BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates

The Judicial system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Judicial system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

March, 2017
1. Please give an overview of the legal system in your jurisdiction (i.e. is this based on civil/common law/Shariah/local customary law), the Court structure (e.g. are there separate court for specialist claims), judiciary and legal representation.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the “Kingdom”) is an Islamic monarchy that was established as a state on 23 September 1932 G. From its very beginning, the founders of the Kingdom have made it amply clear that its system of government is based on and regulated by the principles of Shariah law, which refers to the body of moral, religious, social and legal precepts found in the Holy Quran, the teachings of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) (the Sunnah) and the various interpretations given to these teachings by Islamic scholars over centuries.

The primacy of Shariah was formally reflected in the Kingdom’s Basic Law of Government which was enacted by Royal Decree No. A/90 of 27 Shaaban 1412 H (corresponding to 1 March 1992). Indeed, Article 7 of the Basic Law of Government provides that “the powers to rule the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emanate from the Book of God and the Sunna of his Messenger, both of which prevail over this and all other laws of the state”. Likewise, Article 23 of the Basic law of Government stipulates that “the state shall protect the Islamic faith and shall cater to the application of Shariah.”

The influence of Shariah may be felt in almost every aspect of a Saudi citizen’s life from his social interactions, his family matters, his financial and commercial dealings, to his frequent dealings with the various governmental departments and agencies.

As far as the legal and judicial systems are concerned, the impact of Shariah manifests itself in the fact that no legislation (referred to as “regulations” rather than “laws”) shall be deemed lawful if it violates a principle of Shariah. Likewise, a contractual provision that breaches Shariah (such as a clause providing for the charging of interest) shall be deemed null and void and may not be enforced. Although contractual freedom is recognized, it is subject to the caveat that any contractual provisions that violate Shariah, shall not be recognized and enforced by Saudi courts notwithstanding the parties’ agreement to the contrary.

Decisions rendered by Saudi courts do not establish binding precedents and the principle of stare decisis is not recognized in the Kingdom. Consequently, there is no guarantee that a matter that has been adjudicated in a certain matter by a given court will be adjudicated in the same way by the same or another court as judges will decide the case based on their own interpretation of Shariah. Article 48 of the Basic Law of Government obliges the courts to “…apply the rules of Shariah in the cases that are brought before them, in accordance with the precepts contained in the Quran and the Sunnah, and regulations decreed by the ruler which do not contradict the Quran and the Sunnah…”.

It should be noted that from the four schools of interpretation of Shariah, the Kingdom has shown a marked preference for the Hanbali school which is the dominant source of interpretation of Shariah in the Kingdom.

Since Shariah could not cater to all aspects of human activities and in order to keep up with modern life developments and requirements, the Saudi government has enacted various regulations (often based on best international practice) dealing with such matters as mutual insurance, banking, foreign investment, capital markets, companies’ formation and governance, commercial agencies and franchising, leasing etc…

Court structure and judicial hierarchy

There are two types of courts in the Kingdom. The Shariah courts which are the courts of general jurisdiction and several statutory tribunals which look into subject-matter specific cases.

1.1 The Shariah Courts

Courts of Appeal

Courts of appeal have jurisdiction over criminal, personal status and other matters. There are currently two courts of appeal one located in Makkah which hears appeals from decisions of the lower courts in the western provinces and the other in Riyadh which hears appeals from decisions of lower courts in the central and eastern provinces. Despite their designation, these courts are not appellate courts in the technical sense as they do not examine the cases on the merits but rather refer them back to the same or different lower courts for re-trial.

Courts of First Instance (general and summary courts)

The general courts have jurisdiction over death penalty and other serious criminal matters, as well as civil cases while summary courts have jurisdiction over certain criminal matters relating to Had crimes (fixed punishments set down in the Quran), Tazir crimes (crimes established by regulations) cases for monetary damages and compensation for crimes as well as civil cases involving smaller amounts of money.

1.2 Board of Grievances

The Board of Grievances was established in 1982 by Royal Decree No. M/51 (1) and its jurisdiction originally encompassed cases involving the government and governmental entities and was perceived as a supreme administrative court adjudicating government contractual and other administrative disputes.

