Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Jordan

  • Author: Mikaela McDermott
  • Document source:
  • Date:

(Scores are based on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 representing weakest and 7 representing strongest performance.)

Executive Summary


Mikaela McDermott is a Senior Program Officer in the RIGHTS Program at Freedom House, where she manages programs to promote human rights and the rule of law, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa.

King Abdullah of Jordan, who ascended the throne following the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, has grappled with extraordinary difficulties during his relatively brief reign. More than half of Jordan's inhabitants are of Palestinian origin, and following the fall 2000 outbreak of the Al Aqsa intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, domestic opposition to Jordan's 1994 peace treaty and normalization of relations with Israel increased markedly. In late 2002, King Abdullah was required to balance fierce domestic opposition to the U.S.-led war in neighboring Iraq, with which Jordan had longstanding economic and familial ties, with Jordan's interest in supporting the United States, which provides Jordan with significant economic aid and military assistance. At the same time, faced with a stagnant economy, King Abdullah attempted to implement economic liberalization measures that over the long term are likely to reduce the patronage opportunities for his Transjordanian (i.e., non-Palestinian) power base.

The reaction of King Abdullah and the Jordanian government to these challenges and potential threats at first reduced opportunities for public participation in governance and eroded civil liberties. In 2001, the king dissolved Jordan's elected national assembly and postponed legislative elections, reportedly out of concern that legislators would attempt to annul Jordan's peace treaty with Israel. For nearly two years, the king ruled by issuing more than 200 so-called temporary laws, some of which, in the wake of September 11, 2001, adversely affected basic freedoms and human rights protections. Other temporary laws, many of which Jordanians say were unlikely to have been passed by the national assembly, promoted economic liberalization and women's rights.

Having weathered the various regional storms, Jordan took several positive steps in 2002-03 to restore some democratic practices and civil liberties. In December 2002, the Jordanian government established the National Centre for Human Rights, a new quasi-autonomous organization charged with promoting human rights and enhancing democracy. In April 2003, the Jordanian government repealed legislation that severely impinged upon freedom of the press, and in June 2003 Jordan held its long-delayed elections to the national assembly. Both King Abdullah and the Jordanian government characterized these measures not as discrete developments but as part of a reinvigorated reform process.

While Jordan's recent improvements are welcome, the state needs to take further significant steps toward substantive political liberalization and reform. Most important, Jordan should expand opportunities for Jordanian citizens, the vast majority of whom polling data suggest feel alienated from the state, to participate in a meaningful fashion in their governance. Jordan also should work to increase the independence of the judiciary, curtail corruption, ensure due process in the criminal context, and expand freedoms of expression and assembly. Although Jordanian officials have developed concrete plans to address many of these issues, it remains to be seen whether they will muster the political will and resources to transform promises into reality. If Jordan does make progress in some of these areas, it stands a chance of becoming a regional model for political liberalization and good governance. However, if none of these plans come to fruition, Jordan might properly be viewed as a country that is adept at window dressing but ultimately is not committed to real change.

Civil Liberties – 3.46

Jordanian law protects against arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, and torture, but the state does not take adequate measures to ensure that these protections are realized. The Jordanian criminal procedure code mandates that the police notify the public prosecutor within 24 hours of a suspect's arrest, but the public prosecutor sometimes does not examine the validity of an arrest for days.1 Formal charges must be filed within 14 days of an arrest, but courts often grant multiple extensions of this deadline, resulting in lengthy periods of pretrial detention. Torture and mistreatment are believed to occur frequently in police stations, particularly for the purpose of extracting confessions.2 The Jordanian penal code stipulates that torture is a punishable offense, but the Jordanian government rarely acknowledges its occurrence or prosecutes alleged perpetrators. Although Jordanian citizens may file civil suits for damages resulting from human rights violations committed by security forces, they seldom do so.

