Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1997Jordan
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy that
has been ruled by King Hussein since 1952. The Constitution concentrates
a high degree of executive and legislative authority in the King,
who determines domestic and foreign policy. The Prime Minister
and the Cabinet manage the daily affairs of government. The Parliament
consists of the 40-member Senate appointed by the King and the
80-member Chamber of Deputies, which is elected by the people
every 4 years. After the 1989 elections and the lifting of martial
law in 1991, the lower house began to assert itself on domestic
and foreign policy issues. The Parliament elected in 1993, however,
was less assertive than its predecessor. Over 500 candidates
competed in the October parliamentary elections, despite a boycott
by the Islamist and other parties. The election was marred by
reports of registration irregularities, fraud, and restrictions
on the press and on campaign materials. According to the
Constitution, the judiciary is independent of other branches of
government; however, in practice, it is susceptible to outside
General police functions are the responsibility of the Public
Security Directorate (PSD). The PSD, the General Intelligence
Directorate (GID), and the military share responsibility for maintaining
internal security and have authority to monitor the activities
of persons believed to be security threats. The State
Security Court and broad police powers are vestiges of martial
law, which was in place from 1967 to 1991. The security forces
continue to commit human rights abuses.
Jordan has a mixed economy, with significant government participation
in industry, transportation, and communications. The country
has few natural resources and relies heavily on foreign assistance
and remittances from citizens working abroad. The economy has
suffered from chronically high unemployment since the late 1980's.
As part of a structural adjustment program, the Government has
removed subsidies on several staple goods and lifted price controls
on bread, soft drinks, fruits, and vegetables. While consumer
prices and interest rates have risen, wages have remained stagnant,
eroding the purchasing power of most citizens. Exporters have
not yet found adequate replacement markets for those lost as a
result of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. Additional trade
with Iraq under "food for oil" arrangements has not
significantly affected the economy. High expectations that significant
markets would develop in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel following
the 1994 signing of the Jordan-Israel peace treaty have not been
realized. Per capita gross domestic product in 1996 was $1,632.
Since the revocation of martial law in 1991, there has been noticeable
improvement in the human rights situation, however, problems remain,
including: abuse and mistreatment of detainees; arbitrary arrest
and detention; lack of accountability within the security services;
prolonged detention without charge; lack of due process; infringements
on citizens' privacy rights; harassment of opposition political
parties; and restrictions on the freedom of speech, press, assembly,
and association. Citizens do not have the right to change their
form of government, although they can participate in the political
system through political parties and municipal and parliamentary
elections. New restrictions on the press decreed by the King
in May shutdown many smaller publications and led the others to
practice increased self-censorship. In reaction to these limitations
and to the "one-man, one-vote" change in the election
process, the Islamist and other parties boycotted the October
parliamentary elections. Abuse of foreign servants is a problem.
Restrictions on women's rights, violence against women, and abuse
of children are also problems. The Government imposes some limits
on freedom of religion, and there is official discrimination against
adherents of the Baha'i faith.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
Including Freedom from:
a. Political and other Extrajudicial Killing
There continues to be a reluctance on the part of the security
services to transparently investigate allegations of wrongful
death in police custody. In one incident, family members accused
police of killing Samer Mohammed Ziyad on June 23. The 29-year-old
man was wanted for theft, fraud, and arson. According to relatives,
police first assaulted Samer's brother outside of the family home.
After the injured brother left to seek medical attention, two
police officers entered the house, found Samer, and escorted him
to a bedroom. There, according the family members who witnessed
events, a policeman struck Samer twice on the head with a heavy
wooden baton causing him to collapse, unconscious, to the floor.
Samer was instructed to get up by police. When he remained motionless,
the same policeman sprayed a mace-like substance into his face.
The fumes were so strong that the policemen and family members
left the house and remained outside for approximately 90 minutes.
At that time an officer arrived and, after assessing the situation,
instructed family members to take Samer to the hospital. Samer
was pronounced dead on arrival. Police officials claim that Ziyad
had already collapsed when police arrived to arrest him. A government
autopsy reported the cause of death to have been a heart attack
caused by blockage in the coronary arteries. Family members countered
that Ziyad had no history of medical problems and demanded a second
autopsy. A second autopsy was performed by a panel of five independent
physicians. While the second autopsy did not directly contradict
the first autopsy's stated cause of death, it did describe two
severe wounds to the victim's head and surrounding brain tissue.
Police officials claim to have conducted an investigation of
the incident and the allegation of wrongful death but have refused
to release any findings. The policemen involved in the incident
have not been censured and remain on active duty.
In March a member of the army border guard member, Ahmed Daqamseh,
shot and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls and wounded three others
on Naharayim Island in the Jordan River. In June he was tried
in military court, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.
The Government immediately condemned the act and the King made
an unprecedented trip to visit the schoolgirls' families.
There were no developments in the investigation of police officers
involved in the alleged wrongful deaths of Younis Mahmoud Abu
Dawlah, who died in December 1996, and Mahmoud Khalifah, who died
in June 1995. Both men died while in police custody.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearance.
c. Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman, Or Degrading
Treatment Or Punishment
Although the legal code provides prisoners with the right to humane
treatment, security and police forces sometimes abuse detainees
physically during interrogation. Torture allegations are
difficult to verify because security officials frequently deny
detainees timely access to lawyers. The most frequently alleged
methods of torture are sleep deprivation, beatings, and
extended solitary confinement. Defendants in high-profile cases
before the state security court occasionally claim to have undergone
physical and psychological abuse while in detention. Government
officials reject allegations of abuse.