In addition to its administrative functions, the Board of Grievances was also entrusted with granting the Exequatur to foreign judgments and arbitral awards and oversee their enforcement. In 1987, a resolution of the Council of Ministers entrusted the Board of Grievances with the task of settling certain commercial disputes (2).

The Board of Grievances is based in Riyadh and has branches in Jeddah, Dammam and Abha.

The Board of Grievances is divided into a number of specialized circuits (e.g. the commercial circuit which is specialized in cases involving commercial and company related disputes).

Specialized Courts and Tribunals

In addition to the Shariah and statutory courts, there are several specialized courts and tribunals which have jurisdiction over certain specific subject-matter cases. Some of the most important include:
-The Committee for Banking Disputes;
-The Committee for the Settlement of labor Disputes (which is an emanation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs);
-The Committee for the Settlement of Insurance Disputes (which is an emanation of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency);
-The Committee for the Settlement of Securities’ Disputes (which falls under the control and authority of the Saudi Capital Markets’ Authority).
(1) Article 1 of Royal Decree No. M/51 dated 17/7/1402 H (corresponding to 11 May 1982);
(2) Resolution of Council of Ministers No. 241, dated 26/10/1407 H (corresponding to 23 June 1987 G).

A major reform of the Saudi judicial system was initiated by late King Abdullah who issued on 1 October 2007 G a Royal Decree (3) that, among other things, provides for the establishment of a new Supreme Court and the replacement of the existing courts of appeal by new courts of appeal seated in the different provinces of the Kingdom. These new courts of appeal will have several circuits dealing with labor, criminal, commercial and other specialized areas of the law. The contemplated reform (which has yet to be implemented) will also see the establishment of several first instance courts in various parts of the Kingdom which will deal with criminal, personal status, commercial and labor matters. It should be finally noted that, as part of the reform, a commercial court will be formed to hear commercial matters now handled by the Board of Grievances.

A new law reforming the Board of Grievances has been enacted but is yet to be implemented. As a result of the contemplated reform, the Board is to have a narrower jurisdiction covering matters involving the government. Furthermore, a commercial court will be established to examine commercial matters now falling within the jurisdiction of the Board of Grievances.

Civil procedure rules

The procedure before the Shariah courts are governed by the Law of Procedure before the Shariah Courts (“LPC”) (4) while the procedure before the Board of Grievances is set out in the Procedural Rules before the Board of Grievances (5).

Legal representation

Typically, a litigant will be represented by a Saudi licensed and registered lawyer (6). Self-representation, especially for foreign litigants, is limited by the fact that court proceedings are conducted in Arabic and oral testimony as well as documentary evidence must be submitted in Arabic. Practically, it is also advisable for a foreign litigant to enroll a Saudi lawyer who is in a better position to navigate through the intricacies of the Saudi legal and judicial systems.
(3) Royal Decree No. M/78, dated 1 October 2007.

(4) Royal Decree No. M/21, dated 19 August 2000.

(5) Council of Ministers Resolution No. 190, dated 19 June 1989.
(6) Articles 1,3 and 18 of the Code of Law Practice, issued by Royal Decree No. M/38, dated 15 October 2001.

2. Please set out the arbitration conventions ratified by your state, and any local arbitration centres. What are the relevant rules/practices in relation to arbitration and how do they interact with civil litigation?
Arbitration conventions.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ratified several international and regional (judicial assistance and) arbitration treaties and conventions, the most important of which include:

-The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral awards of 1958, which entered into effect on 18 July 1994 G (7) subject to an express public policy reservation (widely understood that any part of an award that conflicts with Shariah law will not be recognized and enforced) and a condition of reciprocity (meaning that a Saudi court will not enforce an arbitral award if the country in which the award was rendered do not enforce Saudi arbitral awards);
-The Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the “ICSID” Convention) (8);
-The 1983 Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Cooperation (the “Riyadh Convention”);
-The 1995 Protocol on the Enforcement of Judgments, Letters Rogatory, and judicial Notices issued by the Courts of the Member States of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (the “GCC Protocol”);
In addition to several bilateral investment agreements and treaties which contain provisions regarding the enforcement of arbitral awards between the signatory parties.

