Rise of juvenile suicides in Jordan necessitate scrutiny of justice system

Prison child
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AMMAN — The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has warned that the hostility and isolation experienced by vulnerable children held in juvenile detention centers (JDCs) proved to have a lasting negative impact on their psychosocial and educational development.اضافة اعلان

The independent, nonprofit organization for the protection of human rights also said that it is crucial to secure for Jordanian youths in JDCs a safe and rehabilitative environment that will help facilitate their reintegration into society and mitigate violent or otherwise aggressive behavior.

In a report published on its website on Sunday, the organization indicated that in recent years, Jordan has seen an increase in delinquent behaviors among youths.

According to the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development, some 270 juveniles were detained and sentenced in 2020, the year when Jordan witnessed a 31 percent rise in the juvenile suicide rate.

The report stressed that it is important to examine the juvenile justice system and assess the extent to which it aligns with international standards on juvenile justice, and most prominently with the Convention on the Rights of the Child), ratified by Jordan in 1991.

The report noted that there is concerning lack of disaggregated data available on the number of offences committed by children, the nature of their crimes, and the average duration of their pre-trial detention, as well as the total number of convictions and sentences being served in Jordan’s six JDCs.

There are also noticeable discrepancies in the data shared by the ministry and the Public Security Directorate (PSD), it said, adding that a regularly updated and audited national database is imperative in order to clearly reflect the number of affected youths each year, and be able to accurately study their patterns.

“The recent reforms to Juvenile Law No. 32 of 2014 included violations at all stages of the Jordanian juvenile justice system, including pre-trial, trial, and post-trial phases,” said Karma Steitieh, a legal researcher at the organization, who prepared the report.

According to Steitieh, the law stipulates that the juvenile police must deal with all cases of children upon arrest and detention, with the exception of drug cases, which are dealt with by the PSD. In practice, however, PSD deals with most juvenile cases, so children and adults are transported in the same police vans, and kept for the first 24 hours in waiting rooms and shared cells, which is a “clear violation of Article 5 (a) of the law, and poses a great danger to these children”.
The recent reforms to Juvenile Law No. 32 of 2014 included violations at all stages of the Jordanian juvenile justice system, including pre-trial, trial, and post-trial phases,
The report stressed that international standards for juvenile justice require that pre-trial detention be an exceptional measure for very serious crimes, and that such decision must be taken by a competent and impartial judicial body that is subject to regular review.

Nevertheless, pre-trial detention in Jordan remains a common practice, accused children are not informed of their length of stay, and their cases are not regularly reviewed. More seriously, juvenile detainees are not separated from convicted grown-ups, as most juvenile detention centers in Jordan are joint reform and rehabilitation centers, the report added.

Although judicial procedures appear to comply with Juvenile Law No. 32 and relevant international standards, social research reports prepared by probation officers to inform children’s court judges of the background of children on trial remain largely inaccurate.

According to the organization, these practices disrupt the education of the majority of children in juvenile detention centers, and their behavior is often affected by the surrounding delinquent behaviors, which increases the likelihood that they will commit misdemeanors again. Although the law requires the separation of juveniles according to the severity of their crimes, this is not applied in practice.

The evaluation concluded that alternative methods of detention serve the same purpose as prison, but protect children from more serious delinquent behavior, enabling them to maintain positive bonds with their families and community members, and protecting them from stigma.

The report stressed the importance of complying with the law and safeguarding the best interests of the children by promoting and financing alternative detention mechanisms aimed at building children’s psychological and social skills, and providing them with the services necessary for their reintegration into society.

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