In May Fahd Rimawi, editor of the weekly tabloid Al Majd, publicly
alleged that he was slapped in the face, insulted, and threatened
by officers of the General Intelligence Directorate. Rimawi had
been called in for questioning after publishing an editorial in
which he stated that it was "unfortunate" that an Israeli
stabbing victim in Jordan survived the attack. The Minister of
State for Information Affairs said that Rimawi was summoned and
interrogated for publishing "erroneous news" about changes
in the security forces' leadership. The Government denied that
Rimawi was abused and said that he was released with a warning.
During the June military trial of Ahmed Daqamseh, an army border
guard convicted of killing seven Israeli schoolgirls and wounding
three others (see Section 1.a.), the defendant displayed bruises
to his face and back. Daqamseh's lawyer claimed that Daqamseh
was beaten by the soldiers guarding him. The director of the
military prosecutor's office alleged that Daqamseh beat himself
against his cell door "in an attempt to escape from captivity."
Court was adjourned for 3 days so Daqamseh could be examined
and the source of the injuries determined, but the results of
the examination were not made available to Daqamesh's attorneys.
Montasser Abu Zaid was hanged in June for murder. Abu Zaid was
convicted in 1996 on the basis of a confession that he claimed
was extracted under duress. He alleged that he and his wife were
beaten and deprived of sleep in pretrial detention. These allegations
were made during the course of the trial, but no investigation
In May police used force to disperse demonstrating journalists,
striking protesters (see Section 2.b.).
Prisons and local police detention facilities are Spartan but
generally meet minimum international standards. Prisoners detained
on national security grounds are often kept in separate prisons
maintained by the GID, where conditions are much the same as other
There were reports in April of a hunger strike staged by prisoners
at Suwaqah prison after they were not included in a royal amnesty.
Relatives of prisoners told the Parliament's Public Freedoms
Committee that personnel from the PSD entered the prison and beat
those inmates who were participating in the hunger strike.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is permitted
unrestricted access to prisoners and prison facilities, including
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Or Exile
Security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens. Under
the Constitution citizens are subject to arrest, trial, and punishment
for the defamation of heads of state, dissemination of "false
or exaggerated information outside the country which attacks state
dignity," or defamation of public officials.
The Criminal Code requires legal authorities to file formal charges
within 10 days of arrest. The courts routinely grant requests
from prosecutors for 15-day extensions as provided by law. This
practice generally extends pretrial detention for protracted periods
of time. In cases involving state security, the authorities frequently
hold defendants in lengthy pretrial detention, do not provide
defendants with the written charges against them, and do not allow
defendants to meet with their lawyers until shortly before the
trial. Security defendants usually meet with their attorneys
1 to 2 days prior to the trial.
The Government detains persons, including journalists, for varying
amounts of time for what appear to be political reasons. During
the year all such detainees were released within 3 months; most
were released immediately after questioning. Approximately 350
people, including journalists, were detained for national security
reasons during the year.
The Government does not use forced exile.
E. Denial Of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and court
rulings against the Government in past years indicate that the
judiciary can function independently. However, the judiciary
is susceptible to outside pressure, because a judge's appointment
to, and advancement within the judiciary, is determined by a committee
whose members are appointed by the King.
There are several types of courts. Most criminal cases are tried
in the civilian courts, which also include appeals courts, the
Court of Cassation, and the Supreme Court. Cases involving sedition,
armed insurrection, financial crimes, drug-trafficking, and offenses
against the King are tried in the State Security Court, a remnant
of the pre-1991 martial law period. In January Parliament passed
amendments to the law governing the State Security Court effectively
extending its jurisdiction indefinitely. The amendments had been
rejected earlier by the lower house's judicial committee as "undemocratic"
and contrary to the concept of an independent judiciary. Islamic,
or Shari'a, courts, have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce
among Muslims and inheritance cases involving both Muslims and
non-Muslims (see Section 5). Under Shari'a, a woman's testimony
is only equal to half that of a man (see Section 5).
Most trials in the civilian courts are open. Defendants are entitled
to legal counsel, may challenge witnesses, and have the right
to appeal. Defendants facing the death penalty or life imprisonment
must be represented by legal counsel. Public defenders are provided
if the defendant cannot afford to hire legal counsel.
The State Security Court consists of a panel of three judges,
who may be either civilians or military officers. Sessions are
frequently closed to the public. Defendants tried in the State
Security Court are often held in pretrial detention without access
to lawyers, although they are visited by representatives of the
ICRC. In the State Security Court, judges have inquired into
allegations of that defendants were tortured and have permitted
the testimony of physicians regarding these allegations. To date
the Court has not invalidated a confession obtained under duress,
but on review, the Court of Cassation has ruled that the State
Security Court cannot issue a death sentence on the basis of such
a confession alone. Defendants in the State Security Court have
the right of appeal to the Court of Cassation, which is authorized
to review testimony, evidence, and judgment. Appeals are automatic
for cases involving the death penalty.
In the past, defense attorneys have challenged the appointment
of military judges to the State Security Court to try civilian
cases as contrary to the concept of an independent judiciary.
Military judges appear to receive adequate training in civil
law and court procedure and State Security Court decisions are
reviewed by the Court of Cassation.
