Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were some reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. Local media, government authorities, and human rights organizations alleged that at least one individual died in custody from alleged torture by Public Security Directorate (PSD) personnel during the year.
In August the Government Coordinator for Human Rights stated the police court was considering three cases of alleged torture and abuse leading to death by PSD personnel. The courts charged eight officers with torture after the death in May of 18-year-old Raed Amar at Jiza police station south of Amman. Two additional police court cases continued: the trial concerning the 2015 death while in custody of Abdullah al-Zo’ubi (adjourned for court deliberation), and the trial for the 2015 death while in custody of Omar al-Nasir (continuing). Courts returned a not guilty verdict concerning the death while in custody of Sultan al-Khatatbeh in 2013. The verdict was subject to appeal.
Human rights lawyers identified one case of alleged disappearance during the year. Authorities maintained that the missing person was not detained by or on behalf of the government.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution bans torture, including psychological harm, by public officials and provides penalties of as long as three years imprisonment for its use, with a penalty of up to 15 years if serious injury occurs. While the law prohibits such practices, international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report incidents of torture and widespread mistreatment in police and security detention centers. Human rights lawyers found the law ambiguous and supported amendments to define “torture” better and strengthen sentencing guidelines.
The police court case against five police officers charged with the torture of Omar al-Nasir continued. Omar al-Nasir died in custody at the Criminal Investigation Department’s headquarters in Amman in late September 2015.
According to a report by the quasi-governmental National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), the center received 63 complaints of torture and mistreatment in police stations in 2016: three cases had no further action at the complainer’s request; authorities closed 20 cases due to insufficient evidence; 43 complaints remained under investigation, and authorities referred three complaints to the police court. The NCHR received 23 additional complaints of torture and inhuman treatment, but did not report specifics of the allegations. In 2016 the NCHR reported 12 complaints of torture and mistreatment at prisons and rehabilitation centers, while it observed an increase in complaints of torture and mistreatment against the Antinarcotics Department and the Criminal Investigation Department. Local and international NGOs reported that the Antinarcotics Department and the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) routinely subjected detainees to severe physical abuse.
Through August 30, the PSD Human Rights and Transparency Office received 179 allegations of harm (a lesser charge than torture that does not require a demonstration of intent) against officers. Nine of these cases were referred to the police court; 86 remained pending for further investigation; 26 were referred for administrative decision, and 58 dismissed by the court due to insufficient evidence.
In August parliament increased the mandatory minimum sentence for torture from six months to one year. The maximum punishment remained three years imprisonment with hard labor.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in the country’s 16 prisons varied: old facilities were poor, while new prisons met international standards. Authorities held migrants without legal work or residency permits, or charged with other crimes, in the same facilities as citizens. (For information on asylum seekers and refugees, see section 2.d.).
Physical Conditions: The NCHR conducted 60 field visits to detention centers. Significant problems in older prison facilities included inadequate sanitary facilities, poor sanitation and ventilation, extreme temperatures, lack of drinking water, limited access to sunlight, and medical care only in emergencies. In its 2016 report on conditions in detention centers, the NCHR identified problems including overcrowding, limited health care, inadequate legal assistance for inmates, and limited social care for the inmates and their families. Detainees reported abuse and mistreatment by guards.
According to the PSD’s Human Rights and Transparency Office, the PSD received 10 cases of allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons and rehabilitation centers; authorities convicted seven officers.
Officials and the NCHR reported overcrowding at most prisons, especially the prisons in and around Amman.
International and domestic NGOs reported that Islamist prisoners faced harsher prison conditions than other inmates.
According to the PSD, authorities identified some facilities to hold only pretrial detainees. The GID held some persons detained on national security charges in a separate detention facility. During the year the NCHR made an unspecified number of announced visits to the GID prison. Detainees complained of prolonged pretrial detention, solitary confinement, isolation, and prolonged detentions of up to six months. According to human rights activists, the GID held detainees in solitary confinement and did not allow unsupervised meetings with visitors, including their lawyers. Local and international NGOs received reports of mistreatment, abuse, and torture in GID detention facilities.
