07/23/2008, 00.00
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Riyadh considers written laws for use in Islamic tribunals

Currently the judges have tremendous latitude, which sometimes leads to bewildering verdicts. Now the council of ministers announces a special commission that will report to the king.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - It could be almost a revolution for the Saudi justice system: the council of ministers has announced that it will create a special commission charged with formulating new written norms that must be used as the basis of verdicts in the courts that operate on the basis of sharia, the Islamic law.

The commission, according to a report in Asharq Al-Awsat, would enact laws on financial transactions, civil status, and the penal code. Currently the judicial system is based on the Hanbali school of thought, and leaves the judges with significant discretionary powers - except in the case of punishments or the death penalty - and those who criticize the situation say that on a single question, no two verdicts are the same. Some of the courtroom decisions, especially in the provinces, have caused astonishment and international condemnation.

The decision to institute the commission, if it moves forward, will take place in the context of the announcement of reforms of the judicial system, promoted by King Abdullah. Composed of experts, it must be independent and must respond directly to the king, shielding it from any sort of pressure. The norms that it issues must be based not only on the Hanbali school of thought, but also on three other principles: Maliki, Shafei, and Hanafi. The new system should also provide for the institution of a supreme court.

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