Journalists Nahed Hattar and Abdullah Abu Roman were charged with
offenses against the King in August 1996. The State Security
Court dropped charges during the summer of 1997, but the state
prosecutor is appealing the decision. Hattar is accused of slandering
King Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan. The evidence against him
includes published articles that criticize the permanent settlement
of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Abu Roman is accused of slandering
the King. The evidence against him is based on articles seized
when police raided his office. The two are also being tried in
civil court on charges including propagating material that "harms
relations between Jordan and Palestine, sows sectarianism and
ethnicism, instigates violence, terror, and hatred, and undermines
The press routinely carries details of the security court cases.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
F. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family,
Home, Or Correspondence
The Constitution dictates that security forces must obtain a warrant
from the Prosecutor General or a judge before conducting searches
or otherwise interfering with privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
The security services generally respect these constitutional
restrictions; however, in security cases, authorities sometimes--in
violation of the law--obtain warrants retroactively or obtain
preapproved warrants. Security officers reportedly monitor telephone,
read correspondence, and engage in surveillance of persons who
may pose a threat to the Government or national security. While
these practices are not believed to be widespread, the law permits
them if the Government obtains a court order.
Section 2 Respect For Civil Liberties, Including:
A. Freedom Of Speech And Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press;
however, the Government imposes some restrictions on these rights.
Freedom of the press was curtailed by restrictive new amendments
to the Press Law. The Government also intimidates journalists
to encourage self-censorship. Private citizens can be prosecuted
for slandering the royal family, the Government, or foreign leaders
and for sowing sedition. Citizens generally do not hesitate to
criticize the Government openly, but are more circumspect in regard
to the King and the royal family.
The Press and Publications Law was amended by royal decree--i.e.,
without parliamentary approval--in May. The amendments gave daily
and weekly newspapers 3 months to meet greatly increased capitalization
requirements, ranging from $70,000 to $840,000 and $21,000 to
$420,000, respectively. The amended law further prohibits the
publication of news, opinion, information, reports, caricatures,
or photos that: offend the King or the royal family; pertain
to the armed forces or security services; harm national unity;
disparage religion; offend an individual or harm his reputation;
disparage the heads of friendly states; harm the country's relations
with other nations; promote perversion or lead to moral corruption;
shake confidence in the national currency; or feature false news
or rumors. Fines for violations of the law were raised from a
maximum of $1,400 to between $21,000 and $35,000. Newspapers
deemed to be in violation of the law can be shut down until all
fines are paid.
The Press and Publications Law amendment also mandates that editors
must be citizens, resident in the country, and have 10 years of
full-time experience as journalists. In September chief editor
Nabil Al-Sharif of the nation's second largest daily, Al-Dustur,
received a letter from the Ministry of Information ordering him
to resign because he had less than 10 years full-time experience
as a journalist. The Al-Sharif family and the Government each
control three seats on the paper's nine-member board. Mr. Al-Sharif
said that the Government was unhappy with Al-Dustur's editorial
policy and that it had been trying use the board of directors
to oust him for some time.
The Government exercises control over the daily print media through
its ownership of 61 percent of the Jordan Press Foundation, and
32 percent of the Jordan Press and Publications Company, which
together publish three of the country's five dailies. The amended
Press Law dropped an earlier clause requiring the Government to
reduce its shares in press establishments to a maximum of 30 percent.
The Government also requires licenses for newspapers and periodicals,
but the Press Law does not prescribe penalties for publishing
without a license. Specialized publications may not publish material
other than that for which they are licensed. The Government may
revoke the licenses of periodicals that repeatedly violate the
Press and Publications Law or which fail to publish for an extended
period of time. The Government licensed one new publication in
1997. No licenses were revoked.
The Government also requires licenses for journalists, editors,
and publishers. Journalists have long complained about the requirement
that they must join the government-sponsored Jordan Press Association
(JPA). However, the Government has not taken legal action against
journalists who refuse to join the association. Foreign journalists
and Jordanians working for foreign news agencies must register
with the Ministry of Information. The Press Law offers limited
protection for the confidentiality of a journalist's sources.
Persons accused of violating the Press and Publications Law are
tried in a special court for press and copyright cases. Journalists
are also prosecuted for criminal and security violations in connection
with their work. Most such cases result in acquittal or are dismissed
before coming to trial. No guilty verdicts have been handed down
since the May amendment to the Press and Publications Law. Nevertheless,
the Government routinely uses detention and prosecution or the
threat of prosecution of press and publications cases as a means
to intimidate journalists and to encourage self-censorship.
Credible observers expect the broad definition of punishable offenses
in the amendments to the Press Law to encourage increased self-censorship.
The first newspaper to close following the press amendments was
the satirical weekly Abed Rabbo, which printed its final issue
on June 14. The paper cited the decree's broad definition of
prohibited reporting and the severity of fines as the reasons
for its closure. Two of the paper's editors, Omar Nadi and Yousef
Gheishan, had been detained in January, charged with slandering
a Member of Parliament and a government minister. The paper had
called the parliamentary deputy a hypocrite and printed a cartoon
depicting the minister stealing cars.
As a direct result of the new capitalization requirements promulgated
in the Press and Publication Law amendments, 14 of 23 weeklies
were forced to cease publication. Of the nine weeklies still
publishing, four are considered party publications which are not
yet subject to the same restrictions. Regarding the new senior
editor qualifications contained in the law, two of the five senior
editors of daily newspapers--i.e., all but one of the dailies
not completely controlled by the Government--and one of the weekly
senior editors have been asked to resign.
