Saudi Arabia: New law will end male dominance in Saudi courts

Arab News

Saudi Arabia's justice minister says his department is drafting a law that would allow female lawyers to argue legal cases in court for the first time. Mohammed Al-Eissa told reporters on Saturday the bill will be issued in the coming days as part of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s “plan to develop the justice system.” The law would mark a major step for female lawyers in the Kingdom. Currently, women law graduates can work in government offices and in court offices, but cannot argue cases before court. Under the new law, women would be allowed to argue cases on child custody, divorce and other family-related issues.

The proposed new law to be issued by the Ministry of Justice would also allow Saudi women to complete certain procedures with notaries without presenting any witnesses.

“In accordance with the new law, women will be able to complete their preliminary procedures with notaries by just presenting their IDs,” said Osama Al-Mirdas, assistant deputy minister of justice for documents.

He said women would be able to complete judicial procedures for registration of properties, housing plans, merging of real estate properties of different persons or classification of property ownership, by just presenting their IDs. “They can also use IDs for mortgaging real estate at nongovernmental funds and for authorizing corporate contracts, sponsorship and gifts.” Al-Mirdas said the new regulations were planned in order to facilitate judicial procedures and break the routine barriers that obstruct women from approaching notaries. “Non-Saudis also need not bring any friends or relatives as witnesses for the endorsement of power of attorney and they can get the work done by just showing their IDs,” he said. However, non-Saudi women should bring at least one person — a close relative — as a witness, along with her ID.

Al-Mirdas said cases of suspending property ownership and prevention of power of attorneys would be monitored through the Ministry’s computer system and the notaries would not be able to complete procedures related to property registration or power of attorney for persons who are blacklisted.

“The ministry will also publish a format for powers of attorney on its website in order to help people to prepare their applications on that basis before presenting them to notaries. We have also updated the guidelines for judicial procedures for distribution,” he said.

The ministry has also introduced a new documentation system in tune with the systems followed in advanced countries, he said, adding that it had reduced the burden of courts.

“The new procedures are aimed at reducing the burden of those who approach judicial authorities to get their works done and speed up things without affecting the correctness of documents and soundness of procedures. They also aim at realizing justice and protecting the rights of people,” Al-Mirdas said.

Arab News - 21 February, 2010