Summary of the Twelfth Report of the National Centre for Human Rights
First: The year 2015 witnessed enhanced official (governmental) interest in the various human rights issues manifested in the adoption of the comprehensive human rights national plan by the Council of Ministers, which was recently submitted to His Majesty the king. Actually, this plan contributed to spurring the Government to follow up on the violations associated with some of the individual practices of the executive powers. Moreover, the concerned ministries and the bodies linked to them took measures, even though limited in scope, to address those violations; ultimately the Government issued three explanatory quarterly reports concerning follow up of the mentioned national plan, and even though practical steps were lately taken vis a vis the matter of procrastination in implementation of the recommendation of the National Centre insofar as putting into effect the king’s directives to study those recommendations of three years ago, and also the directives of the prime ministers and the department heads to comply with such directives to implement the recommendations, all of this did not lead to qualitative changes in the human rights situation in Jordan in 2015, which is something that we did not expect to materialize with rapidity. Therefore, this situation continues to constitute a source of concern to the National Centre due to the slowness (or absence) of the effective implementation of the recommendations of the National Centre, and addressing the obstacles which arise in consequence of giving priority to the considerations of security and/or social customs and traditions over the requirements of safeguarding human rights in many cases. Furthermore, public policies have continued to impact the reality of human rights in the Kingdom in a manner impinging on Jordan’s international obligations, and even the rights stipulated by the Constitution in particular domains.
The Report consists of, in addition to the introduction and an annex of complaints, three chapters: First- civil and political rights; Second- economic, social and cultural rights; Third- The rights of the groups more vulnerable to violation.
Second: The civil and political rights were more susceptible to being influenced by public policies and practices in 2015, in addition to the various continuing defects of national legislation which were previously stated in the consecutive reports of the Centre. The foremost manifestation of decline in the field of civil rights emerged as a consequence of a clash between the considerations of maintenance of security, the safeguarding of dignity and personal rights on the one hand, and the requirements of assuring human rights in Jordan, particularly in light of the complaints incoming to the Centre which pivoted around the practices which accompanied the campaign (or policy) of restoring the prestige and presence of the state, the combatting of drugs, and the war on terrorism. It became evident that the threat of terrorism and terrorist actions on the one hand, and the global war on terrorism had rendered freedom and security in Jordan in a state of conflict in general, and as a consequence of this conflict there was collision with forces, persons and ideas other than the terrorists themselves, for there exist terrorists, and there is the environment that is interactive with terrorism, which could include natural and juristic persons who do not necessarily practice or support terrorism but who express opinions that are not supportive of the campaign to wage war on terror. Among these are journalists, intellectuals and human rights activists. In consequence the complaints about torture, arrests, detention of journalists, bloggers, and the critics of public policies increased- relating to the war on terror and its protagonists and the goals of those quarters in the region, in addition to the fact that the process of fair trials of those is not given the necessary deserved importance.
Third: It is the view of the National Centre that this problematic pitting security against human rights is of a degree of complexity whose most prominent cause is two matters, the first of which is: the belief of the decision makers that it would be possible to ignore the human rights considerations in favor of fighting terror and the striving to ensure security; and second, ignoring the actuality of the multiplicity of the causes of terrorism on the part of those concerned with managing the war on this scourge; whereby a person may discern an official tendency to deny the need for investigating any of the causes underlying terrorism that are unrelated to the role of religion or what is characterized as religious extremism. Indeed, the official position sometimes reaches the point of considering the deepened investigation of the causes of terrorism as a form of justifying this phenomenon, given that no one could overlook the underlying geopolitical, ideological, economic and cultural goals- and even psychological goals which impact a wide sector of Jordanian society, particularly as relates to the youth generation that is the fuel of terrorism in general. Hence, many are of the view that it is necessary to express opinions regarding them even if in an unbalanced manner at times.