(7) Royal Decree No. 11, dated 16 Rajab 1414 H (corresponding to 30 December 1993);

(8) Ratified by virtue of Royal Decree No. M8 dated 22/3/1394 H (corresponding to 28 September 1979);

Local arbitration centres

The local Chambers of Commerce & Industry offer arbitration services but they lack the proper expertise and rules to handle complex commercial arbitration cases.

On 14 April 2014 G, the Saudi Council of Ministers issued a resolution establishing the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (the “SCCA”). The SCCA was formed by the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) in consultation with the Kingdom’s ministries of justice, commerce and industry and in coordination with the governor of the Saudi Arabian general Investment Authority). The SCCA has a board of nine directors who serve a three-year term and are empowered to undertake arbitration both inside and outside the Kingdom on commercial disputes and will coordinate its efforts with the Saudi ministry of Justice. The rules of the SCCA are yet to be released.

Relevant arbitration legislation

The Kingdom enacted a new arbitration law on July 2012 (the “New Arbitration Law”) (9) which repeals the previous arbitration law (10) and is widely perceived as a major step in aligning the Kingdom’s commercial legislation on best international practice.

Listed below are some of the major improvements brought about by the New Arbitration Law:

-While the Old Arbitration Law allowed the courts (specifically the Board of Grievances) to be involved in the arbitration process from its commencement and to ultimately approve the arbitral award, the New Arbitration Law recognizes the rights of the parties to have control of the arbitration process without interference from the courts;

-Parties no longer need the approval of the courts to initiate arbitration;

-The New Arbitration Law affords the parties greater flexibility in selecting the arbitrators, the rules and procedures governing arbitration, the language of arbitration etc…

(9) Royal Decree No. M/34 dated 16 April 2012 G;

(10) Royal Decree No. M/46 dated 25 April 1983.

3. Are there any pre-action protocols to which parties are required to adhere prior to commencing civil proceedings?

A claimant may initiate court proceedings without first having served a formal demand notice to the defendant or performed any pre-trial formalities. If the complaint is directed against a public authority, the claimant must, as a pre-requisite to filing a lawsuit, have first addressed a formal notice to the relevant authority and the latter has responded to the notice within sixty (60) days of receipt thereof or failed to respond to it within the aforesaid time period. Save for family disputes and in limited circumstances in labor disputes (11), a matter may not proceed to trial unless an attempted mediation has failed.

4. How are proceedings commenced, what are the rules on service of process (foreign and domestic) and what is the outline procedure in civil litigation (e.g. sequential exchange of pleadings, disclosure, witness statements etc, as well as the role of witnesses and whether juries are used at the trial itself etc) and average timeline from commencement to trial of each step in between?
Commencement of proceedings

Judicial proceedings are typically commenced by the claimant filing a formal statement of claim and serving the same on the defendant along with the date of the first hearing.

Outline procedure

Once the statement of claim has been filed and served on the defendant, the matter proceeds through several hearings in which the parties make written and verbal submissions until the court after having been satisfied that the case is ready for issuing the judgment, closes the case.

(11) Article 220 of the Saudi labor law;

Rules of Service

Domestic Service

Process service is accomplished through bailiffs pursuant to an order issued by the court or at the request of the parties. The parties or their legal representatives (typically their lawyers) are required to follow up the process service formalities and submit the relevant papers to the bailiffs to effect service. Service may be effected by the claimant or the opposing party if he so requests (12).

Service Outside the Kingdom

Process service outside of the Kingdom is carried out through the diplomatic channels. Article 20 of the LPC stipulates that “if the place of residence of the person to be served is in a foreign country, a copy of the process shall be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for service by diplomatic means. A reply stating that the copy has reached the person to be served shall be sufficient”.

It is worth noting that the rules governing service process outside the Kingdom are the same whether the person to be served is a natural or juristic person.

5. What are the main rules of pleadings-i.e. what level of detail is required, can pleadings be amended, can counterclaims/claims for set off be brought?
Level of details of pleadings

The CPL does not address this issue and the parties enjoy a wide discretion in this regard. Suffice it to say here that the statement of claim and subsequent submissions must be made in writing. The parties may amend their demands throughout the trial as they deem fit. That said, from our experience, submissions in commercial matters, are lengthier than those filed in personal or administrative matters.
(12) Article 12 of the LPC.

Counterclaims and claims for set-off

The defendant may submit counterclaims and claims for set-off in response to plaintiff’s initial claim (13).

