UN urged to review Jordan's human rights record ahead of council vote
Freedom of expression has largely been suppressed in Jordan. Any form of dissent or criticism towards the King can be tried as a crime in front of a military court without a jury under a 1961 penal code (Raad Adayleh/AP)
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Human Rights Watch called on the UN to pressure Jordan to lift restrictions on freedom of expression before considering its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, according to AFP.
Ahead of Thursday's United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, HRW issued a statement saying that the council "should press Jordan to amend its penal code to remove vague charges that limit rights to free expression, assembly and association."
Prosecutors in Jordan often bypass provisions in the new 2011 constitution that guarantee basic freedoms by invoking a 1961 penal code. The latter code allows the prosecutors to take individuals before a military court without a jury on ambiguous charges such as "lengthening the tongue," which can be used to prosecute any insult or critique of the King Abdullah II. As Middle East HRW depute director Joe Stork said, "What good is the new constitution if Jordanian prosecutors can keep undermining basic rights by using the old penal code?"
Jordan has also limited media freedom extensively-blocking more than 200 news websites for "failing to comply with 2012 press law amendments" that require the sites to go through a tumultuous registration process with the government's press department.
The amendment also forces the website owner and news editors and authors to take full responsibility of any comments or posts on the website-including ones made from unaffiliated users of the public. For example, the editor and publisher of Jafra News have been detained without bail since September 17th for posting a YouTube video of a man, who is allegedly a Qatari prince, sitting on a bed with a female.
"More than two years after King Abdullah announced a reform process, Jordan has neglected to improve some key areas...Jordan [must therefore] take concrete, visible steps before the council elections to show it's willing to improve human rights, including freeing journalists and peaceful protesters detained on vague, impermissible charges," said Stork.
The UN will conduct its annual periodic review of Jordan's human rights records ahead of the Kingdom's bid for a three-year seat on the Human Rights Council. The UN will vote on Jordan's bid for the council seat on November 12th.