Jordan and the Mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review in the Human Rights Council: the March and the Result.

The September 2005 Summit of the United Nations decided to establish a Human Rights Council to replace the Human Rights Committee. This was due to the " deficit in credibility " that the Committee suffered from due to the policy of the double standards; polititzing ' selectivity or harboring states within its ranks that some viewed that their records in the area of human rights do not allow them to participate in the greatest international forum for protection of human rights . On 14 march 2006 , the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/res/60/251 that established the Human Rights Council in recognition of the states that a high ranking body in the United Nations must be entrusted with the efforts of protecting and enhancing human rights ; the speedy response regarding urgent cases of human rights; ' promoting education on human rights ;provision of consultative services ; technical assistance ; building of capacities , encouragement of dialogue and cooperation among governments and the civil society organization in a manner that respects human rights and limit violations.

According to article (6) of the same Resolution, the council undertakes all the jurisdictions; tasks; responsibilities of the Human Rights Committee. The council is to survey these and improve and rationalize them, when necessary, so as to preserve the system of the special procedures of the experts in respect of the complaints. This is in addition to the development of other mechanisms', including "the mechanisms of the Universal Periodic Review".

The General Assembly elected 47 states to the membership of the Council from among 63 states that submitted their candidature. Each candidate state must secure the absolute majority of the votes to gain a seat. This led to stringent terms of membership compared to the elections of the members of the Human Rights Committee that required only the majority of the votes in the Economic and Social Souncil (27 only ) .

It is worth noting that Jordan was among the states that were elected to the membership of this Council, in addition to (6) Arab states : Morocco, Djibouti , Tunisia , Algeria , Bahrain and Saudi Arabia .

Under the terms of paragraph (8) of the Resolution of the General Assembly establishing the Council, Jordan provided voluntary commitments to enhance and protects human rights. Among these commitments were:

  • Ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Extension of a permanent open invitation to the United Nations experts on human rights and special procedures to visit the Kingdom,

The mechanism of the Universal Periodical Review – being one of the new powers of the Human Rights Council – is anchored in the demand that all states without exception, must submit periodically to this mechanisms that is based on documented and objective information of the extent of the fulfillment of all member states of their commitments and obligations in the area of human rights (para.5h).

The mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review:

The mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review was established by virtue of the United Nations resolution no: 60/251 in March 2006, to be a tool to enhance transparency unto states regarding their practices in the area of protecting and enhancing human rights. The review is a cooperative mechanism that is based on documented and objective information, through an open dialogue among all the stockholders (governments, independent experts and civil society organizations).

This is done through reviewing the situations of the human rights in the state on the basis of (4) official reports issued by the government of the state; the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights; the national institutions and the civil society organizations. The review is conducted by a working team composed of the (47) state members of the Human Rights Council. It takes (3) hours. The periodic review of the state is done once every (4) years. the so – called (troika) from three states facilitates the process of the universal periodic review of the state by reviewing the reports ; coordinating and checking them with the concerned state, in cooperation with the secretariat of the Council .

It maybe said that the universal periodic review achieves a number of goals , the most prominent of which are :

  • The enhancement of the universalism inter- connectedness of all human rights.
  • Improvement of the real situation of human rights.
  • It helps in knowing the extent of the respect of the states to their commitments, and the efforts they undertake – on the national and the international level- for enhancing the culture of human rights and the fundamental freedoms.
  • Offers technical, material and human assistance to the state that suffers weakness in its mechanisms relating to the respect and protection of human rights. This puts the states face to face with themselves and the international community regarding the extent of their application of the international undertakings in the area of human rights.
  • The inclusion of other reports, in addition to the governmental report in the process of the periodic review, completes the picture and makes it clear to the international community.

Within this context reference must be made to the need to develop these mechanisms and rid them from some negative aspects, so as to render them more effective. This applies particularly to the right of the concerned state to object to a member of the "troika" or its right to the existence of a certain member in this (troika) which opens the door for the influence of the political dimension on the legal standards that must be adhered to. The limited time to each state, which does not exceed (3) hours represent another impediment in this connection.

It remains to be said that , though the universal periodic review in all its components , represents an advanced step along the protection of human rights in the world as a tool of openness and frankness, yet it needs a mechanism for rewarding and punishing in order not to turn into a worthless word.