Accordingly it is the view of the National Centre that an analysis of the political considerations should be at the forefront of efforts to deal with terrorism in the Arab region, perhaps followed by the ideological motives and the misguided religious mobilization. Thus religion and culture are a catalyst and energizers of political impulses which led to the expansion of the phenomenon of terrorism and the joining of some Arab and Muslim youth of the ranks of terrorist groups. Furthermore, the geopolitical dimension of the war on terror cannot be denied; hence, the National Centre offers advise not to turn a blind eye to the political dimension of the problem of terrorism, whether in terms of the motives of the terrorists or the goals of those perpetrating war on it. What concerns the National Centre for Human Rights primarily is failure to meet the requirements of respecting human rights within the framework of fighting terror. And for such considerations and numerous others the Centre urges a reassessment of the strategy of war on terror in a manner that is more comprehensive.
In the same context some legislative gaps coupled with deficiency in policies and practices persisted in the field of criminalizing torture even though the peril of torture is considered a fundamental principle of the national legal system. In fact, the administration of the Public Security Department generally follows up on cases of clear and documented cases of violation, particularly those cases that led to death. And stiff sentences have been issued concerning members of Public Security where it was proven to the security courts that they practiced torture or inhuman or harsh treatment of some individuals, where this strict monitoring by the police courts and the administrative authority of the Public Security apparatus and members of law enforcement led to a reduction of complaints of torture and the phenomenon of harsh and degrading treatment, and thus mitigating the phenomenon of freedom from retribution. Nevertheless, those strict measures continued to be characterized by a lack of transparency, and did not positive contribute to improving the activities of police courts. But notwithstanding this, it may be recorded here that the civil public prosecution has embarked on investigating limited torture lawsuits, and has established a national register of torture cases. In this connection the Centre has monitored a decline in the number of individual complaints concerning the treatment of prisoners and those detained at the preliminary investigation centers.
Moreover, the National Centre registers its appreciation for Public Security adopting a policy that is more sensitive in the field of improving the detention environment and the treatment of detainees.
Fourth: The problematic persists insofar as administrative detentions despite the judicial decisions rendered by the competent courts of innocence; in addition to lack of compliance with the rules of the law pertaining to administrative detention pursuant to the Prevention of Crimes Law of 1954. As to judicial detention, despite the decline in numbers in 2015 to (28,437) detainees compared to (30,835) detainees in 2014, the Centre has observed continuing expansion in judicial detention; where statistics indicate a rise in the number of judicial detainees compared to the number of those sentenced (convicted), which necessitates emphasizing laying down restrictions and parameters for detention, and expediting the adoption of legislation particular to alternative punishments, with a view to addressing the matter of judicial detention and its prolonged duration prior to and during the trial, and endeavoring to develop legislation and judicial practices in order to expedite the trial procedures.
Fifth: Development of the performance of the judiciary insofar as assurances of fair trials, even though the main determinants and structural imbalances continue to exist, which hinder improvement of the performance of the courts, particularly the absence of complete separation between the public prosecution and the courts, and guaranteeing qualitative competence of Regular Courts completely in the trial of civilians, and also in lawsuits and complaints of torture; moreover, we laud the contents of the Discussion Paper issued yesterday 16/10/2016 concerning the situation of the judiciary, which alluded to the importance of differentiating between the judiciary as a power and a concept, and the judicial apparatus which comprises of ordinary humans who are fallible. It is necessary for them to be subject to societal accountability in addition to a live conscience in judicial activity. Thus the King was correct when he emphasized the necessity of continued adherence to the standards of integrity, independence, and the effectiveness of the judicial apparatus.
Sixth: The legislative branch of government has been noticeably absent from the field of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms during the seventeenth session of Parliament, with the exception of individual efforts. Moreover, the Government presented legislative amendments- albeit not substantive- in order to make more effective the role of the judiciary. However, the development that is cause for concern is that year 2005 witnessed a noticeable expansions in the use of the idea of promotion of a terrorist group and support of terrorism pursuant to Article (2) of the Terrorism Prevention Law, such in opposition to the stipulation of Article (147) of the Penal Code.