In addition to a claim for set-off, the defendant may submit the following counterclaims:

-claim compensation for any damages sustained by him as a result of the plaintiff’s suit or any of its proceedings;

-claim that would result in the plaintiff’s case be dismissed in whole or in part or his demands awarded subject to certain restrictions that are in favor of the defendant;

– any claim that is indissociable from the plaintiff’s suit;

-any claim the court permits the defendant to make that is linked to the plaintiff’s suit.

As far as a claim for set-off is concerned, the CPL (and its implementing regulation) recognizes two categories of claim, one that is referred to as a judicial claim and the other as a consensual (or contractual) claim. The CPL lists the conditions that the judicial claim should meet for it to be admitted:

-each of the parties must be indebted to the other;

-both debts must be identical in nature;

-both debts must have similar maturity (initial and extended) dates so that the claim for set-off is dismissed if the maturity dates are different.

Regarding the consensual (contractual) claim for set-off, it should not conflict with Shariah Law (e.g. by containing an interest charging provision or some other provision that is designed to misappropriate another person’s assets or properties).

(13) Article 80 of the LPC;

6. What happens if a claim is not defended? What sanctions does a court have if a party fails to comply with Court orders/directions?

No defense

Once the statement of claim and the date of the first hearing are served on the defendant, the latter is supposed to attend the first court hearing. Typically, the absence of the defendant at the first hearing results in an automatic adjournment of the case to a subsequent hearing which must be notified to the defendant. If the defendant is absent at the second hearing, or any other hearing without an acceptable excuse, the court may, in its sole discretion, award a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff (14).

7. Can third parties be brought into proceedings-i.e. where a party wants to pass on liability?

A party may be brought into the proceedings either at the request of either party (15) or at the request of the court (16).

A party to a lawsuit may request the court to bring a third party into the proceedings and the court will issue a ruling on the request and the lawsuit in a single decision wherever this is possible, or else the court will issue its ruling on the joinder request after it has rendered its judgment on the merits of the case.

The court may also order that a third party be brought into the proceedings, in the following circumstances:

a-where the party to be joined is jointly liable with either party to the lawsuit or shares an indivisible right or obligation with that party;

b-the heir with the plaintiff or defendant, or the co-owner in an indivisible property, where the lawsuit relates to the estate in the first case or to the indivisible property in the second;

c-whomever might be seriously aggrieved by the lawsuit if it appears to the court that there are clear indications that the parties are colluded or attempting to defraud the third party concerned or are showing utter negligence.


(14) Article 55 of the LPC;
(15) Article 75 of the LPC;
(16) Article 76 of the LPC.

8. Can domestic/foreign state entities claim immunity from civil proceedings?

Only pursuant to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations signed on 18 April 1961, to which the Kingdom has acceded on September 3rd, 2015 (with a reservation on Article 30 thereof).

9. Are split trials/consolidation of proceedings permitted in appropriate circumstances? If so, what are those circumstances?

The CPL does not contain any provisions addressing these issues.

Split trials and consolidation of proceedings.

10. In what circumstances can a case be stayed/discontinued?


Court proceedings may be stayed either by order of the judge/court (17) or at the request of the parties (18).

The court may order a stay of proceedings in the following circumstances:

-If issuing a ruling on the merits of the case requires that a ruling be issued on another issue; Such as if a party raises an objection as to the jurisdiction of the court, then the court will stay the proceedings until it has issued a final ruling on the matter of its jurisdiction;

-When a party challenges the court’s impartiality or a judge abstains from examining a case on grounds of impartiality;


(17) Article 83 of the LPC;

(18) Article 82 of the LPC.

-Where a party challenges evidence adduced by the other party, the court will stay proceedings until such objection is examined and a ruling rendered on the admissibility/inadmissibility of the evidence;

-If the lawsuit relates to a person who should be brought into the proceedings;

-If the plaintiff abstains from performing an act which he is the only one who may carry it out, where proceeding with the suit is dependent on such act being so performed;


Court proceedings will be discontinued in the following cases:

-Death of either party;

-Loss by either party of his capacity to sue;

-Lack of legal power of a party’s representative to represent a party in the lawsuit (e.g. revocation of a power of attorney);

11. What are the rules on admissibility of evidence-i.e. does the concept of privilege and without prejudice communication exist?
Admissibility of evidence

The concepts of privilege and without prejudice communication are not recognized in Saudi Arabia. However, the confidentiality of information and documents entrusted to the lawyer derive from a professional and ethical duty imposed on lawyers and this duty will survive the revocation or cancellation of the power of attorney granted to the lawyer.