Although basic care was available in all correctional facilities, medical staff complained that correction facilities throughout the country lacked adequate facilities, supplies, and staff. The staff was unable to address deficiencies in care available to inmates. Most facilities were unable to conduct blood tests and had limited X-ray capabilities, forcing doctors to rely largely on self-reporting by patients for certain conditions. If an inmate’s condition was too severe for treatment at the clinic, doctors recommended transfer to a local hospital.
Conditions in the women’s prisons were generally better than conditions in most of the men’s prisons, but overcrowding at Jweideh was a problem.
Police stations have no designated holding areas for juveniles.
Administration: Authorities took no steps systematically to use alternatives to prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. In some cases authorities severely restricted the access of prisoners and detainees to visitors. Authorities sometimes did not inform the families regarding the whereabouts of detainees and banned family visits. Karamah, a team of government officials and NGOs, and the NCHR monitored prison conditions.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some local and international human rights observers and lawyers to visit prisons and conduct private interviews. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had wide access to visit prisoners and detainees in all prisons, including facilities controlled by the GID, according to standard ICRC modalities. Authorities denied requests by local human rights observers to conduct monitoring visits independently of Karamah and the NCHR. Local NGOs reported that access depended on relationships with detention center authorities and whether requests came through the Government Coordinator for Human Rights or the NCHR. The prime minister-appointed government coordinator for human rights organized monitoring visits for several local and international NGO representatives to the Jweideh Prison before and after its renovation in 2016. The coordinator organized a visit to Swaqah Prison in October.
Improvements: The government conducted significant renovations on the Jweideh Prison based on repeated calls for its closure from the NCHR, which cited deteriorating infrastructure and inmates’ complaints of poor social and medical care. Eight temporary detention centers remained closed for failing to meet acceptable standards, and the PSD continued renovations at those facilities to meet national and international standards. PSD also renovated 17 temporary detention centers at police stations.
The PSD continued renovations to ease overcrowding. It was expanding Qafqafa Prison in Jerash to double its capacity from 400 to 800 inmates. The PSD reopened Perrin Prison for rehabilitation of first-time drug users in Zarqa after a six-year closure.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court; however, the government did not always observe these prohibitions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The law allows authorities to detain suspects for up to 24 hours without a warrant in all cases. It requires that police notify authorities within 24 hours of an arrest and that authorities file formal charges within 15 days of an arrest. Authorities can extend the period to file formal charges to as long as six months for a felony and two months for a misdemeanor. According to local NGOs, prosecutors routinely requested extensions, which judges granted. The State Security Court authorizes judicial police to arrest and keep persons in custody for seven days prior to notification while conducting criminal investigations. This authority includes arrests for alleged misdemeanors. NGOs alleged that authorities transferred suspects to the State Security Court to extend the legal time from 24 hours to seven days for investigation prior to notification or transferred suspects from police station to police station to extend the period for investigation. The NCHR criticized the lack of record keeping at police detention facilities, noting that records failed to note the exact time of arrest and the arresting employee.
The penal code allows bail, and authorities used it in some cases. In many cases the accused remained in detention without bail during the proceedings. Most detainees reported not having timely access to a lawyer or the ability to contact their relatives at the time of arrest, but authorities generally permitted family member visits, albeit sometimes up to a week after the arrest. Courts appointed lawyers to represent indigent defendants charged with felonies carrying possible life (often interpreted by the judiciary as 20 years) sentences or the death penalty, although legal aid services remained minimal. The law provides the right to appear promptly before a judge or other judicial officer for a judicial determination of the legality of the detention. At times authorities held suspects incommunicado for up to one week or placed them under house arrest. A number of human rights activists alleged that authorities held arrestees incommunicado to hide evidence of physical abuse by security forces. Courts did not offer adequate translation services for defendants who could not speak Arabic.
In February the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law issued a report recommending limiting detention to “exceptional” cases and using bail and other alternative control measures. The report stated detainees have the right to counsel at the time of their arrest, to representation during trials for serious crimes that carry penalties of 10 years or more in prison, and suggested the establishment of a fund for legal aid. The king endorsed these recommendations in March, and parliament amended the code of criminal procedure in July.
