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Jordan to submit report on commitment to convention against torture

By Rana Husseini - Nov 20,2015 - Last updated at Nov 20,2015

AMMAN — A gathering of government and civil society representatives in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday will review the progress of torture prosecution and the government’s commitmment to the international convention on torture.

Jordan submitted its report on the implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which will be reviewed by the Committee Against Torture at its 56th session.

The committee “is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the convention” by its state parties, according to the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“All states parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the convention and then every four years. The committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the state party in the form of ‘concluding observations’,” according to the UN office.

Local organisations that will submit shadow reports to the committee during the Friday meeting include the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), Adaleh Centre for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS), Tamkeen Fields for Aid, Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, and the Jordanian Civil Coalition against Torture.

ACHRS, which followed many cases of alleged torture or mistreatment and has monitored detention centres and trials, said there is confusion between what the law stipulates and what is really being applied when it comes to accusations of torture.

The Constitution prohibits torture and other forms of ill-treatment or punishment, the ACHRS report said.

Article 8 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution stipulates that: “Any person who is arrested, detained, imprisoned or whose liberty is subject to any restriction shall be treated with dignity, safeguarded from any form of torture or bodily or mental harm and held in no place other than a legally designated holding facility. Any statement obtained from any person by means of torture or the use of harm or threats shall be deemed invalid.”

The ACHRS said the provision is “an important acknowledgement from the highest level of legislation in Jordan of torture as a serious crime and human rights abuse”.

However, articles that safeguard individuals in the Constitution are not reflected in the Penal Code “because punishments for perpetrators of torture are very light and do not reflect Jordan’s commitments to international conventions on torture,” the ACHRS report stated. 

Meanwhile, the NCHR pointed out shortcomings in the definition and criminalisation of torture in the Penal Code, which result ineffective prosecution and conviction of its perpetrators.

The NCHR listed several shortcomings in the complaint and investigation mechanisms that address allegations of torture, in addition to the non-independence of inquiry commissions.

Such issues, according to the NCHR report, include failure to compensate and rehabilitate torture victims, and to provide due legal safeguards for detainees (access to a doctor and a lawyer of their own choice, and contact with the outside world).

The NCHR has established a national alliance — comprising over 500 representatives from public institutions, civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights groups — which conducts sensitisation and awareness-raising sessions for official entities, CSOs, the government and Parliament.

The most important developments in combating torture, according to the NCHR, include the appointment of a public prosecutor in 2014 to investigate torture allegations and register the cases prior to referring them to the Police Court or any other special court.

The NCHR also started reforming the criminal justice system by reviewing penal legislation, especially the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures, to ensure fair trial guarantees and the provision of legal aid to those in need.

The centre said it recently submitted a draft that entails amending laws to explicitly allow unannounced access for NCHR teams to all detention facilities across the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Alkarama Foundation — a Geneva-based independent human rights organisation established in 2004 to assist people in the Arab world subjected to or at risk of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention — has also prepared a report on Jordan.

Since its last review in 2010, Alkarama Foundation claimed that it has received accounts of torture and other ill-treatment in Jordan, especially at the hands of the General Intelligence Department (GID), which systematically arrests, detains incommunicado, and tortures individuals arrested or accused of “terrorism” and opposition figures, as well as peaceful protesters and media personnel.

They are then prosecuted and often sentenced to heavy penalties by the State Security Court — a special tribunal that tries “acts of terrorism” — on the basis of confessions “extracted under torture” by the GID, Alkarama said.

The foundation recommnded that the government review its legislation to ensure that the definition of torture is consistent with the UN convention. 

It urged the government to guarantee that the penalties stipulated by the law are commensurate with the gravity of the crime and that no statute of limitation applies to torture cases. Alkarama also called for incorporating a provision into the legislation stating that no exceptional circumstance may be invoked as a justification of torture.

To date, “no police or intelligence officer has ever been convicted for acts of torture under Article 208 of the Penal Code,” according to the foundation,

The government’s 11-member delegation will also present its report on Friday.

“Jordan attaches great importance to combating torture and consistently endeavours to make progress in this area. The constitutional amendments introduced in 2011 include a provision prohibiting torture,” the report said.

The government also cites several improvements related to detention centres such as appointing public prosecutors in prisons, facilitating both official and unannounced visits for human rights organisations and installing complaint boxes for inmates. 

It also mentions that centres are subject to supervision by the Office of Grievances and Human Rights in the Public Security Department (PSD).

In addition, the government report highlights the establishment of an internal committee to conduct periodic inspections of prisons in order to ensure that their working standards are in accordance with human rights principles and international norms in various areas.

Since the establishment of the Office of Grievances and Human Rights, the PSD has included the topic of human rights and agreements signed by Jordan, including the convention against torture, in all training courses held for its personnel, the government said in its report.

 

Moreover, specialised courses were held in cooperation with civil society institutions, principally the NCHR, to strengthen the role of public security in human rights, the report added. 

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