Seventh: The restrictions imposed on the right to establish unions have remained in place by means of hampering the freedom to establish labor unions in accordance with the classification issued by the tripartite committee for professions classification, and imposing the condition of having to obtain a license beforehand from the Ministry of Labor to receive the recognition of the legal personality for the moral entity (unions). Moreover, the Minister of Labor (executive powers) has been authorized to dissolve labor unions and a condition has been set to obtain a license beforehand from the Ministry of Labor to establish independent labor unions, and to guarantee their right to possess a juristic personality. The palpable truth since a long period ago is that the labor movement in Jordan is the weaker party in the tripartite partnership between the workers, the business owners and the government, whilst the labor unions suffer from weak capacity and from attempts to interfere in their affairs.
Eighth: The issue of increasing restrictions on peaceful assembly has emerged prominently, and indeed placing a condition of having to obtain the approval of the governmental authorities to hold events. Such a practice constitutes an explicit violation of what is stipulated in the Open Meetings Act (OMA) Number (7) of 2004. Hence, the authorities have prohibited group activities that are of a peaceful nature (even though the use of force in these cases have remained at a minimum in general), and Administrative Governors have prohibited the holding of peaceful events for peaceful expression of opinion, while the authorities have detained a number of persons due to their participation in sit-ins and peaceful marches.
Ninth: The matter of increasing restrictions of freedom of expression has emerged given the increase in cases of detention and the issuance of judgments due to expansive use of accusations (charges), most importantly: (terrorism, undermining the state authority, slander, beclouding the purity of relations with a foreign state). The Government has increased its detention of persons from among the popular movements activists and independents due to criticism of the public policies of the State and public officials; (even if some of these criticisms contravene the restrictions which prohibit impinging on reputation and human dignity at times), in addition that such criticisms sometimes are removed from objective criticisms- but this is inconsistent with the guarantees provided by the Constitution and international human rights standards, and a small amount of the restrictions which are applied may be justified on grounds of safeguarding dignity, reputation, personal rights or legitimate security considerations, whilst the authorities insist that all these issues are concerning persons whose activities constitute a threat to national security in one way or another. Moreover, the Centre monitored in 2015 the detention and trial of (8) journalists on grounds of writing articles or expressing their opinions on Facebook.
As to the freedom of the media and press the authorities have not hesitated to detain journalists, even if for differing periods of time, which were prolonged in limited cases. And even though the Jordan media lack to a great extent the characteristics of a public media; where there is no explicit obligation or written legislation that dictates for the press to operate in the interest of society and the public, not to mention the inability of the media to lay down an independent and effective system to deal with complaints related to the professionalism of the media and adherence to the requirements of objectivity. Moreover, the authorities have ratified legislation which embodies some positive rules and provisions, such as the establishment of an independent public media station, in addition to some clauses stipulated in the Audio and Visual Media Law Number (26) of 2016, and even some of the paragraphs of the Electronic Crimes Law; however, the year 2015 witnessed the detention of the largest number of journalists, where the decision concerning the Law of the Bureau for Interpreting Laws Number (8) of 2015 played a significant role insofar as the permissibility of detaining journalists.
Tenth: There were official practices whose consequence was the limitation of civil society activities and the restriction of the freedom of societal action under the name of Regulations concerning the activity of the civil society organizations. And even though some of those regulations and instructions are acceptable and justifiable, particularly as relates to the control of the mechanism of (foreign funding) and compliance with the terms of governance and transparency in the activity of those societies, and coordinating their initiatives and guiding them towards serving the national development goals, the current law relating to the establishment of associations, and also the proposed draft law include unjustifiable restrictions on the freedom of civil action which is vigorous, organized and effective.