Jordan established two new mechanisms that, if given adequate resources and encouragement by the government, could increase accountability for human rights violations, including those that occur in the criminal context. However, it is too soon to judge whether these mechanisms will be effective. In December 2002, a royal decree established the National Centre for Human Rights "to promote human rights, ensure equality and justice, fight discrimination, enhance democracy and to observe the Kingdom's commitment to international conventions."3 Although the temporary law establishing the Centre states it will have "full independence," by law the chairman of its board of directors is the prime minister. The Centre cannot file complaints in court on behalf of aggrieved individuals but may only attempt to resolve cases through nonconfrontational communications with the agencies or institutions allegedly responsible for abuses. In May 2003, the Public Security Department opened specialized offices throughout Jordan in which citizens may lodge complaints about alleged police misconduct.

Jordanian women do not have full equality under the law, but in recent years the government and members of the royal family have endeavored to increase women's legal rights. Between 2001 and 2003, the government passed temporary laws that enabled women to apply for passports without spousal or custodial consent, initiate divorces, and pass their retirement benefits to their husband and children upon death. In addition, the government passed a temporary law that deleted those portions of Article 340 of the penal code that exonerated men for "honor killings." However, Article 98 of the penal code, which mitigates punishment for crimes committed in a "fit of fury" and is often successfully invoked by defendants charged with honor killings, remains in effect, and the police regularly take potential victims of honor killings into protective custody.4 As of September 2003, the new parliament was reviewing the temporary laws passed in the previous two years, including those relating to women. While the elected Chamber of Deputies appeared inclined to reject many of the laws that promoted women's equality, the appointed Senate seemed poised to approve them.5 During the period that the two bodies disagree on whether to approve or reject a temporary law, the law remains in effect.

Women have the right to vote. Yet women remain subject to significant discrimination in inheritance. Jordanian women married to foreigners currently cannot pass Jordanian citizenship to their children. Although the law requires equal pay for equal work, women are often underpaid. The government has made efforts to increase the number of women in the civil service.6 In September 2002, the government announced the opening of Jordan's first shelter for victims of domestic violence, which is believed to be widespread.7 Trafficking of persons is not believed to occur in Jordan, and the law explicitly prohibits trafficking in children.8

Palestinians, who constitute a majority of Jordan's population, face discrimination in government employment, the military, and public universities.9 Most Palestinians who fled to Jordan from the Gaza Strip in 1967 have not been granted Jordanian citizenship and cannot vote or hold public sector jobs.

The Jordanian constitution establishes Islam as the state religion, but it forbids religious discrimination and provides for freedom of worship and religious rites "unless such is inconsistent with public order or morality" (Articles 2 and 14). Approximately 95 percent of Jordanians are Sunni Muslim, and the remainder are primarily Christians, Druze, Shia Muslims, and Baha'is.10 The ministry of religious affairs and trusts oversees Islamic institutions, including the construction of mosques and training centers for imams, who are civil servants. The ministry monitors sermons and regularly requires that imams preach on certain subjects.11 Criticism of the royal family or state policy is a punishable offense, and the ministry is said to rotate those imams who are less sympathetic to the state to prevent them from developing loyal followings.12

The state does not officially recognize the Druze or Baha'i faiths and prohibits public proselytizing by foreign missionaries. However, it generally does not interfere with religious exercise by non-Muslim citizens.13 Personal status matters are adjudicated by Sharia courts for Muslims and by non-Muslim tribunals for adherents of recognized religions. Atheists and members of unrecognized religions must petition a recognized court to resolve their personal status matters. Under the law, Muslim converts to other religions continue to be treated as Muslims and may face social or government discrimination.

The Jordanian constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government regularly licenses civic organizations and political parties. However, the state has the ability to monitor civil society closely through laws requiring detailed disclosure of nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities, and research centers cannot receive funding for joint research projects without the ministry of information's approval. Workers in the private sector and part of the public sector have the right to form and join unions, but union bylaws exclude noncitizens. Membership in some of Jordan's professional associations is mandatory.