In January Abdullah Bani Issa, editor of the weekly Al Hiwar,
was sentenced to 6 months in prison and fined $700 for publishing
an interview in which Ata Abu Rishtah, leader of the illegal Tahrir
Party, allegedly slandered the King and the Crown Prince. The
sentence cited the Press and Publications Law in imposing the
fine and the Penal Code in passing the jail sentence. The decision
was overturned in April by the Court of Appeals, which ruled that
the content of the interview was neither criminal nor slanderous.
Abu Rishtah is currently in jail for an earlier 1996 State Security
Court conviction for slandering the King.
Also in January, Na'el Salah, editor of the weekly Al Haqiqa,
was sentenced to 9 months in prison and fined $21,000 for "spreading
false news and publishing pornographic material" for reporting
on prostitution in Amman. Salah had been detained for 4 days
in 1996 in connection with the case.
The editor in chief of the Al-Ahali weekly newspaper Jamil Nimri,
and reporters Basel Tallouzi and Ramadan Rawashdeh were acquitted
in February of charges of "instigating the masses" against
the Jordan-Israel peace treaty and harming national security.
The Al-Ahali newspaper is linked to the Jordan People's Democratic
Party. In May Osama Rantisi, editor of the Al-Ahali, was detained
for 10 days before being charged with lack of accuracy and objectivity
in reporting, and slandering individuals. The arrest came after
Rantisi published a story alleging that one of Amman's private
hospitals was failing financially and was going to be purchased
by a group of Israeli investors.
Zarqa mayor Mustafa Fayyad was detained for 3 days in February
for slandering members of parliament. The Speaker of the lower
house of Parliament requested mayor Fayyad's arrest after he said
in an interview that "three quarters of the Members of Parliament
Journalists Nahed Hattar and Abdullah Abu Roman faced charges
in the State Security Court, Hattar for slandering the King and
the Crown Prince, and Abu Roman for slandering the King (see Section
The Penal Code authorizes the State to take action against any
person who incites violence, defames heads of state, disseminates
"false or exaggerated information outside the country which
attacks state dignity," or defames public officials. Ahmed
Oueidi Abbadi was charged with undermining national unity, inciting
people to criminal acts, and fueling bigotry, for a 1996 editorial
in which he called for government confiscation of the property
of Palestinians living in Jordan. The case was postponed in April
and eventually dismissed. Abbadi was elected to Parliament in
the October elections.
The Government is the sole broadcaster of radio and television
programs. Radio and television news broadcasts are more restricted
than the print media. Television news airs reports critical of
the Government but rarely covers alleged human rights abuses.
Opposition parties have complained that Jordan Television (JTV)
reports only the Government's position on controversial matters.
International satellite television and Israeli and Syrian television
broadcasts are available and unrestricted.
In March the Government announced an end to pre-distribution censorship
of publications entering the country. Previously, imported magazines
and newspapers were subject to a pre-distribution check for violations
of the press and publications law. In October, in the
period leading up the parliamentary elections, the Government
resumed pre-distribution censorship of foreign publications, blocking
the distribution of 54 Arabic language publications and 16 issues
of British newspapers.
There were no dismissals of university professors for their political
views in 1997. However, intellectuals believe that there are
no safeguards to prevent such dismissals.
b. Freedom Of Peaceful Assembly And Association
The Government restricts freedom of assembly. Citizens must obtain
permits for public gatherings. Since 1989 the Government has
granted some permits for peaceful demonstrations. The Government
denies permits for public protests and rallies that it determines
pose a threat to security.
In January the Government permitted a demonstration at the site
of an Israeli trade fair on the outskirts of Amman. Water cannons
were fired over the heads of the 500 demonstrators to maintain
order, and security forces prevented demonstrators from approaching
the entrance to the site. Organizers of the demonstration alleged
that members of the security forces prevented buses full of people
arriving from outside Amman to reach the demonstration site.
The Government issued permits for a large gathering in March "in
solidarity with the Palestinian people." Opposition figures
from political parties, professional associations, women's groups,
and grass roots organizations took part and addressed the crowd.
Some would-be participants did not make it to the rally site,
however, when police stopped buses hired for the event that had
not obtained the appropriate permit for changing their routes.
The drivers were fined and the buses were impounded, leaving
passengers without transportation. The usual penalty for this
infraction is a small fine.
Police used force on May 20 during an unlicensed demonstration
at the offices of the Prime Minister by approximately 50 journalists
to protest amendments to the Press and Publications Law. As the
demonstrators dispersed, security forces became involved in a
dispute with journalists over the filming of an interview with
prominent opposition figure Layth Shubaylat. In the ensuing fracas
several people were pushed, shoved, and struck by police. At
least one demonstrator was kicked and hit several times with batons.
Nine people were detained for several hours following the demonstration.
The Government said the police actions were justified because
the protest was unlicensed. The demonstration and the police
response were reported in the print media.
The Government restricts freedom of association. The Government
requires and routinely grants approval for conferences, workshops,
and seminars. In January the Ministry of Culture announced its
decision to require Ministry approval, in writing, for any cultural,
scientific or artistic activity. The decision was revoked 3 weeks
later after public complaints.
The Government routinely licenses political parties and other
associations. There are currently 17 licensed parties. Membership
in an unlicensed political party is illegal. The High Court of
Justice may dissolve a party if it violates the Constitution or
the Political Parties Law. The Government can deny licenses to
parties that it decides do not meet a list of political criteria
contained in the Political Parties Law.