Eleventh: The year 2015 did not witness any constitutional or legal requirements for holding general parliamentary or municipal elections except for the holding of subsidiary elections to fill the empty seats in the seventeenth House of Deputies. However, at another level the Council of Ministers ratified the Elections Draft Law, and this was announced by His Excellency the Prime Minister in a press conference on 15/3/2016. And even though the Elections Law Number 6 of 2016 adopted the open relative lists, and expanded the electoral district to encompass the governorate (in the small and medium-size governorates), and broadened the participation lists of the ranks of citizens by adopted a new basis for those entitled to vote, and reinforced the integrity guarantees in more than one area such as the erasure of the names of active military personnel and deceased persons, this Law has been derelict in the matter of promoting the participation of political parties, and the formation of coalitions and blocs whether insofar as nomination (candidature) or in the forthcoming House of Deputies such by creating a condition of competition between the members of the single list. Hence, the list was transformed, and instead of constituting a qualitative leap forward in the process of electoral reform and the bolstering of the role of the political parties it actually became a burden on the electoral process and hampered genuine reform. It is worthy of mention that a number of political parties concurred on qualitative proposals which they submitted prior to the ratification by the government of the current draft law where a new draft electoral law was agreed upon, that is grounded in the adoption of the equal shares mixed system between the local districts and the national list. However, this proposal was not adopted upon formulating the new draft law referred to the Parliament. And among the foremost criticisms leveled at this law, in addition to the electoral system, is the absence of articles referring to the distribution and divisions of the electoral districts, and also the absence of Aqaba coupled with the continuance of the problematic of the electoral register. In fact the Centre had submitted proposals to all of the Government, the Seventeenth House of Deputies and also the Senate to improve and refine the text, but none of these proposals was accepted not to mention the proposals of the political parties and the civil society organizations. Hence, the Parliament ratified the law in general as issued by Government with the exception of limited amendments that did not impinge on its substance, particularly as relates to the electoral system.
Twelfth: It became evident to the Centre that the economic policies of the Government, which focus on solely focus on economic growth and the achievement of social welfare, play a role in the exacerbation of the twin problems of poverty and unemployment, for the rentier policy remains the overarching approach of successive governments, while no evidence appeared indicating that the authorities attach importance to integrating human rights within the public and economic policies, for social justice is not any more merely a slogan but is in fact an essential right and a legal obligation. And in light of the big gap in the development process relating to the peripheries, the Centre has emphasized that the popular demands for providing a decent living and respecting human dignity in those marginalized areas should become a constitutional right for the citizen, and thus an essential part of the public policies of the State. And even if the state resources are scarce it is necessary to achieve this aim to adopt basic principles and standards in national action, including:
Combatting discrimination and inequality through legislative enactments and policies, and also through serious accountability of contrarian practices.
Adopting plans and national strategies removed from dictations from abroad, whether those imposed by international financial institutions (World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) or donor countries and big investment companies.
Empowering civil society based on the national agenda, while assuring equal opportunity.
Developing a practical approach that is anchored in multiple considerations related to promoting foreign investment.
Enhancing productivity, and being distant from profit-oriented investment which is grounded in policies of meeting services needs and focusing solely on growth in a manner distant from bolstering productivity. In light of the absence of those consideration from the governmental economic and development policies the Centre has observed an exponential rise in prices which contributed to increasing the rates of poverty and unemployment.
Actually the rate of unemployment rose in 2015 to (13.05%) compared to the year 2014 (11.9%) despite the laying down of plans and strategies, particularly the national employment strategy and the national strategy for fighting poverty for the years 2013-2020. It is the view of the Centre that the Government policy has contributed to increasing the burden on the citizen by increasing national income through imposing more taxes, instead of harnessing human resources and promoting investment and industries in the governorates, especially as relates to natural resources, by industrially processing the latter instead of exporting them as raw materials. This would benefit both the Jordanian economy and the citizen.
