introduced key advancements in judicial authority, including the establishment of different stages of proceedings and the creation of specialized courts, mirroring practices seen in many other countries.

Stages of Proceedings

The Judiciary Law introduced a reorganization of the judicial hierarchy, dividing it into two levels: Courts of First Instance and Courts of Appeal. These two tiers are aimed at reinforcing judicial guarantees granted to all parties involved in a case without distinction based on citizenship or any other criteria. This ensures that the legal rights of all parties are exhausted before each court, culminating in a final judgment.

It is noteworthy that the issuance of a judgment by the Court of Appeal serves as the final judgment, concluding the proceedings of the case, without infringing upon the right of any party to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.

Regarding the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, it serves as a court of law that oversees the correct application of laws without delving into the substantive aspects of the case. It acts as a Court of Cassation and only deals with specific types of cases defined by law, where the Supreme Court is tasked with rendering judgments.

Specialized Courts

One of the key developments introduced by Judiciary Law is the establishment of specialized courts. Within the Courts of First Instance, we find:

  • Criminal Court
  • Personal Status Court
  • Commercial Court
  • Labor Court
  • General Court

These courts have jurisdiction over cases specified by the Judiciary Law and subsequent laws, such as the Law of Procedures, the Criminal Procedure Law, and the Commercial Courts Law. Upon the issuance of a final judgment in all cases, the Execution Court takes responsibility for enforcing the judgment.

It's worth noting that the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are also organized into specialized circuits similar to the Courts of First Instance and deal with the substantive aspects of the cases.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Ali Hassanien.

Administrative Judiciary

The Administrative Judiciary, known as Board of Grievances in Saudi Arabia, is a relatively recent addition to the judicial system compared to the General Judiciary. The concept of the Administrative Judiciary as an independent judicial entity began on May 10, 1982, with the issuance of royal decrees declaring it as such and the enactment of the Board of Grievances Law. This was followed by a new law for Board of Grievances on the same date as the Judiciary Law on October 1, 2007.

One of the primary functions of the Administrative Judiciary is the oversight of governmental actions, ensuring the legality of administrative decisions. It has the authority to annul decisions that violate the principle of legality and provide compensation for damages when applicable. This serves as a judicial safeguard for individuals facing arbitrary actions by government authorities. Additionally, the Administrative Judiciary has jurisdiction over disputes related to contracts in which the government is a party, disciplinary actions brought by relevant authorities, and other matters specified in the Board of Grievances Law and the procedural rules governing proceedings before Board of Grievances.

The hierarchy within the Administrative Judiciary mirrors that of the General Judiciary. It comprises the following levels: Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, and Administrative Supreme Court.

Criminal Court - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Sara Alissa & Nojoud Alsudairi.

Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Committees

These committees refers to teams of specialists tasked with reviewing and adjudicating cases related to disciplinary matters, penalties, or specific civil and commercial disputes governed by established regulations or decisions. These committees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are divided into two categories:

Judicial Committees

These committees are responsible for making definitive decisions in certain disputes. Their decisions are binding and cannot be further contested before any other entity, including the regular courts. Judicial committees include Securities Disputes Resolution Committees and Committees for Banking and Financial Disputes and Violations. These judicial committees operate at two levels: the First Instance Committees and the Appellate Committees.

Quasi-Judicial Committees

These committees have the authority to decide certain disputes, but their decisions may be subject to appeal to the Board of Grievances (Administrative Judiciary). In general, these committees can be characterized as administrative committees overseen by the Board of Grievances (Administrative Judiciary), and individuals have the right to appeal to the Board of Grievances regarding the outcomes of these committees.

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Oct 02, 2023