In a July statement to the Minister of Interior, 11 opposition
parties complained that during a government-ordered audit of parties'
finances, some parties were asked to submit unrelated information,
including party members' names and addresses. The Minister responded
that the audit was being conducted in accordance with the law,
and that all parties were being treated equally.
c. Freedom Of Religion
According to the Constitution, Islam is the state religion. The
Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion
and provides for "personal freedom." Sunni Muslims
constitute over 90 percent of the population. Islamic institutions
are managed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Trusts, which
appoints imams and subsidizes certain activities sponsored by
mosques. The Political Parties Law prohibits houses of worship
from being used for political party activity. The law was primarily
designed to prevent Islamist parliamentarians from preaching in
mosques; however, enforcement of the law has not been consistent.
Religious instruction is mandatory for all Muslim students in
public schools. Christian and Baha'i students are not required
to attend courses in Islam.
The Government does not interfere with public worship by the country's
Christian minority. Established religious groups, which include
Islam, Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, the Baptist Church,
the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Assyrian Church,
and Armenian Orthodoxy, require official government recognition
in order to register property in the name of the church, but members
may practice their religion without government recognition. The
Government does not recognize the Baha'i faith as a religion but
does not prohibit the practice of the faith. The Government does
not record the bearer's religion on national identity cards issued
to Baha'is, nor does it register property belonging to the community.
Unlike Christian denominations, the Baha'i community does not
have its own court to adjudicate personal status and family matters.
Baha'i personal status matters are heard in Islamic law courts.
The Government does not recognize Jehovah's Witnesses, the United
Pentecostal Church, the Church of Christ, and the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but each denomination is allowed
to conduct religious services and activities without interference.
The law prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing Muslims. Muslims
who convert to other faiths complain of social and government
discrimination. The Government does not fully recognize the legality
of such conversions. Under Shari'a, converts are regarded as
apostates and may be legally denied their property and other rights.
In Jordan this principle is not applied. Converts from Islam
do not fall under the jurisdiction of their new religion's laws
in matters of personal status and are still considered Muslims
under Shari'a, although the reverse is not true. Christians are
also subject to aspects of Shari'a designating how inheritances
should be distributed.
d. Freedom Of Movement Within The Country,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, And Repatriation
The law provides for the right of citizens to travel freely abroad
and within the country except in designated military areas. The
law requires that all women and foreign women married to Jordanians
obtain written permission from their male guardian--usually their
fathers or husbands--to apply for a passport. A woman traveling
abroad with children may also be required to show written authorization
from her spouse before departure. Legal authorities enforce requests
from fathers to prevent their children from departing the country,
even when traveling with their mothers.
Following the shooting in March of seven Israeli girls by an army
border guard Ahmed Daqamseh, security forces closed the entrance
to Daqamseh's home village of Ibdir to all except the village's
inhabitants. A delegation from a neighboring tribe coming to
inquire about the Daqamseh family's welfare and opposition figures
attempting to deliver the family material support were prevented
from doing so by security forces. Foreign diplomats were also
Jordanians with full citizenship receive passports valid for 5
years. Most Palestinian living in Jordan are citizens and receive
passports valid for 5 years. However, approximately 150,000 Palestinian
residents--most refugees or children of refugees, who arrived
from Gaza after 1967--do not qualify for Jordanian citizenship.
They receive 2-year passports valid for travel only. Following
Jordan's administrative and legal disengagement from the West
Bank in 1988, Palestinians residing in the West Bank received
2-year passports valid for travel only, instead of the 5-year
Jordanian passports they had received previously. In October
1995, King Hussein announced that West Bank residents without
other travel documentation would again be eligible to receive
5-year Jordanian passports. However, the Government has stressed
that these passports are for travel only and do not connote citizenship.
All Palestinians must obtain permits from the Ministry of the
Interior for travel between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied territories.
Such permission is routinely granted.
The Constitution prohibits the deportation of citizens; the Government
respects this prohibition.
The Government generally cooperates with the office of the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian
organizations in assisting refugees. The Government provides
for first asylum. Since 1991 thousands of Iraqis have sought
asylum in Jordan and been given assistance by the UNHCR. There
were two reports of forced expulsion of Iraqis to Iraq. The Government
forcibly deported Iraqi national Adnan Karam Tu'ma to Iraq on
March 25 despite his plea that he be granted temporary political
asylum based on his claim that he was a member of the Iraqi opposition.
In the second instance, the Jordanian chapter of the Arab Organization
for Human Rights (AOHR) alleged that Iraqi national and opposition
figure Samir Al-Sa'di was detained and then deported to Iraq by
security services in June without having had the chance to file
for refugee status with the UNHCR.
Over 1.35 million Palestinian refugees are registered in Jordan
with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The Agency counts
another 800,000 Palestinians as either displaced persons from
the 1967 War, arrivals following the 1967 War, or returnees from
Section 3 Respect For Political Rights: The Right
Of Citizens To Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the ability to change their system of government.
The King has sole discretionary authority to appoint and dismiss
the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, to dissolve Parliament, and
to establish public policy. Appointments made by the King to
high government posts do not require legislative approval. Executive
power is vested in the King, who exercises his powers through
his ministers in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Parliament is composed of a 40-member Senate appointed by
the King and a popularly elected 80-member Chamber of Deputies.
