Covering events from January - December 2002
HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN
Head of state: King 'Abdallah bin Hussein
Head of government: 'Ali Abu Ragheb
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified
At least six political prisoners were acquitted and released on appeal. Hundreds, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested following demonstrations or on suspicion of involvement with Islamist groups and "terrorist" activity. There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Political prisoners were tried before the State Security Court (SSC) whose procedures did not meet international fair trial standards. There were reports of harassment and repression of human rights defenders. At least 15 people were sentenced to death and at least 14 were executed. At least 22 people were victims of family or "honour" killings. Two Iraqis who were apparently asylum-seekers were reportedly returned to Iraq.
Laws hastily promulgated and introduced in 2001 in the wake of the 11 September attacks in the USA remained in force and continued to be used to erode the right to freedom of expression. In August the authorities closed the local office of the Qatar-based satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, following the screening of a phone-in program deemed insulting to the royal family. It had included criticism of the late King Hussein in relation to the 1994 Jordan/Israel peace treaty. Demonstrations against ties with Israel, in support of the Palestinian intifada and in opposition to war on Iraq continued.
In October US diplomat Laurence Foley was shot dead in Amman, leading to the arrest of scores of people said to be linked with Islamist or Palestinian groups. This was followed in November by security force raids in and around the city of Ma'an in which at least four civilians, a policeman and a soldier were reportedly killed. Scores of people, thought to be Islamists, were subsequently arrested and 136 apparently referred for questioning to the State Prosecutor. The government claimed the arrests related to trafficking of weapons and drugs. In December the authorities announced the arrest of two men, one Libyan and one Jordanian, said to be members of al-Qa'ida, in connection with Laurence Foley's killing. They were reprtedly held incommunicado at the end of 2002.
In November the Majlis al-Nuqabaa (the Board of Trade Union Chairs) representing the Jordanian Professional Trade Unions and its Anti-Normalization Sub-Committee were found "illegal" by the Court of Cassation's Special Bureau for the Interpretation of Laws. The decision apparently related to the groups' political activities over Jordan's relations with Israel.
In October the SSC acquitted six of nine men convicted in July 2001 in connection with politically motivated bombings and membership of an illegal organization, Jama'at al-Islah wa'l-Tahaddi, Reform and Challenge Group. Prisoner of conscience Toujan al-Faisal, a former member of parliament, was released from Jweideh women's prison on 26 June, following a personal amnesty, although her conviction remained in force. She was sentenced following an unfair trial in May by the SSC to 18 months' imprisonment after publicly criticizing government policy and spent three months in prison.
Hundreds of people were arrested for political reasons. Scores were detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly, including demonstrating in support of the intifada or in opposition to war on Iraq. Dozens of others were arrested on suspicion of involvement with Islamist groups, or of "terrorist" activity, or of gun-running to support the intifada.
More than 100 people, said to be Islamist activists, were reportedly arrested following a bomb attack which killed two passers-by outside the house of the head of the Anti-Terrorist Unit of the General Intelligence Department (GID) in Amman in February. Apparently most were released after days, although six were reportedly charged in relation to "terrorism", two in absentia, and one was charged with withholding information. The case was referred to the SSC.
Torture and ill-treatment
Some political detainees were reportedly tortured or ill-treated by security officers and prison guards during their detention.
- Scores were reportedly ill-treated after their arrests in April. They were apparently arrested in connection with a pro-intifada demonstration in Amman. Apparently some bystanders were among those arrested. Detainees were reportedly beaten in local police stations before being taken to Jweideh prison where they were reportedly kicked and beaten with cables, belts and hoses. Most were apparently released after days but at least three were reportedly charged and referred to the SSC.
Scores of possible prisoners of conscience were detained. Some eight journalists were held for publishing "false" information deemed to be "damaging to the state and its officials" under the new amendments to Article 150 of the Penal Code. They were held for up to four days. Five were charged and their cases were still apparently pending before the SSC at the end of 2002.
Dozens of other possible prisoners of conscience were held for belonging to illegal organizations including Hizb al-Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party), involvement in pro-intifada activities, or opposition to normalization of ties with Israel.
- In October possible prisoners of conscience 'Ali Abu Sukkar, Badi' Rafay'ah and Maysarah Malas, three trade unionists and members of the Anti-Normalization Committee, were arrested. They were charged with membership of an illegal organization after reportedly distributing leaflets critical of Jordan's official stance towards Israel. They were held in Jweideh prison for almost three months before being released, but the charges against them remained.
Human rights defenders faced repression and harassment by the authorities. In October the Ministry of the Interior arbitrarily dissolved the Jordanian Society for Citizen Rights (JSCR). The closure was apparently related to the JSCR's criticism of the government's human rights record and new laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly.
- Hisham Bustani, a trade unionist and member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, was detained twice during 2002. He was arrested in April by Preventive Security and held for five days, mainly in Jweideh prison, after attending a meeting which had discussed the use of tear gas by police against demonstrators. He was held on suspicion of "disseminating rumours harmful to the reputation of the state". The State Prosecutor later dismissed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence. He was arrested again in December by the GID after the Jordanian newspaper al-Arab al-Yawm published an article by him about ill-treatment of prisoners in Jweideh prison. He was held for five days, mainly in Jweideh prison, before being released on bail.
Political trials continued before the SSC whose procedures did not meet international fair trial standards. Cases referred to the SSC concerned both allegations of "terrorist" activity and the publication of materials deemed to be "harmful to the reputation of the state". At least 13 political cases were heard by the SSC.
- On 11 February the SSC sentenced Ra'ed Muhammad Hijazi to death on charges of plotting to carry out "terrorist" activities and illegal production and possession of explosive materials. The SSC acquitted him of other charges, including membership of the al-Qa'ida network. He had reportedly been tortured to extract a "confession" and was convicted following an unfair trial. Following an appeal the Court of Cassation ordered his retrial before the SSC.
At least 15 death sentences were passed, two of which were commuted to life imprisonment and three to 15 years. There were at least 14 executions.
- Yaser Muhammad Ahmad Salamah Abu Shannar, a Palestinian, was executed at Swaqa prison on 4 December. He had been sentenced to death by the SCC in December 2001 in connection with the 1994 shooting of a Jordanian diplomat, which he denied, and was reportedly tortured to extract a "confession". Jamal Darwish Fatayer was sentenced to death by the SSC on 17 December in relation to the same killing, apparently following an unfair trial. His "confession" had reportedly been extracted under torture.
Reports were received of the forcible return of at least two apparent asylum-seekers to Iraq.
- In February, two Iraqis – 'Ammar Sami Muhammad 'Ali and Zayed Sami Muhammad 'Ali – were arrested in Jordan. They had reportedly tried to go to Syria, after allegedly being harassed by Iraqi security agents in Jordan, but were returned by the Syrian authorities. They were then reportedly returned to Iraq where they may be at risk of human rights violations.
At least 17 women and five children, were victims of family or "honour" killings. At least 10 men who had killed women for reasons of "honour" benefited from Article 98 of the Penal Code which provides for leniency in sentencing for crimes committed in a "fit of rage" caused by an unlawful or dangerous act on the part of the victim.
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