Torture and other ill-treatment were reported and at least two men were alleged to have died as a result of police beatings. Thousands of people were held without charge or prospect of trial. Trials before the State Security Court (SSC) continued to breach international standards of fair trial. A new Societies Law opened the way for greater state interference in the work of civil society organizations. Women faced legal and other discrimination and remained inadequately protected against domestic violence; at least 24 were reported to have been victims of so-called honour killings. New regulations improved conditions for migrant domestic workers but still left them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. At least 12 people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
In November, the King dissolved the Lower House of Parliament which had been elected in November 2007. New elections were to take place towards the end of 2010. A new cabinet was sworn in during December.
Detention without trial, torture and other ill-treatment
There were new reports of torture and other ill-treatment despite amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law that halved the maximum permissible period of detention without charge to one month in misdemeanour cases and three months in criminal cases. The amendments also require that applications to hold detainees for such periods must be judicially sanctioned.
In April, the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), an official body, disclosed in its report for 2008 that when carrying out unannounced inspection visits to prisons it had received complaints from inmates that they had been beaten and otherwise ill-treated by guards. The report noted that some perpetrators could escape accountability because physical evidence of abuse tended to be temporary and often there were no independent witnesses.
Thousands of people were reported to be held under the 1954 Law on Crime Prevention, which gives provincial governors power to detain people suspected of committing crimes or deemed to be “a danger to society” and to hold them indefinitely without charge or trial. In its report for 2008 the NCHR cited more than 13,000 cases of such detentions. Although outside the law’s remit, governors continued to use it to detain women considered to be at risk of family violence for their “own protection”.
- Sadem Abdul Mutelib al-Saoud died in hospital on 8 November apparently as a result of injuries sustained when he was arrested and beaten by police while held at Amman’s al-Hussein Security Centre in October. He fell into a coma and died three weeks later. At least four police officers were referred to a police court on 11 November in connection with the killing.
Counter-terror and security
Tens of people accused of terrorism-related or state security offences were tried before the SSC, whose procedures breach international standards for fair trial. In particular, the court continued to accept as evidence for conviction “confessions” that defendants alleged had been obtained under torture in pre-trial detention, apparently without taking adequate steps to investigate the allegations.
In September, however, the Court of Cassation set aside the life sentences imposed on eight men alleged to have been planning a terrorist attack in 2004 after concluding that their “confessions” had been coerced and were therefore invalid.
Freedom of expression, association and assembly
A new Societies Law came into force in September after it was ratified by the King. It increases government control over the legal registration, operation and activities of NGOs, provides for executive interference in their affairs and requires that they obtain official approval before they can receive funds from abroad.
Journalists and others remained liable to prosecution for “insulting” the King, the judiciary and religion.
- Islam Samhan, a poet and journalist, was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and fined by the Amman Court of First Instance in June after he was convicted of insulting Islam and religious sentiment. He had been arrested in October 2008 and held for three or four days after he published a collection of his poems in which he was said to have used verses from the Qur’an. He was at liberty awaiting the outcome of an appeal.
Excessive use of force
The gendarmerie were accused of using excessive force to disperse a largely peaceful demonstration in al-Rabiah, Amman, on 9 January. Some 3,000 people had gathered to protest against Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip when they were forcibly dispersed, apparently without warning, by gendarmerie officers using batons, water cannon and tear gas. The Public Security Directorate said it would investigate, but no findings had been disclosed publicly by the end of the year.
Police were also accused of using excessive force when carrying out some arrests.
- Fakhri Anani Kreishan died on 14 November after he was allegedly assaulted by a police officer two days earlier outside his home in Ma’an. He was reported to have fallen into a coma after a police officer hit him on the head with a baton before dragging him down some steps. An autopsy said the main cause of death was an injury to the head caused by a hard object. A police officer was charged with his murder on 17 November and referred to a police court.
Migrants’ rights – domestic workers
Tens of thousands of migrant women domestic workers continued to face economic, physical and psychological abuse by employers and representatives of recruitment agencies. They were disproportionately more likely to commit or attempt suicide than others in Jordan. In March, al-Ghad newspaper reported an unsourced “official statistic” that 25 domestic workers had died in the first three months of 2009, 18 from suicide and seven as a result of illness. In October, the Labour Ministry announced that 14 Sri Lankan domestic workers had attempted suicide in 2009 and said this appeared to be linked to their work conditions.
In August, the authorities introduced new regulations under the Labour Law to regulate the working conditions of all domestic workers, including migrants. They prescribe maximum working hours, rights to holiday and sick leave, and domestic workers’ entitlement to regular contact with their own families. Despite addressing important issues, however, the regulations are loosely worded and open to interpretation in certain respects and they fail to specify mechanisms for determining wages and so resolve long-standing problems related to non-payment of wages or low wages. They also fail to provide effective safeguards against physical violence and sexual abuse by employers of domestic workers, the great majority of whom are women, and appear to place women at risk by requiring domestic workers to obtain their employer’s permission before leaving their house.
- An Indonesian domestic worker died on 7 March after her employers beat her apparently to “discipline” her. An autopsy found that she had been badly beaten on the head and had sustained broken ribs and severe bruising to her body. The couple who had employed her were charged with manslaughter.
Jordan continued to host some 450,000 refugees from Iraq most of whom arrived after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many maintained a precarious existence, without legal status and access to work or state support.
Violence and discrimination against women
Twenty-four women were reported to have been victims of “honour killings” by family members. Perpetrators of such killings continued to benefit from inappropriately lenient sentences under Article 98 of the Penal Code, which allows courts discretion to impose sentences of a minimum of three months’ imprisonment on defendants considered to have killed while in a “fit of rage caused by an unlawful or dangerous act on the part of the victim”. In August, the authorities established a special tribunal to try defendants accused of “honour crimes”. In September, the Justice Minister said that the government planned to amend the Penal Code, including Article 98, but the proposed amendments were still awaited at the end of the year.
In May, the government told the UN Secretary-General that it would withdraw its reservation to Article 15(4) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which guarantees women freedom of mobility and to choose their place of residence, but would maintain its reservation to other elements of Article 15, including that guaranteeing women equality under the law with men.
At least 12 people were sentenced to death. The Justice Minister stated that the death sentences of four people became final, with no further right to appeal, and that 40 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. In April, the Ministry of Justice announced that the Penal Code would be amended to abolish the death penalty for a number of crimes, although it seemed that pre-meditated murder would continue to be punishable by death. The proposed amendments had not received parliamentary approval by the end of the year.
Amnesty International report
- Jordan must fully investigate suspected police killings, 18 November 2009