Jordanian activists host seminar about torture

Published January 17th, 2016 - 09:00 GMT

Deemed a crime against human dignity and a grave violation of human right principles, torture must become a socially rejected practice, experts said on Saturday.

At a seminar held by the Adaleh Centre for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS), speakers highlighted the role of media in creating a culture that denounces all types of torture.

In addition to media, legal and human rights experts, families of alleged torture victims were present at the event, recounting their stories and urging journalists to document all cases.

Lawyer Huda Al Nasr, whose brother died in September last year after allegedly being tortured by the police, described the pain she and her family had to endure after the incident.

"I believe in this country; I believe in its legal system and I am sure the law will take its course eventually," she said.

Lawyer Abdul Nasser Zu'bi, who is handling the case of Abdullah Zu'bi, also highlighted the details that surrounded his client's death.

The 19-year-old reportedly died shortly after police arrested him last year on alleged drug-related charges following a brief chase.

Three interrogators were charged with using force to extract a confession from the teenager, illegally exercising authority, disobeying orders and violating regulations.

"The country should investigate any torture claim," ACHRS Director Asem Rababa said, noting that at least eight persons died due to alleged torture over the past two months.

In November last year, Public Security Department (PSD) Director Maj. Gen. Atef Saudi said "abuse and torture at our stations are not part of our strategy and anyone found guilty of such conduct will be punished severely."

"We have already imprisoned several police officers who were found guilty of abuse," he added.

Stressing that there is no tolerance for torture, Saudi cited several measures adopted by his department to further ensure the safety, security and human rights of individuals.

He made the remarks during a meeting with 150 representatives from civil society and human rights institutions.

At the time, Basil Tarawneh, the government's coordinator on human rights, acknowledged "that there are gaps or misconduct by a handful of individuals at the PSD".

But what is more important, he added, "is finding proper solutions to address these issues and ensure that they never happen again".

At Saturday's meeting, Rababa called for a political decision to hold abusers accountable, saying that it is unacceptable that the police themselves investigate cases of alleged torture, especially if these actions are suspected to be perpetrated by members of the same apparatuses.

Participants at the seminar said the media should cooperate more with civil society organisations (CSO) to tackle cases of alleged torture.

They suggested establishing a network that brings together media personnel and CSOs to fight torture.

Jordan is a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Last November, Jordan submitted its report on the implementation of the convention, which was reviewed by the Committee Against Torture at its 56th session.

The panel cited many shortcomings, with the major one being Jordan's definition of torture, calling for adopting one that covers all elements outlined in the convention and ensures that torture is a crime rather than a misdemeanour. Furthermore, the panel urged the government to "ensure that the principle of absolute prohibition of torture is incorporated in its legislation, and ensure its strict application in accordance with the convention".

On the bright side, the UN committee's observations shed light on some of the positive steps taken by Jordan in relation to combating torture. 

The panel commended the Kingdom for adopting legislation in relevance to the convention, such as laws on juveniles, independence of the judiciary and the Constitutional Court. 

It also welcomed the establishment of a national register for cases of torture at public prosecution offices, the adoption of the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and the holding of two international conferences on torture prevention and alternatives to pre-trial detention.

By Laila Azzeh

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