Saudi Arabia: Access to justice for children

This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.

Saudi Arabia has ratified the CRC, but has entered a general reservation to the Convention insofar as it conflicts with Islamic Shari’ah law. The primary source of law in Saudi Arabia is  Shari’ah law and if there is a conflict between Shari’ah law and enacted legislation, Shari’ah law prevails. The CRC therefore does not take precedence over national laws. Children may bring personal status claims as well as private prosecutions in court only through their representatives, but courts can appoint a legal representative if the child was abused by his or her representative. Constitutional challenges are not possible as there are no legal provisions which would allow for judicial review proceedings and no constitutional court where individual claimants could bring constitutional complaints. Children face many further obstacles to access to justice in Saudi Arabia: the age of majority is subject to the judges' absolute discretion, remedies for human rights violations and relief from government abuses of power are not available, collective action or group litigation is not possible, and free or subsidised legal aid is not recognised. Non-governmental organisations are generally restricted from taking part in the judicial process and the judiciary is not independent as it has to coordinate its decisions with the executive branch.

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Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.