Moreover, Saudi law protects privacy and the Basic Law of Government expressly protects an individual’s communications from confiscation, delay, reading or listening except where provided by statute (19).


(19) Article 40 of the Basic Law of Government, Royal Decree No. A/90, dated 1 March 1992 G.

12. What are the rules and extent of disclosure? Can disclosure be ordered against third parties/ Are there restrictions on the use of documents once disclosed?
Extent of disclosure

Documentary evidence is paramount in Saudi Arabia especially in commercial matters where oral testimony and argument is rare and has very little evidentiary value. The concept of discovery has no equivalent in Saudi Arabia. That said, a party may request the court to order a party to produce a document that is specifically identified and whose existence is established. Documents which have been specifically identified may be requested from a party to the lawsuit or from a third party.

Restrictions on use

Documents and confidential information, once disclosed in the course of proceedings may be freely used against a party, but are still protected against disclosure to third parties and outside the context of the lawsuit.

13. What are the rules on witness and expert evidence? Can witnesses be compelled to appear? What are the rules on calling and cross-examining witnesses?

The CPL contains several provisions dealing with witness and expert evidence.

Witness and expert evidence.

Witness testimony

Witness testimony is widely used in civil and criminal cases. The general rules governing witness testimony are dealt with at length by the CPL (20) and are summed up below:

-witnesses must be independent;

-the general principle is that only the testimony of two male Muslim witnesses or one male and two female witnesses will be admitted;

(20) Articles 117 et sequitur of the CPL.

-testimony may be taken before the court or by a bailiff seconded by the court where the witness cannot appear and has a lawful excuse;

-witness testimony must be heard in the presence of the parties;

-witness testimony is taken orally and may be recorded in written transcripts with the permission of the court;

-the court either from its own or at the request of the parties may ask the witness whatever questions it deems necessary to uncover the truth;

-the witness testimony and the questions addressed to him are recorded in the court proceedings’ transcript, which is read to the witness who may make whatever rectifications and modifications he deems advisable. The transcript is thereafter signed by both the witness and the judge/court.
Expert evidence

Reliance on expert evidence is widely admitted and the relevant provisions are found in articles 124 et sequitur of the CPL. These provisions are summed up below:

-The court may appoint one or more experts selected by the parties (or either of them) or by the court (21). In its decision, the court will determine:

• The mission of the expert/experts;
• A time frame for the expert/experts to submit his/their report;
• A date for the pleadings’ hearing based on the expert report;
• An advance payment on the expert expenses, disbursements and fees;
• The date on which payment of the aforementioned advance must be made.
-The expert/experts may be challenged (22) and the court which appointed the expert will render a decision on the challenge and such decision will be final and irrevocable (not open to appeal). The party who selected an expert may not challenge the appointment of the latter except where the cause of the challenge occurred after the selection of the expert.


(21) Article 124 of the CPL;
(22) Article 129 of the CPL;

-The expert shall prepare a proces-verbal (23) detailing the works and tasks performed by him, stating whether the parties were in attendance, made any statements or remarks, whether any third parties made any statements and signed their depositions. The proces-verbal will be accompanied by a report containing the expert’s findings and his motivated opinion.
-The expert shall submit his report along with the documents that may have been provided to him to the court and notify the parties of such submission by register letter within 24 hours following the same (24).
Expertise is increasingly being resorted to in disputes involving complex technical and financial matters requiring special know-how and experience.

14. What are the conflicts of laws rules in the event that an agreement is expressed to be governed by a foreign law or where there is no governing law expressed or where there is a dispute in relation to the same?
Conflicts of laws rules

The Saudi legal system does not recognize a theory or doctrine of conflict of laws. The rules governing Saudi courts’ jurisdiction are to be found in articles 24 et sequitur of the CPL.

Saudi courts have jurisdiction over Saudi citizens even if they do not reside in the Kingdom (25) and over non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom except where the dispute involves assets located outside of the Kingdom (26).