The Parliament is empowered by the Constitution to approve, reject,
and amend legislation proposed by the Cabinet. A group of 10
senators or deputies may submit draft bills for consideration,
however, in practice, Members of Parliament ask the Government
to initiate legislation for consideration. Opposition members
of Parliament have complained that attempts by members of the
lower house to initiate legislation receive no response from the
Government. The King proposes and dismisses extraordinary sessions
of Parliament and may postpone regular sessions up to 60 days.
By law, if the Government amends or enacts a law when Parliament
is not in session, it must submit the law to Parliament for consideration
during the next session. However, this does not always occur.
The Electoral Law and the distribution of parliamentary seats
deliberately favor regions with populations known for their traditional,
pro-Hashemite views, i.e., rural and southern Jordan.
Over 500 candidates competed in the October parliamentary elections,
despite a boycott by Islamist and other parties. There were many
reports of registration irregularities and fraud on the part of
candidates. Restrictions on the press and on campaign materials
also had a negative effect on the campaign, which elicited much
debate over the fairness of the Electoral Law and its implementation.
Voter turnout was significantly lower in most urban areas than
in rural areas. Centrist candidates with ties to major tribes
dominate the new Parliament.
The so-called one-man, one-vote amendment to the Electoral Law
was ratified by Parliament in January, nearly 4 years after it
was first promulgated by royal decree. The amendment allows voters
to choose only one candidate in multiple-seat districts. In the
largely tribal society, citizens tend to cast their first vote
for family members, and any additional votes in accordance with
their political leanings. Hence, the amendment limits the chances
of some non-tribal candidates, including women, to be elected.
Women have the right to vote, and women's groups encourage women
to vote and to become active in the political process. There
is one woman in the cabinet. She and two other women were appointed
to the Senate. Fifteen women were elected to municipal posts
in 1997, bringing the total number of women in such posts to 28,
including one as mayor of Khirbet Al Wahadneh, near Ajloun. None
of the 17 female candidates won seats in the October parliamentary
Of the 80 seats in the lower chamber, 9 are reserved for Christians,
6 for Bedouins, and 3 for the Circassian or Chechen ethnic minorities.
The Palestinian community, estimated to be slightly over one-half
the total population, is not represented proportinately in the
Government. Only 7 of 24 ministers, 6 of 40 senators, and 11
of 80 lower house deputies are of Palestinian origin. The electoral
system gives greater representation to areas that have few inhabitants
of Palestinian origin.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
And Nongovernmental Investigation Of Alleged Violations Of Human
Local and international human rights groups investigate allegations
of human rights abuses and publish and disseminate findings critical
of government policy. However, the Press and Publications Law
restricts the publication of information about the military and
security services, which, in effect, prevents the publication
by local groups of reports alleging torture and other abuses committed
by the security services.
The ICRC is permitted to visit prisoners and assess the condition
of security detainees, including those held by the General Intelligence
The local chapter of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and
the Jordanian Human Rights Society (JHRS) are registered with
the Government. The AOHR has drawn public attention to alleged
human rights abuses and has pressed the Government to bring charges
against political detainees or to release them promptly. In February
the AOHR released its annual report detailing human rights abuses
in 1996. The Minister of Information called it "more of
a political statement than a factual, realistic, and objective
report." The JHRS was licensed in November 1996. It released
a statement in May calling on the Government to expand the freedom
of the press.
In June Human Rights Watch/Middle East issued a report on the
amendments to the Press and Publications Law entitled, A Death
Knell for Free Expression?. The report was covered in the Arabic
and English press.
Section 5 Discrimination Based On Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, Or Social Status
Although the law does not distinguish between citizens on the
basis of race, women and minorities are treated differently under
the law and may face discrimination in employment, housing, and
Violence against women over the age of 15 is common. Reported
incidents of violence against women do not reflect the full extent
of the problem. Medical experts acknowledge that spouse abuse
occurs frequently. However, cultural norms discourage victims
from seeking medical or legal help and frustrate an objective
assessment of the extent of such abuse.
Abused women have the right to file a complaint in court against
their spouses for physical abuse, but in practice, familial and
societal pressures discourage them from seeking legal remedies.
Marital rape is legal. Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's)
such as the Jordanian Women's Union's, which has a hot-line for
victims of domestic violence, provide assistance in such matters.
Wife beating is technically grounds for divorce, but the husband
may seek to demonstrate that he has authority from the Koran to
correct an irreligious or disobedient wife by striking her.
The Criminal Code allows leniency for a person found guilty of
committing a "crime of honor," a euphemism that refers
to a violent assault against a female by a male relative for alleged
sexual misconduct. Law enforcement treatment of men accused of
"honor crimes" reflects widespread unwillingness to
condemn or take action against the problem. The press reported
24 such cases in 1997. However, these figures likely understate
the actual number of cases, as most "crimes of honor"
are not reported by the press. The actual number of "honor
crimes" is believed by a local expert to be 4 times
as high. The police regularly imprison women who are liable to
become victims of "honor crimes" "for their own
According to the law, a "crime of honor" defense may
be invoked only by the defendant who "surprises his wife
or any close female relative" in the act of adultery or fornication,
in which case the male perpetrator of the "honor crime"
is not guilty of murder. Though few defendants can meet the stringent
requirements for a "crime of honor" defense, which require
that the defendant must personally have witnessed the female victim
engaging in sexual intercourse, they are not tried for murder
and convicted offenders rarely spend more than 2 years in prison.
