What Do You Know About Laws In Saudi Arabia?

Internet made the whole world connected to each other. It made communication across borders easier whether with family and friends, or business connections. It brings together people from all around the world into one single place. For this reason, internet users should be aware of the laws and regulations, rights and obligations, and different aspects connected to the use of internet.

 

This page is created for the purpose of demonstrating how laws in Saudi Arabia are created, and an overview of the Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law.       

 

The Constitution and Government Bodies

Saudi Arabia’s constitution is based on the Shari’a Law, which comes from the Holy book (Quraan) and the Prophet practices. The Country has been adapting those roles since it’s foundation, by king Abdulaziz Al Saud, and during its unification from 1902 to 1932. In 1927, King Abdulaziz made the first formation of the Shura Council, which is the legislative branch. The Shura Council went through many changes and recreations until 1992 when new regulations passed to set its new format. In 1953, king Abdulaziz established the Council of Ministries, which is the executive branch for the government. The Council used to work within the implementation of the Shari’a Law until 1992 when King Fahd issued the Basic Law of Governance, which became part of the constitution.

 
 

How Laws Are Created?

The Country’s Constitution is the Shari’a Law, which comes from the Holy book (Quraan) and the Prophet practices, and the Establishment of The Basic Law of Governance. Other laws and regulations can be passed by going through the following process:

  1. Suggestion: the Shura Council or other ministries have the right to draft a suggested law and send it to the Council of Ministers.

  2. Review: the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers would then review the suggested law to make sure that it complies with the constitution.

  3. Voting: after the Bureau of Experts reviews it, they send it to the Council to discus and vote on it.

  4. Authentication: at this stage and after the suggested law passed by voting on it, the King has to authorize it and agree on it validity.

  5. Issuance: the Bureau of Experts should now work on including it within other existing laws and send copies to the related government bodies that will be working to comply with it.

  6. Publication: this is the final stage where the full version of the law has to be published at the Country’s official news paper for the people to be aware of it and start comply with it.

Monarchy!

Since Saudi Arabia has a monarchy system, the King holds a power over all the Country’s aspects. Therefore, the King has the final words on all aspects and his words consider as King’s orders each has different formats. The King can make valid and enforceable orders as the Head of the Council of Ministers or in his role as the Chief of the Country:

The King as Head of the Ministries:

  1. Royal Order: Orders related to issues that have not been discussed in both the Shura Council and the Council of Ministers. It is usually related to the appointment and release of regional princes, ministers, or judges. Moreover, it includes the issuance and changes in the fundamental country’s regulations such as the Establishment of The Basic Law of Governance.  

  2. Royal Guidance: Orders made to a specific governmental body addressing a specific issue or overseeing the administrative works. This order does not require certain formality. It can be made in writing or orally.   

The King as Chief of the Country:

  1. Royal Decree: Order to give final acceptance and validity of a suggested law that was discussed at the Council.

  2. Sublime Orders: Orders are usually related to the citizen’s public interest whether it was discussed at both Councils or not. A most recent example of such orders is allowing women to drive.  

Saudi Arabia Anti-Cyber Crime Law

With the expansion of social media and internet use, Saudi Arabia established its Anti-Cyber Crime Law for the purpose of maintaining security over the internet, eliminating internet crimes by highlighting them, set out the penalties, and provides protection to individuals as well as the public interest over the use of internet.

The Anti-Cyber Crime Law was declared on 08/03/1428H (03/26/2007). It was proposed by The Board of Ministers and affirmed by the King in a form of a Royal Decree no. M/17. It includes sixteen articles that provide definitions, criminalized conducts, and penalties.  

Highlighted Criminalized Acts and Its Penalties

Here is the conducts that deemed to be criminal under the law and its penalties. The penalties can be either imprisonment or fine or both together depend on the court’s decision. The said period of imprisonment and the fine are the maximum for the penalties which the court can not exceed.

Group One

Imprisonment: One year

Fine: Five hundred thousand Saudi Riyals (equals to U.S. $133,270)

  1. Invasion of privacy and defamation.

  2. Spying on transmitted data over the internet without legitimate authorization.

  3. Unlawful access or hacking a website to destroy it or modify it or occupy its URL.

  4. Unlawful access to computers for blackmail or threat.

Group Two

Imprisonment: Three years

Fine: Two million Saudi Riyals (equals U.S. $544,037)

  1. Acquisition of movable property or bonds through fraud or use of false identity.

  2. Illegally accessing bank system or credit data to obtain personal financial information, funds, of services offered.  

Group Three

Imprisonment: Four years

Fine: Three million Saudi Riyals (equals U.S. $799,523)

  1. Unlawful access to computer in order to delete, erase, destroy, change, or redistribute private data.

  2. Breakdown, destroy, delete or change on stored programs or data over the internet.

  3. Breakdown or destroy accessing any kind of services provided over the internet.   

Group Four

Imprisonment: Five years

Fine: Three million Saudi Riyals (equals U.S. $799,523)

  1. Production or storage of materials impact negatively on the public morals, religious, values and privacy.

  2. Building and publicizing of websites to promote human trafficking, pornographic, gambling, and drugs trading.

Group Five

Imprisonment: Ten years

Fine: Five million Saudi Riyals (equals U.S. $1,332,695)

  1. Creating and publicizing of websites for terrorist organizations facilitate communication or finance them, or publicize methods of making incendiary devices or explosives.

  2. Unlawfully accessing the network or system to jeopardize the internal or external security of the Country or its national economy. 

Precedent Cases

Cases on different aspects of law can be found at the Ministry of Justice website in many volume. Although they are published by Ministry of Justice, they can never be binding on courts. It is the Judge choice whether to comply with it or use different rules.

Case no. 832, Vol. 11, 1435H (2014): violation of section (3) and (6) of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. Plaintiff sued Defendant for tempting his kids by showing pornography he stored on his phone while they were shopping at a clothes store where Defendant works. Court found for Plaintiff and issued judgment against Defendant as six months of imprisonment for violation of section (6)(1), a 3000 Saudi Riyals (U.S. $780) fine for violation of section (3)(4), and takeover the used device where he stored the pornography based on section (13).

Case no.1083, Vol. 13, 1435H (2014): violation of section (3) of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. Plaintiff sued Defendant for defamation by sending Emails that contain defamatory language to him and other people. The court found for Plaintiff and issued a judgment against Defendant for violation of section (3)(5) of two months imprisonment and 5000 Saudi Riyals fine (U.S. $1,329).  

Note: all official cases provided by the Ministry are primary in Arabic and are not translated into English.