Thirteenth: The right to employment did not witness any developments in 2015, whilst the wage levels are not consonant with the high level of prices and the cost of basic services, not to mention the spiraling problem of poverty. On the other hand the National Centre observed the continuing problems of expatriate workers such as employers keeping the passports of workers as a guarantee for not violating the conditions of the contract, and also delay in paying wages and the mistreatment by superiors of some workers. Having said that the Centre registered relative progress in the field of combatting the crime of human trafficking in light of the efforts exerted to regulate the expatriate workers market while controlling it particularly through the creation of a special unit for combatting this crime affiliated to the Public Security Department and opening a special shelter for receiving the victims of human trafficking, and endeavoring to introduce a national mechanism dealing with the victims of trafficking. However, it would be necessary to take other measures in this area by promulgating the instructions for a shelter for non-Jordanians working in households and introducing amendments to the Human Trafficking Prevention Law Number (9) of 2009 (a matter that is being presently discussed).
Fourteenth: In the area of the right to health the health and medical treatment sector witnessed continued challenges such as: the absence of comprehensive health insurance, decline in the standards of health services in peripheral regions, and the appearance of problems related to prolonged waiting period for accessing treatment which could extend to weeks or months in cases which demand urgent medical attention. Moreover, there appeared the problems of lack of medicines, an increase in their prices, growing complaints about medical errors, and deficiency in human resources insofar as psychiatrists and psychologists. And as relates to the Draft Medical Responsibility Law, the text continues to be static, and all that has been accomplished in 2015 is the formation of a special committee composed of specialists from the Ministry of Health with a view to reviewing the draft law, studying it and coming out with new recommendations.
Fifteenth: Concerning the right to education the Centre has observed that notwithstanding the efforts of the Ministry of Education to improve the standards of education in the schools of the Kingdom at the various levels there has not been a qualitative improvement in this sector whether at the level of the infrastructure or the quality of public education. Moreover, the facets of educational defects remain a cause of the low standards of education which have not been adequately addressed in the various regions of the Kingdom, not to mention the absence of a sound competitive environment, the suitable training of teachers, the weakness of the curricula, lack of development of a teaching methodology, and developing the ability to analyze and criticize in a manner removed from rote learning and dictation.
Sixteenth: The Centre registers the ratification by the Government of a constellation of environmental legislations, but the deterioration of the environmental situation in the fields of energy, water, desertification and management of all kinds of waste has been observed, not to mention loss of biodiversity. Hence, it would be necessary to utilize the methods and techniques of sound management of natural resources in order to save Jordan from the deleterious effects possibly stemming from the deficiency of those resources and competition to obtain them.
The challenges related to scarcity of water, energy, desertification and the decline in biodiversity and the accompanying pollutions and climatic changes could perhaps be less grave for the immediate moment than other economic and political challenges, but the impact of those challenges is more prolonged and broader in scope. Moreover, the Report alluded to a substantial and increasing depletion of the infrastructure and natural resources of the Kingdom as a result of the Syrian refugees crisis.
Seventeenth: It is the view of the Centre that it is necessary to reconsider the legislation governing cultural activity, particularly the Culture Patronage Law and the regulations emanating from it, in order to effect the progress of the Jordanian cultural circumstance and to meet the basic needs for supporting and energizing cultural activity, such by increasing support provided to cultural bodies, not to mention the establishment of public libraries and enhancing the services offered by public libraries outside the capital.
Eighteenth: As to the rights of more vulnerable segments, even though the cultural factors, social traditions and customs play a role in the continuance of numerous difficult obstacles in the path of effecting an actual and qualitative improvement in the matrix of rights of the more vulnerable groups and segments, the Centre has perceived serious attempts to deal with the problems facing the occupants of shelters.