As far as non-resident foreigners are concerned, Saudi courts will have jurisdiction in the following circumstances (27):

(23) Article 131 of the LPC;

(24) Article 132 of the LPC;

(25) Article 24 of the LPC;

(26) Article 25 of the LPC;

(27) Article 26 of the LPC.

-if the dispute relates to an asset located in the Kingdom or obligations that were created or executed in the Kingdom;

-if the dispute involves a bankruptcy adjudicated by a Saudi court;

-if the dispute involves several co-defendants and one of them is subject to the Saudi courts’ jurisdiction;

Furthermore, Saudi courts have jurisdiction over certain family and inheritance matters involving non-resident Muslim foreigners.

Regarding contracts and agreements entered into between Saudi citizens/entities and foreigners (individuals or corporate bodies), Saudi courts have a marked tendency towards recognizing their jurisdiction whenever a Saudi citizen/entity is involved and notwithstanding that the parties have chosen to refer their disputes to arbitration (to be administered by a foreign arbitration center) or to litigation (foreign courts) under a foreign law. Even where a foreign arbitral award and judgment has been obtained and its enforcement sought against a Saudi citizen/entity, the Saudi enforcement judge will refuse to enforce it if it is inconsistent with the mandatory provisions of Saudi laws, the principles of Shariah law as applied in the Kingdom or violates Saudi public policy (a very elastic concept often used to deny enforcement to a foreign arbitral award or judgment rendered under a foreign law).

The adoption of the New Arbitration Law and the new enforcement law (the “New Enforcement Law”) (28) which was meant to facilitate the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and judgments has, so far, done little to reverse the tendency referred to above.

Moreover, the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry continues to require, in order to register commercial agency, distribution and franchise agreements (and other similar arrangements) entered into between foreign principals and Saudi agents, distributors or franchisees, that the agreement be governed by Saudi laws and that any disputes be referred to the competent Saudi courts for resolution.

(28) The New Enforcement Law was enacted by virtue of Royal Decree No. M/53 dated 13 Shaaban 1433 H (corresponding to 3 July 2012).

15. What are the rules on establishing jurisdiction in the event that an agreement is expressed to be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of a foreign state or where there is no jurisdiction specified or where there is a dispute in relation to the same (for example, where proceedings have been brought in parallel in the court of another state in relation to the same subject matter?)

See our comments under (14) above.

16. What interim relief can be obtained in your jurisdiction-i.e. are injunctions and other interim measures (such as seizure of assets, strike out and summary judgment) available- and what are the main tests for obtaining these?
Summary judgment

Although summary judgments do not exist in Saudi Arabia, it is worth noting that a claimant may request a court to issue an interim judgment before the final judgment on the merits and that this interim judgment be enforceable as a matter of urgency (29).

Such interim judgments include the following:

-judgment rendered in urgent matters (e.g. labor disputes);

-judgments ordering payment of alimony, housing allowance, child visitation and custody and separation between spouses;

-judgment ordering the payment of wages of an employee, servant, worker or custodian.


A creditor may obtain a provisional attachment of a debtor’s assets if the debtors has no permanent residence in the Kingdom or there is a risk that the assets may be hidden or smuggled out of the country (30).


(29) Article 199 of the LPC;

(30) Article 208 of the LPC;

Urgent applications
17. What is the extent of available remedies-e.g. level of damages (relating to what kinds of loss), specific performance etc?
Range of available remedies

The remedies available under Shariah law as applied in Saudi Arabia include the right to rescind a contract, to claim restitution or damages for actual and tangible losses. A claimant may not claim damages for loss of anticipated profits or loss of a business opportunity and generally Saudi courts will not award damages for indirect, special or consequential losses. Clauses awarding liquidated damages should therefore be carefully reviewed to ensure that the damages agreed by the parties are not excessive.

18. What are the principal limitation periods for bringing a claim?

Although Saudi Arabia does not have a general statute of limitations, still there are some specific circumstances in which a party will be barred, by reason of lapse of time, from exercising a certain remedy or challenge a court decision.
Under the Saudi Labor Regulations, a statement of claim must be filed by a complainant with the Commission for the Settlement of labor Disputes within no more than twelve (12) months from the date on which the employment relationship ended (either through expiry of the term or termination);
Under the Negotiable Instruments’ Regulations, claims motivated by checks without provision, must be filed within six (6) months from the expiry of the period for presentation of the check for encashment;
Under the Civil Procedure Rules of the Board of Grievances, claims for judicial review of administrative action must be filed with the Board within sixty (60) days from the date on which the concerned authority issued its decision.