The state appears to envision civil society as a neutral sphere, and it cracks down on organizations that it views as excessively politicized. The king and government officials have repeatedly asserted that professional associations should not engage in political activities,14 and in December 2002 the government declared anti-normalization committees, which oppose peace with Israel, to be illegal. In October 2002, the ministry of interior dissolved the independent Jordanian Society for Citizen's Rights, ostensibly because it had failed to file an annual report for the previous three years. However, the organization's president said the closure was triggered by criticism of Israel and of the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq.15

Freedom of assembly is restricted. Under an August 2001 temporary law on public gatherings, organizers of demonstrations must apply for permits three days prior to the scheduled event, and the state may disperse gatherings that deviate from their stated purpose. In addition, the individual applying for the permit must agree to accept personal liability for any damage resulting from the demonstration. In February 2003, in response to public tension about the threat of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, the government lifted a year-long ban on demonstrations. In spring 2003, thousands of Jordanians participated in protests against the invasion, some of which were dispersed by riot police with batons and tear gas.16


The Jordanian government should increase efforts to abolish human rights violations, including torture, that occur in the criminal law system. The government should publicly acknowledge complaints of torture and police misconduct, perform thorough and impartial investigations of complaints, establish civilian review boards, and prosecute alleged perpetrators where the evidence merits. To increase further the accountability of state officials for human rights violations, the National Human Rights Centre should be granted the authority to conduct investigations and file lawsuits on behalf of private citizens. The Jordanian government should continue its commendable efforts to promote women's equality by pressing for additional legal reform and working to eliminate barriers to women's development, such as domestic violence. Jordan should repeal the August 2001 temporary law on public gatherings in favor of more reasonable and less restrictive regulations. The state should streamline and reduce the reporting and disclosure requirements for civil society organizations and permit them to take stances on policy matters and advocate for reform.

Rule of Law – 2.75

Jordan has several types of courts. Civil courts have jurisdiction over civil and most criminal cases. Sharia courts and religious courts of other recognized religions deal with personal status matters, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. The state security court adjudicates cases involving, among other things, allegations of sedition, armed insurrection, financial crimes, drug trafficking, offenses against the royal family, crimes involving the possession of weapons and explosives, and conspiracy against state security.

Although Jordan's constitution provides that "judges are independent" and that "the courts shall be open to all and free from any interference in their affairs" (Articles 97 and 101), Jordanians familiar with the judicial system state that judges are in fact regularly subjected to a variety of outside pressures. A 10-member Higher Judicial Council, which consists largely of senior judges, has had nominal control over the appointment and transfer of civil court judges since 2001, when parliament enacted legislation designed to increase the independence of the judiciary. These authorities previously had been vested in the ministry of justice. However, judicial appointments remain limited to a list of candidates recommended by the ministry of justice, which controls the Higher Judicial Council's budget. Jordanians assert that judicial recommendations and appointments are still often made on the basis of tribal affiliations and personal connections.17

Judges in the courts of first instance (that is, trial courts) may serve until age 68, while judges in the Court of Cassation and Supreme Court may serve until age 74. However, the Higher Judicial Council may terminate the service of any judge who has completed 25 years of service. For the past several years, Jordanian judges have earned salaries significantly higher than employees in other government institutions. Knowledgeable Jordanians state that in the past decade, the quality of civil court judges has decreased markedly and that many judges lack both knowledge of the law and adequate legal skills. The executive branch and security forces are said to affect the outcome of cases regularly, whether by influencing the assignment of judges to specific matters, directly instructing judges on how to rule, or overturning decisions.18 According to the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal 2003 Index of Economic Freedom, the courts moderately protect property rights.

