Saudi King Abdullah issued a royal decree outlining regulations to implement the October 2006 succession law aimed at ensuring a smooth transition of power. The succession law created a committee, to be comprised of sons and grandsons of Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the Kingdom’s founder, to select crown princes, thus future kings. The new rules will not apply to succession after King Abdullah, who has already chosen Prince Sultan al-Saud to follow him. Succession in the past has been decided by a small group of powerful royals; the new procedures aim to broaden the process. 

The Saudi King announced on October 3 a comprehensive overhaul of the Kingdom’s legal system. The King issued a number of new laws regulating the judiciary and the Board of Grievances and allocated seven billion Saudi riyals (approx. $2 billion) for the planned reforms. The new rules, which emphasize the independence of judges, set up a supreme court whose main functions will be to oversee the implementation sharia as well as laws issued by the king, commercial courts, labor courts, personal status courts, and a fund for training judges. The Board of Grievances will continue to handle administrative disputes involving government departments. Currently, justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts, and judges have wide discretion to issue rulings according to their own interpretation of Islamic sharia. Click here for more information.

Over 1,100 Saudi activists, men and women, petitioned Saudi King Abdullah on September 23 to lift a ban on driving for women. The petition, submitted on Saudi Arabia’s National Day, is the brainchild of four activists (Fawzia al-Ayouni, Wajiha al-Huwaider, Ibtihal Mubarak, and Haifa Usra) who established the Committee for Women’s Rights to Drive. This petition marks the second major effort by women to break the ban on driving. In November 1990, a group of forty-seven women defied the ban in Riyadh, only to be rounded up by police. The following year, a fatwa was issued by then-mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz prohibiting women from driving. Click here to view the petition in Arabic.

Lawyer Isam Basrawi, one of nine advocates of an Islam-based constitutional monarchy, was released from prison on September 22 after being held without trial for more than seven months. His release came after a September 13 petition to King Abdullah signed by 135 activists calling for the nine detainees (who include lawyers, university professors, and businessmen) to be freed or tried publicly. The interior ministry attributed their arrest to alleged involvement in terror funding. Click here for more information.