Jordan in front of the Human Rights council and the Universal Periodic Review:

On 11 February 2009 , the Jordanian government submitted the first national report on the situation of human rights, in consultation with most civil society organizations ,the governmental institutions , and the National Centre for Human Rights . In an overview presentation , the report highlight's the many positive and comprehensive developments that Jordan has witnessed in the area of human rights during recent years … based on the Constitution ; the National Charter ; the National Agenda ; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the conventions that Jordan has ratified and the voluntary undertakings that it committed itself to .

The 19 – page report described the situations of human rights, focusing largely on the stipulations of the articles of the Constitution to guarantee the individual and collective rights … including those relating to the civil, political, economic. Social and cultural rights … and the inclusion of these in the legislations, polices and practices that regulate the relationship of the individual with the government.

Among the improvements that the governmental delegation stated in its presentation of the report in Geneva, was the lifting of the reservation on article (15) of the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It also enumerated the mechanisms that it established to defend and disseminate human rights like the formation of the Injustices Bureau (ombudsman); and the establishment of human rights departments in all ministries; the establishment of an anti – corruption directorate, and the generalization of human rights at various scholastic, university and vocational levels.

The government was late in presenting its report. It was also not translated from the Arabic language into the other official working languages in the United Nations (English , French , Spanish , Russian, and Chinese) . This was raised by several states during their interventions, since it did not allow the state members o the Human Rights Council to have a comprehensive picture of the improvements which the report stated.

The report of High Commission for Human Rights , and the reports of the civil society organizations that has summarized the participation of eight of these including international , Arab and Jordanian organizations ( the National Centre for Human Rights , Human Rights Watch , dignity for human rights , amnesty international , correspondents without frontiers , the Jordanian collation for the non governmental organizations, the European centre for law and justice , the international justice committee) all raised many questions regarding several cases that undermine human rights in the kingdom . The representatives of some states raised these during the debate in the Human Rights Council.

Among the most important of these questions were those relating to the anti – terrorism law; the public meetings law; the anti – crimes law, the death penalty ; the crimes of honor , the torture and other mis- treatment in the reform centers and the detention centers , as well as the role of the state security court .

It is to be noted that the interventions' of the states members of the Human Rights Council can be classified into two streams : the Arab , Islamic and the non – aligned states that praised the Jordanian progress in the area of human rights, and the Western states that raised the questions made by the civil society organizations . Finland raised the question of the crimes of honor and violence against women . France pointed to the question of torture" And " the discrimination in the right of inheritance " . Canada stressed the impediments to the freedom of expression and the press and the funding of the civil society organizations.

The adoption of the report of Jordan by the Human Rights Council

The representatives of three states ( Japan, Mexico, Burkina Faso ) prepared a report in which the comments and recommendations of the representatives of the states that attended this session were recorded.

This report reflects also the positions and obligations of the Jordanian government in the area of protecting human rights. Following below are the most important recommendations that received the endorsement of Jordan:

