Cautious Reforms in Saudi Arabia

28-05-2013

While a number of recent 'firsts' have suggested that Saudi Arabia may be open to reform, particularly for women, the reforms have not altered the basic structure of the Saudi legal and administrative system. Saudi Arabia traditional position of leadership within the Islamic and Arab worlds is being seriously challenged. The judicial system is configured to maintain the status quo. Shari'a (Islamic law) is applied by ultraconservative religious leaders, slowing down efforts to reform Saudi society. Saudi Arabian judges apply shari'a (Islamic law) based on their individual interpretations. The judicial system lacks basic safeguards of fairness. Ignoring international and EU condemnation, Saudi Arabia has continued to execute criminals, including minors, for a wide range of offences. In Saudi Arabia, all women are subordinated to a male guardian. They face discrimination and lack of protection. It is important to maintain intensive political dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a wide range of issues, including the country's adherence to universally recognised human rights.

While a number of recent 'firsts' have suggested that Saudi Arabia may be open to reform, particularly for women, the reforms have not altered the basic structure of the Saudi legal and administrative system. Saudi Arabia traditional position of leadership within the Islamic and Arab worlds is being seriously challenged. The judicial system is configured to maintain the status quo. Shari'a (Islamic law) is applied by ultraconservative religious leaders, slowing down efforts to reform Saudi society. Saudi Arabian judges apply shari'a (Islamic law) based on their individual interpretations. The judicial system lacks basic safeguards of fairness. Ignoring international and EU condemnation, Saudi Arabia has continued to execute criminals, including minors, for a wide range of offences. In Saudi Arabia, all women are subordinated to a male guardian. They face discrimination and lack of protection. It is important to maintain intensive political dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a wide range of issues, including the country's adherence to universally recognised human rights.