The Jordanian government has publicly acknowledged deficiencies in the civil court system and declared its intention to implement reforms, in part to attract further foreign economic investment. In September 2003, King Abdullah told a Washington, DC audience that Jordan is at "square one" in terms of judicial independence and professionalism and listed judicial training as a top priority.19 Official descriptions of the Jordan First campaign, which outlines Jordan's reform priorities, state that it will address training of judges and attempt to expedite the resolution of court cases, which are significantly backlogged. However, no significant reforms have yet been implemented, and Jordanian civic activists maintain that unless high-level officials, including King Abdullah, increase their efforts to reform the judiciary, real change will not occur.20

State security cases are decided by a three-judge panel consisting of two military judges and one civil court judge. Human rights groups assert that state security court trials lack adequate procedural safeguards.21 In 2001, the government enacted temporary amendments to the state security court law that significantly expanded the power of the prime minister to refer cases to the state security court, increased the time of incommunicado detention from two to seven days, and eliminated the right to appeal for defendants convicted of misdemeanors (that is, crimes punishable by three years or less) in the state security court. In June 2002, the Jordanian Lawyers Association engaged in a one-week boycott of the state security court in protest against the amendments.

Jordanian law explicitly states that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to counsel. In practice, detainees are not always granted timely access to counsel, particularly in cases under the jurisdiction of the state security court.22 The state must provide criminal defendants who are charged with offenses punishable by life in prison and/or death with an attorney if they cannot afford one; Jordanians state that in practice, this requirement is usually respected.23 All persons are generally equal before Jordan's nonreligious courts, but the testimony of women is worth only half that of men in most matters in Sharia courts.

The military, police, and internal security forces are under the control of the king and the government and are not subject to meaningful civilian supervision, including parliamentary budgetary oversight. The General Intelligence Department (GID) is regarded as one of Jordan's most powerful institutions. It is said to wield significant influence, interfering frequently in Jordanian politics and with the press. The military, which has traditionally been composed primarily of Transjordanians, is regarded as particularly loyal to the Jordanian monarchy and to be a primary reason for that monarchy's long-term survival.


Jordan should bolster its efforts to increase the independence and quality of the judiciary. High-level Jordanian officials, including King Abdullah, should make clear to judges and other officials, including members of the security forces, that interference in the judiciary will not be tolerated. Jordan should consider granting the Higher Judicial Council full authority to appoint judges. To increase transparency in the judicial appointment process, Jordan should publicize widely lists of judicial candidates and eventual appointees. Jordan should improve the quality of training for judges and continue its efforts to increase the efficiency of the judicial system, both by computerizing the courts and implementing alternative forms of dispute resolution. Jordan should repeal the temporary legislation that grants overly broad authority to the prime minister to refer cases to the state security court and implement measures to ensure that all defendants receive timely access to counsel. The military and GID should be subject to greater civilian oversight. Ministers supervising these ministries should be civilians or surrender their commissions.

Anticorruption and Transparency – 2.92

Transparency International's 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index awards Jordan a score of 4.6 on a 10-point scale. The state's significant role in the economy creates opportunity for corruption. The Jordanian government consumes approximately 26.5 percent of Jordan's GDP24 and employs 35 percent of the country's workforce.25 In 2001, approximately two-thirds of the state budget was allocated to salaries.26 Wasta, or the use of influence or personal connections to gain favors, is believed to be particularly pervasive. In a recent poll by the Amman-based Arab Archives Institute, approximately 87 percent of respondents stressed the need to eliminate wasta, but at the same time, 90 percent said they would engage in it.27 Corruption ranked as the second most important concern to Jordanians after poverty in a June 2003 poll conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) at the University of Jordan.28

From the beginning of his reign, King Abdullah has emphasized that eradicating corruption, including wasta, is a top priority. In his first months as king, he famously visited government ministries in various disguises, investigating firsthand the extent to which bribes are demanded for public services. In 2000, he told a group of Jordanian editors: "I stand against cronyism. Everyone who works on consolidating it or ignoring its existence is my personal enemy."29 Through a high-level ministerial committee on corruption formed in 2000 and an ad hoc committee on corruption and favoritism formed in 2002 in connection with the Jordan First campaign, Jordan has taken some direct steps to fight corruption. In addition, Jordan has enacted measures to liberalize the economy, which presumably will reduce the long-term opportunities for patronage. However, there remain gaps in the legislation and institutions available to reduce corruption, and the state's treatment of corruption cases is not consistent.