  1. Survey the nature of the reservations regarding the (CEDAW) and the convention of the rights of the child.
  2. Support a more effective implementation of the provisions of the convention against torture and the other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Jordan must submit its report to the anti-torture committee, since these reports have not been submitted yet.
  3. To continue the enhancement of the human rights according to the cultural practices that are followed by the Jordanian society…... And to continue in its efforts to include these in its national legislations. In addition , it must continue the efforts to include in its national law the provisions of the human rights treaties that it had ratified… and continue its policies that seek to embed the principles of human rights in its national legislations in accordance with the international standards, and to continue its constructive cooperation with the international human rights mechanisms.
  4. To synchronize the national legislations with the stipulated norms and requirements of the international human rights instruments that Jordan has ratified… and seek to improve the Jordanian legislative and judiciary branches, especially in taking into consideration the gender perspective, sexual harassment and the economic exploitation of children.
  5. Continuation of the enhancement of its institutional framework so that the members of its society continue enjoying their rights and participate fully in the democracy that it enjoys.
  6. Continuation of the support to the National Centre and the institutions tasked with the enhancement and protection of human rights.
  7. Continuation of its cooperation with the civil society so as to enhance the protection of human rights.
  8. Continuation of its policy aiming at protecting and enhancing human rights, enhance the children national action plan and the rights of children .
  9. Raise awareness through campaigns in the area of human rights and basic freedoms.
  10. Continuation of the dissemination of the culture of human rights by including this into the scholastic curricula, exchange its good experiences and practices in the area of the enhancement of human rights and the democratic ideas within the framework of the teachings of Islam, and the elimination of any negative references to the followers of the other religions in the scholastic curricula and textbooks.
  11. Continuation of the providing of educational and training sessions in the area of human rights for the judiciary and the law- enforcement officials and lawyers.
  12. Continuation of the implementation of the national strategy for the disabled persons.
  13. To submit the periodic reports to the treaties bodies, since these (reports) suffered some delay, and seek the technical assistance from the High Commission of Human Rights in this respect, should this be necessary, and continue cooperation with the High Commission for Human Rights, human rights mechanisms and the Human Rights Council.
  14. Continue its orientation towards the enhancement of the rights of women and raise the equality between men and women, and put an end to some arbitrary social practices that stand, at times, as a stumbling stone in the path of effective implementation of human rights.. like the crimes of honour, crimes of revenge.
  15. Take more measures to confront discrimination against women, minorities and vulnerable categories, including children and the handicapped.
  16. Continuation of addressing the problems that face young girls, and take into consideration the proposals of the committee of the rights of the child that calls for the engagement of the local, religious and other leaderships in a more effective role in supporting the efforts that aim to prevent and eliminate discrimination against small girls.
  17. Continuation and enhancement of the efforts aiming at eliminating torture acts, especially those committed by the security departments, and guarantee the availability of effective legal redress means for the detainees, to investigate, in a timely, transparent and effective manner, the allegations of torture and mis-treatment suffered by the convicted prisoners and detainees, and follow measures to prevent the acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment in all detention centres, guarantee the punishment of the perpetrators of the acts of torture, take more measures to prevent the perpetrators of torture and mis- treatment from escaping punishment, follow– up the recommendations of the United Nations rapporteur in respect of torture, put in place an independent and transparent mechanism for submitting complaints to address the reports relating to mis-treatment of inmates, its government and responsible authorities conduct full investigations in all torture cases and reports in a quick, transparent and independent manner, the presentation of those responsible for this to justice, conduct a comprehensive survey of the prisons conditions. The victims of torture must be provided with an independent and fair mechanism to submit complaints.
  18. Continuation of the improvement of the legislation aiming at banning all forms of torture, especially the enhancement of the measures that seek to protect the rights of the detainees.
  19. The Bureau of Injustices (Ombudsman) and human rights of the public security directorate must work closely with the National Centre for Human Rights to monitor the strict application of the principle of the supremacy of the law regarding the detainees.
  20. Continuation of the enhancement of the status of women to guarantee the effective elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women in accordance with the international standards, continue its efforts to confront all forms of violence against women and young girls, pass legislations that criminalize violence against women and allow the girls victims of violence to attain direct means for fairness and protection and guarantee the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of acts of violence, increase the shelters so as to replace the facilities of " detention for the seek of protection" to which women who suffer violence are subjected to, establish a system to shelter the victims of domestic violence, and mount awareness campaigns regarding domestic violence.
  21. To survey the practice of "detention for protection", and increase the existing mechanisms or establish effective mechanisms to protect women who suffer from violence so as to prevent harming them… an and guarantee stern penalties to the perpetrators of such violence.
  22. To respond as soon as possible to the visitation request submitted by the special rapporteurs, like the special rapporteur who is concerned with violence against women.
  23. consider the amendments of the legislations to prevent all forms of corporal punishment at home, and effectively implement the ban on corporal punishment in all places.
  24. Continue its efforts to enhance the rights of women and their participation in the upper decision-making positions, and the elevation of the level of the participation of women in the society, including the higher governmental positions.
  25. Take more measures to encourage the existence of an open and free press to enable journalists address a whole spectrum of political, social and economic issues without fearing punishment.
  26. Exert all possible efforts to combat mis-treatment of foreign workers, and afford appropriate protection to all worker in Jordan through the labour law.
  27. Continue the efforts to enhance the equality between men and women and empower the latter, with focusing on the encouragement of the economic opportunities of women and the assurance quality in the place of work.
  28. Continue its anti-poverty effort and the enhancement of its strategy to mitigate poverty in order to benefit from the progress achieved sofar, and the elimination of any existing gap among the regional districts or between the sexes.
  29. Accelerate its efforts to achieve the millennium developmental objectives, especially the attainment of the first goal of these objectives, and the national goals by the year 2015, so that the population of Jordan can enjoy their natural rights to live a decent life.
  30. Continue the efforts to provide a better standard of living, and exchange with other states-especially within the region-the experiences it has gained in the area of advanced health care.
  31. Continue its efforts aiming at improving the living conditions of the handicapped persons, and exchange its experiences and best practices with the other interested countries in the area of the protection and enhancement of the rights of the disabled persons, and exchange its experiences with the less developed countries in the area of health, and continue its efforts to provide an effective health system, and concentrate the positive efforts by increasing investment in the health services.
  32. Continue the improvement and enhancement of the quality of the national health system, and allocate- if possible- more financial resources for this system from the aggregate national budget, through training specialists.
  33. Continue the work of enhancing the opportunities of getting water through an effective management of water resources via the support of the international community.
  34. Continue its efforts to make basic education available to all, take measures to enhance the enrollment in schools and continue secondary education, and look into including human rights issues in the scholastic curricula.
  35. Exert efforts to protect the rights of foreign workers and stop oversteppings against them, and improve the welfare and protection of the human rights of the migrant workers, including the domestic workers.
  36. Continue the enhancement of its role in the peace-keeping operations, including making available medical services, and the continuation of the capacity-building in all areas of conflict in the world.
  37. Continue to reject any attempts seeking to impose any values that stand diametrically opposed to the contractual obligations of Jordan, and not to pay any attention to any comment that falls outside the scope of the legal obligations of Jordan and the consensual international principles.
  38. To benefit from the successful experiences stated in the national report that stresses the challenges; and to seek the necessary technical assistance from the relevant international organization.
  39. Seek financial support from the international community so as to continue providing the necessary assistance to the thousands of the Iraqis that the Kingdom hosts.