19. What are the rules for enforcement of foreign and domestic judgments and arbitral awards?

The enforcement of judgments and arbitral awards (whether domestic or foreign) is governed by the provisions of the New Enforcement Law.

Domestic judgments

The enforcement judge may only enforce judgments that have become final and irrevocable except for interim judgments that are enforceable as a matter of urgency or where urgent enforcement is provided for by the relevant regulations (31).

Foreign Judgments

Foreign judgments may only be enforced in Saudi Arabia if they satisfy the following conditions (32):

-The Saudi courts do not have jurisdiction over the dispute in which the judgment was rendered; the foreign court that issued the judgment has jurisdiction over the dispute in accordance with its national rules governing international jurisdiction;

-Process was duly served on the parties who were properly represented and enabled to submit their defense;

-The judgment has become final and irrevocable in accordance with the rules of the court that issued it;

-The judgment does not contradict a judgment or order rendered in the same matter by a competent Saudi court;

-The judgment must not violate the Saudi public policy (understood to encompass mandatory legal provisions and principles of Shariah law as applied in the Kingdom).


(31) Article 10 of the New Enforcement Law;

(32) Article 11 of the New Enforcement Law;

Arbitration awards

Article 11 of the New Enforcement Law provides that the enforcement judge may enforce a foreign arbitral award only on the basis of principles of reciprocity and if the party seeking enforcement can ensure that (i) Saudi courts do not have jurisdiction with regards to the dispute; (ii) the award was rendered in compliance with rules governing due process; (iii) the award is final as per the law of the seat of arbitration; (iv) the award does not contradict a judgment or order issued on the same subject by a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction in the Kingdom; and (v) the award does not contain anything that violates Saudi public policy.

20. What are the rules on appealing a decision? What are the various levels of appeal?

There are mainly two remedies a claimant may resort to in order to challenge a court decision namely, file an appeal or seek a re-trial of the case in which a final judgment was rendered.

Appeal (referred to as a request for cassation)

The rules governing appeal are to be found in Articles 173 et sequitur of the LPC. These are summed up below:
-an appeal against the decision complained about may only be lodged by the party against whom the judgment was rendered and not by the party whose demands have been awarded in their entirety unless the regulations provide otherwise;
-an appeal may be lodged against interim and urgent judgments;
-the time limit to lodge an appeal starts from the date on which the party against which the judgment was rendered is served with the notice of the judgment and his signing the court matter transcript or from the date set for the service of the notice;
-an appeal must be lodged within thirty (30) days from the date on which the notice of the judgment is served on the party against whom the judgment is rendered.


Either Party may request a re-trial of the case in which a final judgment was rendered (33) in the following circumstances:

(33) Article 192 of the LPC.

-if the judgment was based on documents which appeared, following the date on which the judgment was rendered, to be counterfeit, or on a false testimony;

-if the party requesting re-trail has obtained conclusive documents he was unable to produce before the date on which the judgment was rendered;

21. What are the rules on recovery of legal costs by a successful party and security for costs? Who generally bears costs in civil proceedings? Are there any particular rules on funding litigation-e.g. contingency/conditional fee arrangements?

Saudi courts do not typically award legal costs to the successful litigant meaning that each party will bear its own costs. Contingency/conditional fee arrangements are common practice in Saudi Arabia and a litigant will often agree with his lawyer to make an advance payment on account of his fees and to make the remainder the fees conditional on the lawyer winning the case (success fee). Both the advance payment and the success fee are expressed as a percentage of the amount of the claim.

22. What other methods of dispute resolution are available-e,g, mediation, tribunals, Ombudsman? Please give a brief overview of each, including whether these methods and their relevant institutions provide binding and enforceable solutions.

Formal non-binding mediation is generally only available in family disputes, labor disputes and disputes between a distributor and its principal and there are no rules governing how mediation is to be conducted, leaving the parties free to agree the mediation proceedings.

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