Jordanian law prohibits public officials from taking bribes, but there are no requirements that they report on the receipt of gifts or hospitality, nor are there restrictions on post-public sector employment.30 In 2000, there were efforts to draft a code of honor against nepotism and cronyism in public employment, but the code was never completed. Since 2000, certain government officials have attempted at least five times to enact legislation requiring public officials, including parliamentarians, to disclose their assets, but no such legislation has yet been passed. Although the conduct of Jordan's final secondary school exam (Tawjihi) is generally viewed as fair, the use of wasta to obtain places in universities, scholarships, and good grades is believed to be widespread.31

Several governmental institutions have the authority to monitor and investigate corruption. The audit bureau of the constitution monitors the expenditures of most government institutions and submits a report to parliament every six months; until recently, the reports were only submitted annually. Although the head of the audit bureau has immunity under the constitution, the bureau is subject to pressures from the executive branch. The ministry of administrative development is charged with uncovering instances of corruption in governmental institutions, as well as ensuring that the civil service and government procurement laws are properly implemented. In September 2002, the ministry of administrative development announced plans to open public complaints offices for the "misuse of authority, inefficiency or corruption in official departments."32 However, Jordan does not have whistle-blower protection laws that shield complainants, who are required to provide their names and addresses in order to file complaints. The anticorruption unit of the GID investigates smuggling, tax evasion, counterfeiting, money-laundering, commercial fraud, manipulation of standards and specifications, telecommunications piracy, and violations of intellectual property law. The anticorruption unit asserts that it is expending significant effort on the latter two problems, which it views as major obstacles to attracting foreign investment.

The enforcement of Jordan's anticorruption laws has improved under King Abdullah. In February 2002, at the king's direction, the prosecutor general began a groundbreaking corruption investigation and prosecution of several senior officials, including the former head of the GID, Samih Batikhi. In July 2003, Batikhi was found guilty of fraud and embezzlement by Jordan's state security court, sentenced to eight years in prison, and ordered to pay back $24 million. Jordan's current GID chief then reduced Batikhi's prison term to four years. The prosecution and conviction of a figure as prominent as Batikhi was touted by the Jordanian government as a groundbreaking step against corruption. However, other Jordanians asserted that the conviction was politically motivated and based on flawed legal grounds and faulty evidence. The trial itself was not public.

Civil society groups complain that the king and government have not involved them in any anticorruption efforts, and in at least two relatively recent instances, the government has actively thwarted media efforts to expose corruption. In March 2002, the government allegedly threatened to ban a newspaper if it printed certain articles regarding the Batikhi case.33 Then, in May 2002, former parliamentarian Toujan Faisal was sentenced to 18 months in prison for posting a letter in an Internet publication that accused the prime minister of corruption. The king pardoned Faisal in June 2002.

Government transparency is limited in Jordan. Citizens do not have the legal right to government information, nor are there established procedures through which they can petition the government for it. Most Jordanian ministries have Web sites, and the government expects to complete an e-government project in the next several years that will enable citizens to conduct official transactions by computer and presumably reduce the ability of ministry employees to extract bribes for basic services. The parliament is required to review the budget, but expenditures of the royal court and the armed forces are not subject to legislative approval.


