Were Saudi's Latest Reforms Inspired by the White House?

Published February 9th, 2021 - 08:53 GMT
Were Saudi's Latest Reforms Inspired by the White House?
Mohammed Bin Salman (AFP/FILE edited by Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba)

Last night, Saudi media celebrated a new patch of reforms announced by the Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammad Bin Salman, ones that seem to focus on the judicial system in the kingdom. However, online voices found a connection between the surprising declaration and critical statements made by the White House last week.

In the statements released last night, Saudi's Mohammad bin Salman often referred to as MBS has pledged to sign a set of new laws that aim to improve the kingdom’s judicial system, especially for women in the country.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, amendments will be made on four different laws, including the personal status law, the civil transactions law, the penal code of discretionary sanctions and the law of evidence.

Translation: "Yesterday the US Secretary of State talked about human rights issues in the US and today MBS wants to change the whole judiciary system. He thinks that a statement he makes will help him avoid the US pressure without the need for actual changes. This is politics of the lazy."

While many online commentators celebrated the new decision as a victory for the progressive voice in Saudi, saying that it goes in line with the young prince's policies focused on social and economic issues facing the country, many others wondered if it comes as a response to amounting pressure from the new US administration on MBS; whether in terms of the war in Yemen, the Jamal Khashoggi case, or the calls made to release human rights activists including several women, namely Loujain Alhathloul, who has been in jail for 1000 days.

Halting US support for the Saudi-Emirati military coalition in Yemen, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called on Saudi Arabia last week to "improve its human rights record, including releasing women’s rights activists and other political prisoners," which according to some Twitter users may have prompted the Saudi latest announcement of judiciary reforms.

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