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MPs approve amendments to controversial Article 98

Human rights activists applaud vote on legislative piece that deals with ‘mitigating circumstances’ over ‘honour crimes’

By Jassar Al Tahat - Jul 31,2017 - Last updated at Jul 31,2017

Lawmakers are seen during a legislative session on Sunday (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — Lawmakers on Sunday approved a number of amendments to articles from the Penal Code during two legislative sessions that witnessed an extensive debate with “more than 500 suggestions”.

The amendments focused on increasing sentences on crimes of terrorism, crimes against public officials while exercising their official duties, false testimony, festive firing, threatening with firearms, money laundering, invasion of privacy and cyber crimes, among others.

The majority of deputies approved the amendments made to the controversial Article 98 that deals with ‘‘mitigating circumstances’’ over the so-called honour crimes, a vote that was applauded by civil society and human right activists attending the session.

The original text stipulates that the perpetrator can benefit from “mitigating circumstances” if the perpetrator was suffering from a “severe rage tantrum” due to false and dangerous action done by the victim.

Head of the House’s Legal Committee Mustafa Khasawneh supported the amendments made to the article and pointed to the importance of the amended text since “it serves justice to women and protects them”.

For his part, Saud Abu Mahfouz (Zarqa, 1st District) argued that the original text is fair since it provided mitigating circumstances to both males and females.

Minister of Justice Awad Mashagbeh supported the amendments, saying “this article is unjust to women. In some cases, the perpetrator kills his victim for random reasons then proceeds to accuse her of adultery or honour-related accusations”.

MPs approved amendments made by the House’s Legal Committee on Article 54, which entail that the verdict can now be suspended and substituted with community-based corrections, with the approval of the convict.

Khasawneh praised the amendment, calling it a “revolutionary step”.

“This important change was inspired by many advanced judicial practices around the world. It ensures the interest of the community and of the convict,” Khasawneh concluded.

Lawmakers also approved the amendments made to Article 70 which “doubled” the length of sentences in specific cases.

MP Abdul Karim Dughmi (Mafraq), a jurist and former minister of justice, opposed the decision.

“From a legal point of view, I do not see why the increase in sentences is justified, beneficial or logical. I believe the current text is sufficient,” he said.

Jurist and former president of the Bar Association Deputy Saleh Armouti (Amman, 3rd District) agreed with Dughmi, saying: “If we review all amended texts, we will see a huge increase in sentences. In my opinion, these amendments are harming the citizens.”

For his part, Khasawneh argued that “we have a problem in the judicial policy as judges always provide the minimum sentence, which is sometimes insufficient. Until we reach unified judicial court policies, the legislator must step in to increase the minimum sentences of major crimes that form a threat to the society”.

Lawmakers also voted to return to the original text of Article 74, which deals with fines and penalties.

Deputy Wafaa Bani Mustafa (Jerash) said “it would be a huge problem if the amended text was approved. The Cabinet is raising fines to collect and support the Treasury, hence it does not make sense to raise fines from JD1,000 to JD50,000”.

“We have to keep in mind that we are legislating under the principle of deterrence,” Bani Mustafa noted.

Minister of State for Prime Ministry Affairs Mamdouh Abbadi responded: “The Penal Code was issued 57 years ago, so we have to keep in mind the purchasing value of the currency and the scale of the fines issued. We also have to keep in mind that we are fining violators, not law-abiding citizens.”

Lawmakers also agreed to postpone the long-awaited discussion and vote on Article 308.

Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh suggested postponing the discussion of Article 308 “due to the huge numbers of suggestions and arguments scheduled to be presented by MPs”.

Deputy Khalil Atiyeh (Amman, 1st District) praised the decision saying “there are members of the civil society whose suggestions need to be heard by the Legal Committee”. 

In its existing version, Article 308 states that, if a valid marriage contract is held between the rapist and his victim, and the marriage lasts for at least three years, the charges can be dropped and, if a verdict has already been issued, the punishment can be suspended.     

The panel discarded the government’s decision to scrap the provision, which has been heavily criticised by activists, and kept the article after suggesting some changes. One of them entails expanding the minimum duration of marriage to seven years, while the husband can still be prosecuted if the woman files for divorce citing abuse.

The amendments also narrowed the cases under which the rapist could benefit from Article 308 to three cases instead of 16 cases in the original Penal Code.


Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh adjourned the session until Tuesday morning when MPs are set to continue discussions on the Penal Code. 

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