King Abdullah and the Jordanian government should continue to highlight publicly the need to fight all forms of corruption, including wasta. The government should continue to investigate and prosecute officials who have engaged in corruption, but it should do so in civil courts and in a transparent manner. The state should take additional steps to reduce corruption, such as enacting mandatory financial disclosure laws for public officials and reforming the civil service, including enacting a civil servants' ethics code. Jordan should increase transparency of state institutions and actions. Positive measures would include opening the budgets of the royal court and armed forces to legislative scrutiny and enacting freedom of information legislation. Jordan should continue to implement the e-government project and take steps to ensure that most citizens can access electronic government services. The Jordanian government should permit greater civil society involvement in efforts to eradicate corruption and to encourage uninhibited media reporting on corruption stories.

Accountability and Public Voice – 2.94

Jordanians are significantly limited in their ability to choose their leaders and to influence public policy. The Jordanian constitution establishes that Jordan is a hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. Executive power is vested in the king, and legislative power is nominally shared between the king and the national assembly, which comprises a 40-member Senate appointed by the king and a 110-member elected Chamber of Deputies. However, the national assembly cannot directly initiate legislation, and the king appoints and may dismiss both the prime minister and the council of ministers. There are no formal processes by which citizens receive information about and comment on pending legislation, regulations, and government policy, and many citizens complain that the government excludes them entirely from decision-making processes.34

Jordan legalized political parties in 1992, but most of Jordan's approximately 30 parties are weak, and many do not have clear platforms. Since 1993, Jordan has had a controversial "one-person, one-vote" legislative electoral system, in which Jordanians cast votes for only one candidate in multimember districts. Most Jordanians and outside observers assert that this system promotes the election of Transjordanian tribal candidates over political party representatives. In addition, the number of deputies per electoral district is not based on population, and urban areas with relatively high Palestinian populations are under-represented.35 Both the electoral system and districts in Jordan are viewed as skewed in the monarchy's favor and as impediments to meaningful democratic development. There are quotas in the Chamber of Deputies for Christians (9 seats), Circassians or Chechens (3 seats), and, as of February 2003, for women (6 seats).

In June 2001, King Abdullah dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and postponed elections scheduled for November 2001 until September 2002. State officials claimed the postponement was due to the unavailability of certain election equipment, but opposition groups charged that, with the Al-Aqsa intifada raging in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the government feared candidates hostile to Jordan's peace treaty with Israel would prevail.36 Beginning in August 2001, and for nearly the next two years, the government filled the legislative vacuum by issuing dozens of "temporary" laws, some of which severely restricted civil liberties. Many Jordanian lawyers regard the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies and the issuance of those temporary laws that were not emergency in nature as unconstitutional.37 In August 2002, citing difficult regional circumstances, King Abdullah further postponed the legislative elections until spring 2003.

On June 17, 2003, Jordan held long-delayed elections, with tribal and independent candidates winning a majority of seats and official voter turnout at 58.8 percent.38 The elections were the first contests held under a July 2001 temporary law that reduced the voting age from 19 to 18 and added measures designed to increase electoral transparency, including vote tabulation at polling stations and the use of magnetic voter identity cards. In a poll published in July 2003 by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, 42.1 percent of respondents said that the elections were fair "to a great extent," 27.9 percent said they were fair "to a medium extent," and 18.2 percent said they were "unfair."

The opposition Islamic Action Front (IAF) boycotted municipal elections held on July 26 and 27, 2003, in most districts because of a November 2002 temporary law that authorized the government to appoint all mayors and up to half of municipal council members. Opponents of the law criticized it as undemocratic, while government officials argued that the appointment of technocrats would improve local services.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, King Abdullah has repeatedly stated his intention to promote free and pluralistic media in Jordan. In December 2001, he formed a Higher Media Council, whose responsibilities include "formulating media policy, overseeing the regulation of the media sector and assisting in the creation of a responsible and accountable media environment."39 However, the Higher Media Council has been relatively inactive to date, and freedom of expression remains restricted. The government is the sole broadcaster of radio and television programs, owns substantial shares in Jordan's two leading Arabic daily newspapers, and must license all publications. There are high taxes on the media industry and tariffs on paper, and the government has been criticized for advertising primarily in newspapers in which it has ownership.40 The press law requires that journalists be members of the Jordanian Press Association and imposes qualifications for publishers and chief editors.

