Saudi women law graduates on Tuesday expected a promise from Minister of Justice Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa to give those licenses to start working as lawyers. Instead, he promised them they would be allowed to work at reconciliation offices without any mention of the actual practice of women lawyers at Saudi courts.
These women graduated from law and Shariah specializations at seven colleges and universities throughout the Kingdom that had started programs for women in 2008.
Al-Issa was answering a question from law graduate Bayan Zahran, who asked about the ministry’s efforts to enrol women law graduates into the ministry. “We have a huge project to initiate certified reconciliation offices. We are waiting for the system to be implemented, after which women will be able to work there to reduce the number of cases passed on to courts,” the minister said. “Some cases might need only a suggestion or consultation, and we expect these offices to solve the disputes, especially in personal affairs.”
After the minister’s answer, Zahran told Arab News those women graduates were still looking forward to being given the same chances as men. “We have studied the same thing and ask for the same rights. We absolutely don’t want to limit ourselves to women-only issues and consultations.”
Zahran added they were positive about this new decision, hoping these promises would be carried out soon. “The actual law does not exclude women from being lawyers. However, the lack of experience for women has resulted in this.”
Zahran, who graduated in 2008, has already worked on 50 cases on behalf of charity organizations. “A memo is usually directed to the president of the court I head to each time, and then I can do my job without problems.”
The minister sat for an open discussion with lawyers at the Seventh Lawyers Meeting organized by the National Lawyers Committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He stressed that lawyers were independent and would do their work with no interference, but he was not aware of any lawyer that never got interfered in his work by anyone. “No one would accept that each lawyer would do whatever [he wants],” he explained.
Al-Issa described lawyers as being “main partners in achieving justice,” adding that the Kingdom paid attention to them. “Our efforts have been recognized and appreciated locally and internationally. Implementation of Shariah law has been totally effective,” he added.
Al-Issa told a lawyer from Madinah, who asked for halls for lawyers at courts, that they would have these halls in their new projects, and told him that they considered all complaints from lawyers and respected them.
Shahad Al-Ghamdi, a member of the Youth Lawyers Union, attended the open discussion out of interest. She said they had created a union, comprising both men and women, to increase awareness among graduates on the law domain and help build communication skills.
“We hold 12 meetings a year and make simulate a court, in which the members practice what could take place in a real courts. Then, actual lawyers would evaluate the performance of the members. The 60 members in the union are working under the umbrella of Dar Al-Hekma College and got training at Dalla Academy for Volunteer Works,” Al-Ghamdi commented.
JCCI President Saleh Kamel called on the need to moderate the sector by only allowing authorized lawyers to do the job in an organized manner. “It is time for people who claim to be lawyers to disappear.”
Majed Garoub called on the creation of the Saudi Lawyers Commission, which the minister said “will see light soon.” Garoub added that they thanked the king for the new project to develop the judicial system: “It will benefit Saudis, expatriates, visitors and pilgrims.”
Garoub added they called for the modification of the lawyers system in order to achieve its goals, urging all government bodies to deal with lawyers only.