As for the recommendations that ere contained in the results reports that was adopted by the eleventh session of the Human Rights Council that Jordan will look into and submit its responses at the appropriate time… these were:

  1. That Jordan looks into the possibility of signing and ratifying the international convention for the protection of all persons against forcible disappearance, and accept the jurisdiction of the committee that is established under this convention.
  2. To comprehensively develop the criminal legislations relating to discrimination and violence against women.
  3. To amend the penal code so as to introduce provisions that guarantee the non-benefit of the perpetrators of the crimes of honour from the reduction of punishment, and the treatment of these crimes at an equal footing with the other crimes of violence in respect of investigating and prosecuting their perpetrators.
  4. To abolish all forms of protection for the perpetrators of the crimes of homoside under the pretext of honour and guarantee their non-escaping punishment.
  5. Agree the visit that was requested in 2007, by the special raprorteur on violence against women, and take the opportunity to conduct transparent consultations with all stakeholders.
  6. To follow-up the recommendations that were submitted by the competent committee to eliminate all discrimination against women and the confrontation of all forms of violence against women and young girls, and enact legislations in this connection, and double its efforts to fight the crimes of honour by making people aware as well as punish their perpetrators, and guarantee potential victims their full participation in determining the measures of protection.
  7. Enhance the legislations relating to the protection of women against violence, and amend the penal code so that crimes of honour are treated in the same manner in which other serious violent crimes are treated… and guarantee their investigation and prosecution of their perpetrators.
  8. Continue its efforts to enhance the status of women, especially the non-benefit of the perpetrators of the crimes of honour of the mitigation of punishment; take into consideration the recommendations of the concerned committee tasked with the elimination of discrimination against women, and to strive to avail the necessary shelters for the victims of the crimes of honour.
  9. to continue the efforts that the government has started in the process of the comprehensive reform to combat torture and mis-treatment; by amending the penal code and punish a number of officials for their practices of torture and mis-treatment.
  10. To continue facilitating the visits conducted by non-governmental organization to the prisons, including the unannounced visits.
  11. To urgently seek to face up to the preoccupations raised regarding the use of administrative detention by reviewing this, and guarantee the opportunities for the current detainees to get legal representation before the courts.
  12. To continue the protection of those who embrace another religion other than their own, in accordance with the international human rights standards.
  13. 13. To look into, and review the recently adopted societies law to make sure that the provisions of this law are consistent with the international human rights norms… especially the right to the free formation of societies that is inscribed in the international covenant on civil and political rights; and abolish the condition that prior governmental approval is required for the non-governmental organizations to operate, and embark on practical measures to guarantee the application of these changes in order to encourage wider participation in the Jordanian civil society, and look into amending the legislation relating to the non-governmental organizations to limit the restraints that are imposed on their activities, and allow them to operate within sufficient freedom.
  14. Establish an independent election commission to allow the open participation of the political parties and objectively ratify the results of the elections.
  15. Review the applied legislations regarding the crimes of terrorism, including the penal code, the prevention of terrorism law, so as a to make sure that these legislations conform with the international human rights standards and the anti-organized crime norms.

