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Advocates call for legislative changes to end all forms of torture in Jordan

(Photo: Unsplash)
(Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor’s published its report titled “I cannot take it anymore. Ways of torture in prisons and detention centers in the MENA region” which found an increase in the use of torture methods in Jordanian detention and rehabilitation centers.اضافة اعلان

The report was released on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which is marked on June 26 every year.
The organization cited a previous report by the quasi-governmental National Center for Human Rights in Jordan, which found that 98 citizens in 2019 filed complaints about being subjected to torture and mistreatment by law enforcement officers and security departments – a notable increase from the 86 complaints filed in 2018.

Despite Jordan being a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the June 2021 report finds that a lack of legislation stands in the way of giving full effect to the terms of this agreement.

For example, the criminalization of torture is confined only to Article 208 of the Penal Code, which deals with the extraction of confessions or information from detainees. There are no such provisions for other cases where torture can take place.
Nesreen Zregat, who previously worked at the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), noted this inconsistency in an interview with Jordan News.

“Jordan has criminalized torture under Article 208… but sometimes there are accusations of mistreatment and cruel or inhuman treatment, which aren’t criminalized.”

Zregat explained that while Article 208 of the Penal Code refers only to the extraction of confessions or information, the UN convention also qualifies intimidation and coercion, punishment, and discrimination as forms of torture.

As such, “Article 208 is not adapted to Jordan’s commitment to the UN convention.”

The report adds that the crime of torture is considered a misdemeanor under Jordanian law, making such charges susceptible to being dropped by pardons and statutes of limitation, or lapse of time.

“Torture is a misdemeanor but it should be a felony, charges can be dropped by statutes of limitation and by pardon both publicly and privately, which shouldn’t be allowed,” said Zregat.

“Torture cases need to be within the purview of regular courts as opposed to special courts,” she continued.

Indeed, as the report cites, another problem precluding implementation of the UN convention is that investigations carried out by law enforcement agencies do not meet international standards.

Zregat also explained an issue whereby Article 208 is not invoked in some cases of torture. One such example is that of beating someone to death: because it is considered a felony, different provisions of the Penal Code are cited instead of Article 208.

She added that it is unclear whether or not torture cases are on the rise because the lack of implementation of Article 208 leaves us with “no proper indicator.”

NCHR General Commissioner Alaa Armouti agreed that “the contents of the [UN] convention have not been translated to the fullest extent” in Jordan.

“Many of our domestic laws need to be amended... in order to fall in line with the standard outlined by the convention,” he added.

Like Zregat, Armouti maintained that “the definition of torture is reductive… it is not enough and does not encompass all cases.”

He also pointed out the problem in trying torture cases in a police court, as opposed to a regular court.

“If we leave these matters in the hands of police courts, then most likely, the crime will be treated like a case of behavioral misconduct.” 

In an interview with Jordan News, lawyer Imad Sharqawi echoed comments made by both Zregat and Armouti about the legal shortcomings in the fight against torture crimes.

Nonetheless, he noted that “compared to other Arab countries, Jordan is relatively advanced in combatting torture and has taken really important steps, but we still have problems with implementation.”

Sharqawi set forth several steps that must be taken to mitigate torture cases, including abolishing administrative detention, upholding the right to counsel in front of the police, referring detainees to doctors for immediate investigation following potential torture, and holding perpetrators accountable in order to deter such behavior in the future.

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