Human rights in Jordan: Wikis


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The record of human rights in Jordan continues to be a matter of concern for many international human rights groups but there have been a series of reforms in order to address these issues. However, the state of human rights in Jordan are the best in the Middle East as stated by Amnesty International.[1] The Jordanian Government has proven to be very receptive to recommendations and reports issued by human rights watchdogs. Jordan has made extensive reforms in order to address human rights violations like prison abuse and torture in partnership with the EU.

Jordan has the lowest risk of human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa and one of the lowest in the world in a study performed by Maplecroft which used Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports to compile its human rights monitoring system.

When compared to other states in the Middle East, Jordan ranks very highly. Jordan is recognised as the most democratic monarchy in the region and ranks higher than many republics being the 5th most democratic nation in the Middle East and the 3rd in the Arab World. Jordan is also the only nation in the Middle East and North Africa that is a member of the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes those who commit crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression, and genocide.[2]



Jordan is a party to many human rights agreements, including[3]

Freedom of the press

The clash between Jordanian media and the Lower House has been a chronic struggle for decades. The state of press freedom in Jordan is very fickle, at one point Jordan had one of the most vocal media in the Arab World but a series of laws passed by Parliament greatly restricted press freedom. The Jordanian media has been very vocal expressing its opposition towards Parliament often leading to clashes. One Jordanian journalist wrote a fiery article called "For God Sake, Abdullah", in which he called on King Abdullah to dissolve the corrupt Lower House. He was prosecuted by the Lower House but was later acquitted by the judiciary. October 8, 2001, the government amended the Penal Code, enacted a new “Anti-Terrorist” law and introduced a restrictive Press Law. The new “Anti-Terrorist” law defines terror and terrorism in vague and loose terms and increases the scope of the death penalty. The Press Law effectively revokes the relative freedom of the press guaranteed by the 1993 Press Law and punishes any act that can be deemed critical of the Jordanian government. Anyone who “slanders” the King or other members of the royal family can be sentenced to three years imprisonment.The introduction of these new laws has led to the detention and imprisonment of several journalists and leaders of peaceful associations.

In fact, since September 11, 2001, virtually no demonstrations have been allowed in Jordan[4]

[5] In the 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index maintained by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan ranked 96th out of 167 countries, putting it third-best in the Middle East, behind only Israel and Kuwait.[6] In May 2006, two journalists involved in reprinting three of the 12 Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons were issued a two-month prison sentence.[7] No journalists or bloggers have been reported to have disappeared, imprisoned, or killed in Jordan since the Reporters Without Borders reports have been issued. Reporters Without Borders classified the state of press freedom in Jordan as having "noticeable problems" like state interference in the media and prosecution of journalists.

Jordan was the only Muslim country to reprint the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed in one of its newspaper. The two Jordanian editors responsible were sacked and pressured to issue a public apology.

In the beginning of 2009, King Abdullah II issued a royal decree forbidding the jail of journalists in Jordan, an act praised by human rights groups in Jordan and around the world. Despite several obstacles, Jordan is still progressing towards having a free, unrestricted media. Recently, four newspaper dailies boycotted media coverage of the House when several MPs issued fiery statements harming the credibility of the media and the Lower House's efforts to impose a 5% tax on the media industry. [8]

Democracy in Jordan

Jordan is the third most democratic country in the Arab world. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a representative government. Jordan has a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consisting of an appointed upper house, Assembly of Senators, and an elected lower house, Chamber of Deputies. The Assembly of Senators is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies and can be dismissed by "a vote of no confidence". The King is the sole executive power in the country. The King signs and executes all laws but his veto power can be overriden by two-thirds vote of the National Assembly. The judicial branch is completely independent. Opposition movements are legal in Jordan and are involved in Jordan's political life.

Jordan is in the process of decentralization into three regions: North, Central, and South. Amman is excluded from the plan. These regions will have elected assemblies that will handle the political and economic affairs of that region.

Freedom of religion

All religious denominations are guaranteed under the Constitution the right to practice their faith in private, however only government-recognized denominations are allowed to build houses of worships and conduct missionary activities in the country. Discrimination based on religion in Jordan in obtaining a job, accessing education and healthcare, etc are illegal and can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The conversion of Muslims to another religion are not recognized by the government and converts face societal pressure.

Womens Rights in Jordan

While Jordan, compared with many other Middle Eastern countries, scores quite highly in democratic league tables”[9] , human rights, especially women’s rights perform poorly. Freedom House, calculates women’s rights based on five distinct categories, each scored from one to five. One having least rights and five the most. Jordanian women score the following in each of these categories.

