Saudi Arabia has issued a new law in to regulate its religious police including a number of reforms that seek to confine the powers of its members.
The new law bans members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice from arresting suspects or practicing any other form of law enforcement power on them.
The law says that committee members are not allowed to "stop people, put reservations on them, chase them, ask for their documents, verify their identities or follow them," according to the Saudi Press Agency .
It adds that committee members must instead file official reports to specialized authorities who have the power to pursue further action, such as the Saudi police and the country's official body for combating drugs.
Although the law did not make changes to the day-to-day responsibilities of committee members, such as banning the sale and consumption of alcohol and ensuring women are properly covered, it did make changes to the way members carry them out.
"In accordance with this regulation, the committee shall be concerned with carrying out the duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice in a gentle and kind way," states the sixth article of the new law.
The new law also constitutes various organizational reforms. These include adding more required qualifications for the acceptance of committee members and forming an advisory board to report violations by committee members and propose suitable actions for dealing with them.
Moreover, the law gives the committee's president more regulatory power to hold the members accountable for their violations. The new reforms come in response to a wave of criticisms aimed at the Saudi committee following a number of recent incidents in which members were accused of using excessive force on duty.
In February, a number of committee members were reportedly arrested for alleged assault on a young woman in Riyadh after a video of the incident surfaced on social media. While in 2013, four members were accused of causing a deadly car crash after they chased two men who had refused to turn their car radio down.