In contrast to "honor crimes," the maximum penalty
for first-degree murder is death, and the maximum penalty for
second degree murder is 15 years. More commonly, such defenses
rely on the male relative having acted in the heat of passion
upon hearing of a female relative's alleged sexual transgression,
usually without any investigation on the part of the assailant
to determine the veracity of the allegation before committing
an act of violence, and murdering his wife, sister, niece, or
cousin. Women may not invoke this defense for murdering a male
relative under the same circumstances; nor may they use it for
killing men who attempt to rape, sexually harass, or otherwise
threaten their "honor."
In May a man who killed his sister invoked an "honor crime"
defense and received a 3-month sentence. In contrast, two women,
Amira Salem and Eidah Hussein, who killed Salem's husband for
physically and emotionally abusing her, were sentenced to death
and hanged. In January a man was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment
for killing a man who had harassed and made unwanted sexual advances
toward his sister over a long period of time.
Women experience legal discrimination in matters of pension and
social security benefits, inheritance, divorce, and the value
of testimony in court (see Section 1.e.). The Government provides
men with more generous social security benefits than women. The
Government continues pension payments of a deceased male civil
servant to his heirs but discontinues payments of a deceased female
Under Shari'a, female heirs receive half the amount of a male
heir's inheritance, and the non-Muslim widows of Muslim spouses
have no inheritance rights. A sole female heir receives half
her parents' estate; the balance goes to designated male relatives.
A sole male heir inherits all his parents' property. Male Muslim
heirs have the duty to provide for all family members who need
assistance. Shari'a regards the testimony of two women to be
equal to the testimony of one man. This technically applies only
in religious courts but in the past has been imposed in civil
courts as well, irrespective of religion. Under Shari'a, men
are able to divorce their spouses more easily than women. Marriage
and divorce matters for Christians are adjudicated by special
courts for each denomination. The Government bans married women
from applying for diplomatic posts. There are two female judges.
The law requires a married woman to obtain her husband's permission
to obtain a passport (see Section 2.d.). Married women do not
have the legal right to transmit Jordanian citizenship to their
children. They may obtain citizenship for their
non-Jordanian husbands who may then confer citizenship on the
children. However, in practice, such an application can take
years, and in many cases citizenship may still ultimately be denied
to both husband and children. Civil law grants women equal pay
for equal work, but in practice this law is often ignored.
Social pressures discourage many women from pursuing careers.
Nonetheless, women have employment opportunities in many professions,
including engineering, medicine, education, and the law. Women
constitute approximately 14 percent of the work force. Women's
groups stress that the problem of discrimination is not only one
of law but also of women's lack of awareness of their rights or
unwillingness to assert those rights. The United Nations Food
and Agricultural Organization reported in 1995 that women who
work in agriculture average 15-hour days and earn less than men.
The Jordanian chapter of the Business and Professional Women's
Club gives seminars on women's rights and assists women in establishing
small businesses. Members of the royal family work actively to
improve the status of women.
The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare in
the areas of education and health. However, government efforts
in these areas are constrained by limited financial resources.
Education is compulsory to age 15. The children of Iraqi citizens
living in Jordan without residence permits are not permitted to
The Government safeguards some children's rights, especially regarding
child labor. Although the law prohibits children under the age
of 16 from working, child peddlers work the streets of Amman.
The Ministry of Social Development has a committee to address
the problem and in most cases removes the children from the streets,
returns them to their families or to juvenile centers, and may
provide the families with a monthly stipend. However, the children
often return to the streets. The law prohibits corporal punishment
Although the problem is difficult to quantify, social workers
believe that there is a significant incidence of child abuse in
families. The law specifies punishment for specific abuses against
children. Social workers believe that the incidence of sexual
crimes is significantly higher than reported. Rape or sodomy
of a child under 15 years of age carries the death penalty.
Illegitimate children are entitled to the same rights under the
law as legitimate children. In practice, however, they suffer
severe discrimination in a society that does not tolerate adultery.
Most illegitimate children become wards of the state or manage
a meager existence on the fringes of society. In either case,
their prospects for marriage and other than menial employment
are extremely limited.
People with Disabilities
High unemployment in the general population restricts job opportunities
for the disabled, estimated by the Ministry of Social Development
to number 100,000. Eighty percent of disabled citizens receive
monetary assistance from the Government. The Government passed
legislation in 1993 requiring future public buildings to accommodate
the needs of the disabled and the retrofitting of existing public
buildings, but implementation has been slow. Since 1993 the Special
Education Department of the Ministry of Social Development has
enrolled approximately 10,000 mentally and physically disabled
persons in public and private sector training courses. It has
placed approximately 400 disabled persons in public and private
sector jobs. The law requires that 2 percent of the available
jobs be reserved for the physically disabled. Private organizations
and members of the royal family actively promote programs to protect
and promote the interests of the disabled. Jordan participates
in the Special Olympics with the active encouragement of the royal
The country's indigenous people, nomadic Bedouin and East Bank
town dwellers, have traditionally been the backbone of popular
support for the Hashemite monarchy. As a result, they have generally
enjoyed considerable influence within the political system. They
are disproportionately represented in senior military, security,
and civil service jobs. Nevertheless, the Bedouin face some social
and economic discrimination.
In general Christians do not suffer discrimination. Christians
hold government positions and are represented in the media and
academia approximately in proportion to their presence in the
general population, which is estimated at 6 percent. Baha'is
face some societal as well as official discrimination. Christian
and Baha'i children in public schools are not required to participate
in Islamic religious instruction.
