Empty Reforms

Saudi Arabia’s New Basic Laws

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On March 1, 1992, King Fahd ibn Abdel-Aziz issued three major laws: the Basic Law of Government, the Consultative Council Law and the Law of Provinces. The first formalizes several aspects of the constitutional framework of the country; the second replaces the existing council, established in 1926, with a new council to be appointed by the king within six months; and the third aims at regulating the relationship between central government agencies and regional governors, replacing a 1963 law that was never implemented. While these laws constitute significant steps toward codifying the largely unwritten legal system of the country, they fall far short of internationally recognized standards in their treatment of civil and political rights. Disappointingly, the final products are far below expectations, and Empty Reforms explains and analyzes each.