In October 2001, the government enacted a temporary law that amended Article 150 of the penal code to permit the state security court to close media outlets and imprison individuals for up to three years for publishing information that harmed national unity or the dignity and reputations of individuals or the state. The amendment was rescinded in 2003 after the Jordanian Press Association, reportedly at the government's urging, passed a more restrictive code of ethics.41 At the same time, the government amended the press and publications law to state explicitly that crimes involving the press should be tried in the courts of first instance (that is, not in state security court). Despite these legislative improvements, other articles of the penal code continue to provide for imprisonment and fines for defamation of the royal family, the national assembly, and public officials. The press law requires that books be submitted to the ministry of information's press and publications department for approval prior to printing, and the government may prevent the distribution of foreign publications.

The state reportedly plants informers at newspapers to alert officials to what they consider objectionable articles before they are published. Editors and journalists report that at times they receive official warnings not to publish certain articles, and there is said to be a significant degree of editorial and self-censorship.42 Journalists were imprisoned in 2002 and 2003 for stories about corruption and prison conditions, as well as for articles that allegedly insulted Qatari officials and Islam.43 Officials confiscated footage of pro-Palestinian demonstrations and shut down the Amman office of the Al-Jazeera network for seven months after a guest made comments that were viewed as critical of Jordan.44


Jordan should modify its constitutional framework so that citizens have a more permanent and meaningful voice in their own governance. In short, both the executive and legislative branches of government should be popularly elected, and citizens should have guaranteed access to pending legislation and regulations. In the next several years, Jordan should initiate a broad public dialogue on the legislative election law and consider whether to abolish the one-person, one-vote electoral system in favor of a system that would strengthen political parties. Jordan should also consider redrawing its electoral districts so that the number of legislators per district is based on population. Jordan should reduce restrictions on the press, including repealing legislation that criminalizes defamation or insult of the royal family and public officials; eliminating capital requirements for newspapers; abolishing mandatory membership for journalists in the Jordan Press Association; liberalizing the broadcast media; and refraining from direct and indirect censorship, including any review and prior censorship of books and periodicals.


1 Interview with Ihssan Shurdom, head of Public Security Department, 21 September 2003; interview with Jordanian human rights activist, 22 September 2003.

2 Interview with Jordanian human rights activist, 22 September 2003; meeting with U.S. embassy officials, Amman, Jordan, 25 September 2003.

3 "Royal Decree Forms Board of Trustees of National Center for Human Rights," Jordan Times, 19 February 2003,

4 Jordan, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 31 March 2003), 15-16,

5 "Upper House Appears Set to Approve Penal Code Amendment Again," Jordan Times, 10 September 2003,

6 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 15-16.

7 Rana Husseini, "Ministry Announces First Women's Shelter to Open in Six Months," Jordan Times, 4 September 2002,; Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 15-16.

8 Ibid., 20.

9 Ibid., 18.

10 Jordan, International Religious Freedom Report (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 7 October 2002), 1,

11 Ibid.; Quintan Wictorowicz, "State Power and the Regulation of Islam in Jordan," Journal of Church and State 41, 4 (Autumn 1999): 690.

12 Ibid., 690-91.

13 Religious Freedom Report (U.S. Dept. of State), 3.

14 Salma El Taweel, "Debating the Role of the Professional Associations," The Star, 26 January 2003,,5596,239_7459,00.html; "King Reviews Jordan's Position on Regional, Domestic Challenges," interview with Abu Dhabi television, 21 January 2003,

15 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 14; Ibtisam Awadat, "Local Human Rights Society Threatened by Closure," The Star, 28 September 2002,,5596,200_5930,00.html.