Moreover, the year 2015 witnessed several positive developments at the level of supporting the rights of woman, most important of which was embarking on granting facilities to the offspring of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians in the field of health, education, property ownership, investment and obtaining a driving license. On the other hand, the Centre registers some comments related to that which impinges on the rights of woman, particularly in the area of protecting women and girls from violence and cases of early marriage of minors or girls and making the rapist marry the victim (pursuant to Article 308 Punishments) which are considered below the required standard insofar as providing protection to these segments, and the Jordanian woman’s rights to obtain equal opportunities in assuming high positions and in promotion are still not complete, including availing of training opportunities inside and abroad the country, and an instance of this is not appointing any woman to the Constitutional Court, and not appointing any female judge as an Islamic judge, and the absence of female employees in the religious courts and the General Fatwa Department despite the existence of qualified women holding high academic degrees in the field of Islamic Law and law. Moreover, the Civil Service Regulation has not been amended to stipulate the obligation to provide childcare centers for female employees, and for a family remuneration to be disbursed to the female employee in accordance with the same terms applied to the male employees. Also, the National Centre has recorded during 2015 the continuance of the challenges and violations facing women in the remote regions deprived of services. Actually, women in most of these regions did not play any role in the municipal and parliamentary elections except for exercising the right to cast a ballot, while others could not access the voting centers, and the Centre also observed that women are generally minimally aware of their rights and how to demand those rights.
Nineteenth: As to the rights of physically handicapped persons these have been challenged in the field of the right to education, the right to work, right of access, and right to healthcare particularly in remote regions. Moreover, the Centre has monitored the dearth of health centers for the physically handicapped whose mission is to uncover illnesses, to diagnose them and to effect early intervention, which forces the next of kin of the handicapped children to convey them with difficulty from and to the centers which provide similar services, particularly in the south of the Kingdom. Furthermore, the Report recorded an absence of positive behavior with physically handicapped persons on the part of medical cadres at healthcare centers, and concurrently the presence of environmental obstacles in a number of hospitals, whilst many were unaware of their right to health insurance.
Twentieth: Concerning the rights of the child, the Juveniles Law Number (32) of 2014 which came into effect this year, contributed to providing the necessary protection for children and regulating their affairs, and who are in a dispute with the law, and the children who are in need of protection and care including at times in which they are arrested or questioned or tried, and also assuring their protection in the stage after trial. On the other hand it is the view of the Centre that there is a constellation of laws that are connected to the rights of the child which demand rapid ratification and amendment, including: draft law of the child’s rights, the Labor Code, and amendment of Article (62) of the Penal Code which permit types of disciplinary actions administered by parents on their children in accordance with what is allowed by public customs.
On the other hand the Centre views with concern the phenomenon of increased employment of children between 16-18 years of age in a number of governorates in the shadow of the presence of large numbers of Jordanian and Syrian child laborers, and in the informal and unregulated sector they work in large numbers as street vendors and at traffic lights and in a number of occupations such as carpentry, ironsmith shops, automobile repair shop, painting and cleaning vehicles shops, restaurants and bakeries, in addition to numerous other sectors. This is in spite of the fact that Jordanian laws prohibit employing children who did not reach the age of (16) years, and disallow employing children between 16 and 18 years in hazardous labor activities.
Twenty One: The Jordanian legislator has treated the rights of the elderly through the pertinent national legislation such as the Social Security Law, Civil Retirement Law, Personal Status Law, and also the regulations of the Ministry Of Social Development related to the homes for the elderly. This matrix of national legislation, even if it provides the required protection in some areas, such as the right to social guarantees, and the right to alternative institutional care other than the family according to need, yet they are insufficient. Hence, there is a need to approach the issue based on the foundations of the human rights matrix as a whole, which also demands the necessity of adopting a law particular to the elderly. The Centre registered this year the need of remote regions for social and health services particular to the elderly, and the difficulty encountered by the elderly residing in remote villages and regions in receiving medications, which may in most cases be unavailable within the coverage of governmental insurance, coupled with the inability of those to buy them from the local market due to their high prices.