I. Non-discrimination & access to justice 2.4

II. Autonomy, security & freedom of person 2.4

III. Economic rights & equal opportunity 2.8

IV. Political rights & civic voice 2.8

V. Social & cultural rights 2.5

Out of 17 MENA countries surveyed Jordan ranked about half way down the list apart from category IV, where Jordan had the 5th highest rating. This is interesting as it complements other data showing Jordan to be one of the more democratic MENA countries.[10]. However while Freedom House do criticise Jordan for its poor women’s rights record, it does admit that changes are happening “The status of women in Jordan is currently undergoing a historic transition, with women achieving a number of positive gains and new rights”[11].

The limited economic advantages are one of the main reasons for poor scores in many of the above categories and in a traditional Muslim country it is the duty of the men to bring home a wage. It is not necessarily just discrimination that accounts for the high rates of unemployment, but also genuine economic difficulties and shortages of jobs. "The shrinking of the public sector disproportionately affects women, the location of jobs matters more for women than for men, and discrimination in the private sector remains".[12]

Human Trafficking and Migrant Workers

Jordan also faced issues of human trafficking of women from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. There were also some reports of Eastern European and Morrocan women being forcibly employed as "dancers" and prostitutes in nightclubs and illegal brothels. Many Filipino women are used as maids and workers in Jordan. Due to employers refusing to pay them minimum wages and suspicions of unfair labor contracts, the Philippines recently banned Filipinos from working in Jordan.[13] According to Amnesty there "are about 40,000 registered foreign domestic workers in Jordan, and an additional estimated 30,000, many of whom suffer violations of their human rights."[14] In 2009, an Anti-Human Trafficking Law was endorsed by the government that will severely restrict human trafficking in the Kingdom and create a committee to promote public awareness on the issue. Jordan in cooperation with the Filipino Government worked out an agreement which gave a wide range of rights to domestic workers and access to legal protection, the first Arab country to do so.[15]

Unrestrained violence

Torture is illegal in Jordan, however it remains to be widespread as reported by human rights watchdogs. According to a report by Amnesty International, intelligence agents in Jordan frequently use torture to extract confessions from terror suspects. Common tactics include, "beating, sleep deprivation, extended solitary confinement, and physical suspension." Palestinians and suspected Islamists are treated especially harshly. Though Jordan has improved many procedures including a prison reform campaign in partnership with EU in this respect, agents at the General Intelligence Department remain largely immune to punishment.[16] So-called "honor killings" are often lightly punished by police. There have been several attempts to introduce harsh penalties on honor crimes, but, even with the strong backing of the royal family, these attempts have been rejected by Jordan's Lower House. [5] [17]

Death Penalty

Jordan is currently in the process of phasing out the use of the death penalty. The death penalty would only be used on cases of murder. State Security and smuggling cases have been exempted from capital punishment.

LGBT Rights in Jordan

Jordan is one of the few countries in the Middle East where homosexuality is legal provided that it is not commercial and it is done in private. The Jordanian Government however does not recognize civil unions between two people of the same gender.


Women do not have the same status as men with respect to nationality. A Jordanian man may marry a foreigner and pass on his nationality to his children; women can not. Women can't even pass on their nationality to their husbands.[18]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Status of Democracy and Human rights in the Middle East: Does regime type make a difference? Accessed on 26-01-09.
  3. ^ University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties - Jordan accessed 10-8-2006
  4. ^ Human rights defenders in Jordan: Human rights first. Accessed on 25-01-09.
  5. ^ a b Amnesty International: Human Rights Concerns for Jordan accessed 10-8-2006
  6. ^ Reporters Without Borders: 2005 Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index accessed 8-8-2006
  7. ^ Reporters without Borders: First prison sentences announced for reprinting Mohammed cartoons accessed 12-8-2006
  8. ^ Jordan dailies end House boycott, but crisis not over yet: [1] accessed 9-1-2009
  9. ^ Human rights defenders in Jordan: Human rights first. Accsessed on 25-01-09.
  10. ^ Womens rights in the middle east and north africa: Freedom House. Accessed on 05-02-09.
  11. ^ Womens rights in the middle east and north africa: Freedom House. Accessed on 05-02-09.
  12. ^ Employment and Unemployment in Jordan: The Importance of the Gender System(2001) Rebecca Miles,Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA
  13. ^ World News Network
  14. ^ Amnesty,
  15. ^ Jordan to include migrant workers in its labor laws [2] accessed 9-1-2009
  16. ^ Amnesty International: Systematic Torture of Political Suspects Entrenched in Jordan accessed 12-8-2006
  17. ^ The British Broadcasting Corporation: 'Honour killings' law blocked accessed 12-8-2006
  18. ^ Women in Islam-the western experience. Anne Sofie Roald(2001) London: Routledge

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