16 "Protests, Demonstrations Continue Across Kingdom against U.S.-led War in Iraq," Jordan Times, 22 March 2003,; Margaret Coker, "Jordan's King Joins Outcry against War," the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 4 April 2003, 14A.

17 Interviews with Jordanian human rights activists, 22 September 2003; interview with Jordanian jurist, 25 September 2003.

18 Interview with Mohammad Al-Raggad, head of the Higher Judicial Council, 21 September 2003; interviews with Jordanian human rights activists, 22 September 2003; interview with Jordanian jurist, 25 September 2003.

19 Jackson Diehl, "Jordan's Democracy Option," the Washington Post, 21 September 2003,ᆲFound=true.

20 Interview with Jordanian jurist, 25 September 2003.

21 Jordan: Attacks on Justice 2000 (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 13 August 2001),; Jordan: Amnesty International Report 2003 (London: Amnesty International, 2003),

22 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 4; interviews with Jordanian human rights activists, 22 September 2003; interview with Jordanian jurist, 25 September 2003.

23 Interview with Dr. Nazem Aref, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, 25 September 2003; interview with Jordanian human rights activist, 22 September 2003; meeting at National Centre for Human Rights, 23 September 2003.

24 2003 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2003),

25 Alia Shukri Hamzeh, "Public Complaints Offices Forthcoming," Jordan Times, 9 September 2002,

26 Basem Sakijha, National Integrity Systems [NIS] Country Study Report: Jordan 2001 (The Hague: The Netherlands Ministry of Justice and Transparency International, May 2001), p. 5,

27 Basem Sakijha and Sa'eda Kilani, Wasta in Jordan: The Declared Secret (Amman: Arab Archives Institute, March 2002),

28 Interview at Center for Strategic Studies, University of Jordan, Amman, 24 September 2003.

29 Basem Sakijha and Sa'eda Kilani, Wasta in Jordan.30 Basem Sakijha, NIS... Report: Jordan 2001.

31 Basem Sakijha and Sa'eda Kilani, Wasta in Jordan.

32 Alia Shukri Hamzeh, "Public Complaints Offices Forthcoming," Jordan Times, 9 September 2002,

33 "Jordan 2002 World Press Freedom Review" (Vienna: International Press Institute [IPI], 2003),

34 Interview with Jordanian civil society activist, 25 September 2003.

35 Curtis R. Ryan, Jordan in Transition (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), 124-25;."Domestic Politics and Reform" (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, n.d.),; Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 13-14.

36 Jillian Schwedler, "Don't Blink: Jordan's Democratic Opening and Closing," Middle East Report Online, 3 July 2002, 3,; "Human Rights Defenders in Jordan: Government Undoing a Decade of Reform" (New York: Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, n.d.),

37 "The Challenge of Political Reform: Jordanian Democratisation and Regional Instability" (Brussels: International Crisis Group, 7, 8 October 2003).

38 Alia Shukri Hamzeh and Dina Al Wakeel, "Tribal, Independent Figures Win Most of Lower House Seats," Jordan Times, 19 June 2003,; "Jordanian Elections 2003" (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan),

39 King Abdullah, "Political Development – Introduction," n.d.,

40 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 8; interview with Tareq Al-Momany, head of Jordan Press Association, 22 September 2003.

41 Ibid.42 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 5-6; Attacks on the Press 2002: Jordan (New York: Committee to Protect Journalists, 2003),

43 Attacks on the Press 2002: Jordan (CPJ); "Two of the Three Journalists Jailed for 'libelling Islam's prophet and disparaging the dignity of the State' Released" (Paris: Reporters sans frontieres, 19 February 2003),

44 Attacks on the Press 2002: Jordan (CPJ); Alia Shukri Hamzeh, "Al Jazeera's Office in Amman Reopens," Jordan Times, 19 March 2003,

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