The following are the recommendations that did not enjoy the support of Jordan:

  1. Withdrawal of the reservations in respect of articles 9 (2); and 15 (4), and 16 (1) and C, D,… of the convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
  2. Acceptance of the jurisdiction of the anti-torture committee to receive specific cases, let alone the ratification of the optional protocol of the anti-torture convention within a reasonable time framework.
  3. Looking into transferring the supervision over the allegations of prisoner's mis-treatment to the civil judicial authority.
  4. Review the nationality law to guarantee the enjoyment of the Jordanian mother (who is married to a non-Jordanian) of the right to grant her nationality to her children.
  5. Abolishment of the death penalty.
  6. Amendment and abolishment of the discriminatory legislations against women, including the discriminatory provisions in the personal status law; the penal code and the nationality law.
  7. Establish a legal framework to protect refugees and political asylum seekers, and the accession to the 1951 international refugee's convention and its 1967 protocol.

Notwithstanding this, the Human Rights Council issued its resolution no: 11/115 on 18 June 2009 adopting the results of the report of the "Troika" working team.

Within the framework of the contributions of the national institutions, the National Centre for Human Rights-within the universal periodic review-submitted a brief report that touched on the situations of human rights in the Kingdom.

The Centre proposed a number of recommendations that were rejected by the Jordanian government. Some of these recommendation related directly to the concerns that were regularly voiced by the non-governmental organizations and human rights activisits in the Kingdom: Specifically, among these were:

  1. The amendment of the national legislations to reduce the implementation of the death penality, and limiting this to the most dangerous crimes; and putting in place strict restraints to guarantee the proper application of this penalty. It is to be noted that the government has submitted to the Parliament in its currently held session – draft amendment to this effect.
  2. Overcoming the deficiency of the national legislation that often allow the perpetrators of the crime of torture to escape the deterring punishment, through the recognition of the jurisdiction of the anti-torture committee which is referred to in articles (21) and (22) of the 1984 anti-torture convention, and the accession to the optional protocol annexed to the anti-torture convention.
  3. Amendment of the national legislations that permit the government and its security directorates to violate the rights of the individuals to safety and personal freedom… especially the prevention of crimes law, the anti-terrorism law, etc…
  4. Enhancement of the independence of the judicial authority, and limiting the resort to the special tribunals whose laws constitute an attack on the jurisdiction of the regular judiciary.
  5. Amendment of the national legislations that put restraints on the promotion of political freedoms, the most important of which the freedom of forming political parties and charitable societies, and the right to fair and sound elections.
  6. Inscription of the principles of the international covenant on civil and political rights and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights into the domestic legal system… by pushing the judiciary to apply their provisions and decide the cases presented before them accordingly. Also the lifting of the reservations in respect of article (9-2) of CEDAW, and the lifting of the reservations on articles (20) and (21) of the convention of the rights of the child and the two protocols attached to it.

Within this context, the National Center for Human Rights is working towards crystallizing a national coalition, in cooperation with all civil society organizations, to monitor the implementation of the government of its international commitments regarding the recommendations that it had accepted and bring pressure to bear on the government and the Parliament to accept the recommendations that it had reserved its position on.

This will depend on the adoption of a specific action strategy that studies the priorities in the recommendations to include them in the various action plan, programmes and activities of the Centre.

The Centre will also use the information media to acquaint public opinion with the process of the universal periodic review and its results in a manner that enhances human rights in the Kingdom. This is particularly so, since the orientations of the political leadership in Jordan heads in practice towards the spreading, enhancement and protection of the human rights in the Kingdom.

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Mohammad Yacoub
Head of Research & Documentation Unit
The National Centre for Human Rights