A Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Jordan, allowing for the involuntary return of terror suspects from the UK to Jordan, remained in place. No one had been returned to Jordan under it by the end of the year.
In May, Jordan became a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
In October, 129 prisoners, most, but not all of whom had been convicted, were released under a Royal Pardon. Another 266 detainees, held without charge or trial under the Law on Crime Prevention, were released at the same time.
In December, the King called upon the government to give due attention to reports on human rights violations in the country, issued by the government-funded National Centre for Human Rights.
Abuses in the context of the 'war on terror'
The Prevention of Terrorism bill became law in November despite concerns expressed domestically and internationally that it did not conform to international human rights law and standards. The new law's definition of "terrorist acts" was too broad and could be used to criminalize membership of political opposition groups or other peaceful activities.
Reports persisted that al-Jafr prison in south-east Jordan was being, or had been, used in co-ordination with US intelligence agencies for the secret detention of people suspected by the US authorities of possessing information about terrorism. The Jordanian government denied this. The prison was closed in December, however, on the orders of the King, who called for an improvement in prison conditions. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited Jordan in June 2006 and described al-Jafr prison as "a punishment centre, where detainees are routinely beaten, and subjected to corporal punishment, amounting to torture".
A report by the Council of Europe, published in June, accused Jordan of having a prominent role in the transfer, detention and torture of foreign nationals under the US government's renditions policy.
Tens of people were detained for political reasons, many for suspected involvement in terrorism. Many were held incommunicado by the General Intelligence Department (GID), the main security service responsible for the arrest, detention and interrogation of political suspects, during which they may have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment. At least 34 political cases were heard by the SSC, during 18 of which the defendants withdrew "confessions" they had made in pre-trial detention, saying they had been extracted under torture. The SSC was not known to have investigated these allegations adequately.
Four men, including Yazin Muhammad al-Haliq, Usama Abu Hazeem and Muhammad 'Arabiat, were sentenced to death by the SSC in March for allegedly planning terrorist attacks and possessing illegal explosives. The sentences were then reduced to 10 years' imprisonment. The court reportedly disregarded the defendants' allegations that they
had been forced to sign "confessions" they were not permitted to see, under torture, including
prolonged beatings with sticks to their bodies and soles of their feet, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, as well as threats and verbal abuse. At the end of 2006, their case was pending appeal before the Court of Cassation.
Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi continued to be detained, reportedly in solitary confinement in the GID detention centre in Amman. Although he was apparently charged days after his arrest in July 2005 with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, and reportedly denied legal counsel, he had not been brought to trial by the end of the year. His arrest followed a media interview on "resistance" to US involvement in Iraq.
Torture and ill-treatment
In June, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture carried out a fact-finding mission to Jordan at the invitation of the government, and reported that torture was systematically practised by the GID and the Criminal Investigation Department. He called on the Jordanian authorities to ensure that all torture allegations were properly investigated, for the use of torture to be made a criminal offence in accordance with international standards and for appropriate penalties to be imposed on those convicted of torture.
There were persistent reports that Islamist prisoners were subject to ill-treatment in Jordanian prisons, including Qafqafa, Swaqa and Jweideh prisons. Reports included beatings by prison staff, prolonged solitary confinement, denial of fresh air and exposure to hot temperatures. There were reportedly at least four suspicious deaths in custody.
In October, the Minister of the Interior announced the establishment of a Human Rights Department within the Ministry, whose responsibilities would include improving prison facilities.
On 13 April, armed anti-terrorist police reportedly raided cells occupied by Islamist prisoners at Qafqafa prison. Inmates and their families said the operation's intent was to remove two inmates. The authorities said they were searching for drugs and weapons. One inmate, Khaled Fawzi 'Ali Bishtawi, died, reportedly from gunshot wounds. His case was referred to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine to establish the cause of death. The results were not made public and no one was known to have been held to account for his death.
At least 42 people were sentenced to death, including 17 who were tried in their absence. Of these, 14 had sentences immediately commuted to prison terms. At least four prisoners were executed.
Salem Sa'ad Bin Sweid and Yasser Fathi Ibrahim Freihat were hanged at Swaqa prison on 11 March. The SSC sentenced them to death in 2004 for involvement in the killing of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman in 2002. They alleged in court that they had been tortured to make them "confess". No investigation into these allegations is known to have been held.
Draft amendments to legislation concerning the death penalty remained pending before Parliament. The amendments would reduce the number of capital offences and replace the death penalty with life imprisonment for crimes such as possession of weapons or explosives and drug-related offences.
Freedom of expression and association
There were new violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association. The Public Assemblies Law was invoked to deny permission for some demonstrations, including those in opposition to Israel. Several people were arrested, apparently after exercising their right to freedom of expression. Some of these were arrested for criticizing the king and "inciting sectarian or racial strife".
Journalists Jihad al-Moumani and Hashim al-Khalidi were both sentenced by the Amman Penal Court to two months' imprisonment for insulting religious sentiment after republishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. At the end of 2006, they were on bail pending appeal.
In September, the King pardoned Members of Parliament Muhammad Abu Faris and 'Ali Abu Sukkar after they were sentenced to prison terms by the SSC for "harming national unity" and "inciting sectarian or racial strife". They had expressed condolences to the family of the leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national, after he was killed by US forces. One of them reportedly described Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi as a "martyr".
Discrimination and violence against women
Temporary amendments to legislation concerning women remained pending before Parliament. These amendments would give women the right to divorce without their husband's consent and establish penalties for perpetrators of family killings.
Article 98 of the Penal Code continued to be used as a defence in cases where men killed their female relatives. The Article allows for reduced sentences where the killing is deemed to be committed in a "fit of rage" caused by unlawful or dangerous acts on the part of the victim. In March, after Article 98 was invoked, the Criminal Court passed a sentence of only one year's imprisonment against a man convicted of killing his daughter.
According to official records, 12 women and two men were victims of family killings during the year.
In May 2006, the US National Labor Committee reported that migrant workers' rights were being abused in more than 25 Jordanian textile factories that supply US retailers, stating that employers confiscated the passports of tens of thousands of foreign workers and trapped them "in involuntary servitude". The Committee alleged that the abuses included rape, beatings with sticks and belts and that some employees were made to work more than 100 hours each week and some were denied wages for half a year. Shortly after, the Minister for Labour published a report accepting that there was evidence of abuses in "some factories" including unpaid overtime but denied many of the Committee's findings, including its allegations of physical abuse.
Nearly 200 Iranian Kurdish refugees who had fled Iraq's al-Tash camp in January 2005 continued to reside in Iraq close to the Jordanian border, after being denied entry to Jordan in contravention of international refugee law. They were housed in tents and subsisted on supplies brought or donated by passing travellers. In March, more than 100 Palestinians who had lived as refugees in Iraq were also denied entry to Jordan, and spent several weeks at the border before they were resettled in Syria. Some 63 other Palestinian refugees who had been confined for three years to a refugee camp near Ruweished after they fled to Jordan, were resettled in Canada in October. Others, however, remained confined to the camp.
AI country reports/visits
Jordan: "Your confessions are ready for you to sign" - Detention and torture of political suspects (AI Index: MDE 16/005/2006)
AI delegates made several visits to Jordan in 2006.