The Government granted citizenship to all Palestinians who fled
to Jordan in the period after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and to
a large number of refugees and displaced persons who arrived as
a result of the 1967 War. However, most refugees who fled Gaza
after 1967 are not entitled to citizenship and are issued 2-year
passports valid for travel only. Following Jordan's administrative
and legal disengagement from the West Bank in 1988, Palestinians
residing in the West Bank received 2-year passports valid for
travel only, rather than the 5-year Jordanian passports they had
received previously. In October 1995, King Hussein announced
that West Bank residents without other travel documentation would
again be eligible to receive 5-year Jordanian passports. The
Government has stressed, however, that these passports are for
travel only and do not connote citizenship (see Section 2.d.)
Palestinians residing in Jordan suffer discrimination in appointments
to positions in the Government and the military, and in the awarding
of university scholarships.
Section 6 Worker Rights
A. The Right Of Association
Workers in the private sector and in some state-owned companies
have the right to establish and join unions. Unions must be registered
to be considered legal. The law prohibits union membership for
non-citizens. Over 30 percent of the work force is organized
into 17 unions. Although union membership in the General Federation
of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU), the sole trade federation,
is not mandatory, all unions belong to it. The Government subsidizes
and audits the GFJTU's salaries and activities. Union officials
are elected by secret ballot to 4-year terms. Although the Government
cosponsors and approves the timing of these elections, it does
not interfere in the choice of candidates.
Labor laws mandate that workers must obtain permission from the
Government in order to strike. Unions generally do not seek approval
for a strike, but workers use the threat of a strike or wildcat
action as a negotiating tactic. Strikes are prohibited if a labor
dispute is under mediation or arbitration. If a settlement is
not reached through mediation, the Ministry of Labor may refer
the dispute to an industrial tribunal by agreement of both parties.
If only one party agrees, the Ministry of Labor refers the dispute
to the Council of Ministers and then to Parliament. The tribunal
is an independent arbitration panel of judges appointed by the
Ministry of Labor. The decisions of the panel are legally binding.
Labor law prohibits employers from dismissing a worker during
a labor dispute. There were no reported strikes in 1997.
The GFJTU belongs to the Arab Labor Organization, the International
Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, and to the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
B. The Right To Organize And Bargain Collectively
Unions have, and exercise, the right to bargain collectively.
the Constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, but the ICFTU
claims that the Government does not adequately protect employees
from antiunion discrimination and that the Government has dismissed
public-sector employees for political reasons. Workers may lodge
complaints of anti-union discrimination with the Ministry of Labor,
which is authorized to order the reinstatement of employees discharged
for union activities. There were no complaints of antiunion discrimination
lodged with the Ministry of Labor in 1997.
The national labor laws apply in the free trade zones in Aqaba
and Zarqa. Private sector employees in these zones belong to
one national union that covers both zones and have the right to
C. Prohibition Of Forced Or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution forbids compulsory labor, except in a state of
emergency such as war or natural disaster. Compulsory labor is
not practiced. The law does not specifically prohibit forced
or compulsory labor by children, but such practices are not known
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum
Age for Employment
Labor law forbids children under the age of 16 from working except
as apprentices. At age 13 children may begin part-time training
for up to 6 hours a day, with night work prohibited. Ministry
of Labor inspectors attempt to enforce the law on child labor,
but in practice enforcement often does not extend to some small
family businesses that employ underage children. Education is
compulsory to age 15. Families in remote areas frequently keep
some school-age children at home to work. Child peddlers work
on the streets of Amman (see Section 5). The law does not specifically
prohibit forced or compulsory labor by children, but such practices
are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
E. Acceptable Conditions Of Work
There is no national minimum wage. The Government periodically
adjusts a minimum wage schedule for various trades, based on the
recommendations of an advisory panel representing workers, employers,
and the Government. The lowest minimum wage rate on the schedule
is about $112 (80 dinars) a month, including allowances. Workers
earning the lowest wage find it difficult to provide a decent
living for their families. The Government estimates the poverty
level at a monthly wage of about $91 (65 dinars) per month for
a family of three. A study conducted by the Ministry of Social
Development found that 150,000 families, or 21 percent of citizens,
live at or below the poverty level. Nine percent live in "abject"
poverty. The Government provides assistance to 33,000 indigent
The law prohibits most workers from working more than the customary
48 hours a week, and 54 hours for hotel, restaurant, and cinema
employees. Workers may not work more than 16 hours in any continuous
period or more that 60 hours of overtime per month. Employees
are entitled to 1 day off each week.
The law does not apply to domestic servants, who do not have a
legal forum to address their labor grievances and have no standing
to sue in court for nonpayment of wages. Abuse of domestic servants,
most of whom are foreign, is widespread. Imprisonment of maids
and illegal confiscation of travel documents by employers is common.
Complaints of beatings, underfeeding, and rape generally are
not reported to officials by victims, who fear losing their work
permits and being sent back to their nation of origin should they
file a complaint. Domestic servants are generally not given a
The law specifies a number of health and safety requirements for
workers, including the presence of bathrooms, drinking water,
and first aid equipment at work sites. The Ministry of Labor
makes an effort to enforce health and safety requirements but
is hampered by the lack of qualified inspectors. The inspectors
do not have the power to order firms to comply with health and
safety standards. The law does not require employers to report
industrial accidents or occupational diseases to the Ministry
of Labor. Workers do not have a statutory right to remove themselves
from hazardous conditions without risking the loss of their jobs.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices