Jordan saw suppressed freedoms due to legal loopholes in 2022 — HRW

Amman - Ameer
(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/JNews)
AMMAN Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Jordan in 2022, referencing “vague” provisions, circumventions, and undue extensions of the law that were “used” by the authorities to suppress freedoms and impinge on the legal rights of citizens, women, and refugees.اضافة اعلان

The criticism came in the HRW "World Report 2023", issued on Thursday, in which the organization reviewed human rights practices in approximately 100 countries for the year 2022, AmmanNet reported.

Here are some of the detailed concerns outlined in the Jordan-focused section of the report:

Suppression of free speech
In September of last year, HRW issued a separate report showing how the Jordanian authorities employed “vague and overly broad criminal laws to suppress free speech and other freedoms”, according to the report.

In 2020, the number of cases relating to such charges nearly doubled from 2019 figures, according to the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) annual reports.

In March of 2022, the Jordanian authorities detained Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian-American journalist and director general of the Community Media Network in Amman, and journalist Taghreed Al-Rishq, both over publications and statements they had issued, according to AmmanNet.

Furthermore, the report said that the authorities instated several “arbitrary” press gag orders last year regarding various developments in the Kingdom.

Freedom of assembly
According to the Public Gatherings Law, amended in March 2011, Jordan allows free public meetings and demonstrations without government approval. However, the authorities last year obligated many organizations to obtain permission from official bodies to host events, the report stated.

The Jordanian authorities employed “vague and overly broad criminal laws to suppress free speech and other freedoms."

Meanwhile, the report said, freedom of association was restricted under certain Jordanian laws, among them the Labor Law of 1966, which regulates the free formation of trade unions, and the Associations Law of 2008, which regulates nongovernmental groups.

In addition, the “Jordanian authorities impose onerous pre-approval restrictions on the receipt of foreign funding by NGOs”, the report said. It cited an example from last September when the local NGO, the Community Media Network, registered a complaint with the NCHR over the authorities blocking a JD25,000 grant from the German development agency for the NGO to launch a recycling awareness campaign.

Refugees and migrants
As Jordan hosted over 750,000 refugees in 2022, according to the report, the Kingdom’s authorities continued enforcing a decision from 2019 that prevented the UNHCR from registering as asylum seekers anyone who entered the country for medical treatment, study, tourism, or work, “effectively barring recognition of non-Syrians as refugees and leaving many without UNHCR documentation or access to services”.

Syrian refugees were granted new legal employment opportunities through the continued implementation of the 2016 Jordan Compact between the Jordanian government and donor countries. However, most professions remained closed to non-Jordanians, and, despite the issuance and renewal of thousands of work permits, many Syrians were employed as informal workers.

Meanwhile, an estimated 80,000 migrant domestic workers lived and worked in the Kingdom in 2022, primarily hailing from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. NGOs referred many physical and work-related abuses and violations committed toward these workers to government labor teams.

Women’s rights
In terms of women’s rights, “Jordan’s personal status code remains discriminatory, despite amendments in 2019,” the report said, pointing out that women in Jordan require a male guardian’s permission to marry and travel abroad with their children.

Despite laws to the contrary, the report said, “authorities sometimes comply with requests from male guardians to bar their unmarried adult daughters, wives, and children from leaving the country”.

Furthermore, under the Crime Prevention Law, women may be arrested if they flee their homes and are reported by their male guardians.

Although Article 98 of Jordan’s penal code, amended in 2017, states that the “fit of fury” defense does not permit mitigated sentences for perpetrators of so-called “honor crimes”, judges did impose some mitigated sentences under a separate article last year if the families of the victims did not prosecute the perpetrators. (In a “fit of fury” defense, the perpetrator may blame an action on rage rooted in the victim’s own actions).

Furthermore, under Article 340 of the penal code, a man may receive a reduced sentence if he kills or attacks any female relative, including his wife, during an alleged act of adultery on her part.

“Such discriminatory laws leave women exposed to violence,” the report said.

Following several public killings of women, including the stabbing of a woman by her husband in Karak, Jordanian women gathered in July 2022 to protest outside Parliament for enhanced legislation to counter gender-based violence and more transparent accountability for those who commit such violence.

Criminal justice
Debt imprisonment is illegal under international law, leaving Jordan one of only a few global countries that imprison people for debt. However, the Kingdom’s Parliament in 2022 passed amendments to the law that mandates debt imprisonment, which marked an improvement but did not completely do away with the practice, the report stated.

As of the beginning of April last year, at least 148,000 were wanted for prison terms for unpaid debts, according to the Justice Ministry.

Meanwhile, administrative detention remained an issue in 2022, with local governors using provisions of the Crime Prevention Law of 1954 to hold people in administrative detention for up to one year. This step circumvents the Kingdom’s Criminal Procedure Law.

According to the NCHR, 21,322 persons were administratively detained in 2020 — some for longer than one year. Despite this high number of detentions, 2020 marked a “dramatic” decrease from the previous year, which saw 37,853 administrative detentions, the report noted.

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