Arbitrary Arrest: In cases purportedly involving state security, security forces at times arrested and detained individuals in administrative detention without warrants or judicial review, held them in pretrial detention without informing them of the charges against them, and either did not allow defendants to meet with their lawyers or did not permit meetings until shortly before trial. Activists also reported during the year that officials detained migrant laborers in arbitrary arrests; those whose employers did not administratively secure their release were held for working without authorization, being absent from their authorized workplace, or lacking proper residency permits. Local NGOs reported employers physically abused or mistreated some of these detainees. In August, PSD’s Human Rights and Transparency Office reported authorities held 1,218 persons since January in administrative detention for varying amounts of time.
The law allows the 12 provincial governors to detain administratively individuals as they deemed necessary for investigation purposes or for the protection of that individual. Authorities held some individuals in prison or house arrest without due process and often despite a finding of not guilty in legal proceedings. The governors may prolong detentions; authorities administratively detained some migrants for several months without charges. Governors used this provision widely, including to place women in “protective detention” when family members threatened to kill them to protect family honor. Although incarcerated indefinitely, these women faced no legal charges and posed no threat to public safety. Human rights advocates estimated authorities held 40 to 50 women under protective detention throughout the year.
Several international and national NGOs alleged governors routinely abused the law, imprisoning individuals when there was not enough evidence to convict them and prolonging the detention of prisoners whose sentences had expired.
Pretrial Detention: The common practice of judges granting extensions to prosecutors prior to filing formal charges unnecessarily lengthened pretrial detention. Lengthy legal procedures, a large number of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and judicial backlog added to the problem of pretrial detention. Automation of several legal procedures in recent years reduced the average period of pretrial detention, according to local legal aid organizations. As of May, 37 percent of all detainees were pretrial detainees, according to an EU-commissioned study. Of this 37 percent, 44 percent had cases before the State Security Court. According to the NCHR, pretrial detention length varied from three days to six months, but in some cases it reached two years. In 2016, according to PSD statistics, 36,197 persons spent time in pretrial detention based on the order of a prosecutor, and 30,138 persons were subjected to administrative detention under the governor’s authority under the crime prevention law.
The law criminalizes detaining any person without a prosecutor’s order for more than 24 hours. Rights activists said authorities routinely ignored this limit, and according to human rights organizations, impunity was very common for violations.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law does not have an explicit provision that entitles victims of arbitrary or unlawful detention to restitution. The Criminal Procedures Law does not provide for routine judicial review of administrative detentions ordered by the 12 governors. Detainees can bring civil lawsuits for restitution for arbitrary or unlawful detention or bring criminal lawsuits for illegal incarceration, but this option rarely occurred. Detainees must hire a lawyer with at least five years’ experience, must pay their own fees, and must present a copy of the order of detention. There were no cases of restitution during the year.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but legal experts and human rights lawyers’ allegations of nepotism and the influence of security services and special interests raised concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Additionally, judicial inefficiency and a large case backlog delayed the provision of justice. In early August parliament passed a bill that provided further provisions for an independent judiciary and better qualitative performance of courts.
The law presumes that defendants are innocent. The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Officials, however, sometimes did not respect the right of defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them or to a fair and public trial without undue delay. According to the law, all civilian court trials and State Security Court trials are open to the public unless the court determines that the trial should be closed to protect the public interest. Authorities occasionally tried defendants in their absence. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, but only at the trial stage. Most criminal defendants lacked legal representation prior to and at trial. Defendants before the State Security Court frequently met with their attorneys only one or two days before their trial began. Authorities did not accord defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Authorities did not uniformly provide foreign residents, especially foreign workers who often did not speak Arabic, with free translations and defense.
Defendants may present witnesses and evidence and may cross-examine witnesses presented against them. Defendants do not have the right to refuse to testify. Although the constitution prohibits the use of confessions extracted by torture, human rights activists noted that courts routinely accepted confessions allegedly extracted under torture or mistreatment. Defendants can appeal verdicts; appeals are automatic for cases involving the death penalty or a sentence of more than 10 years’ imprisonment.
In the State Security Court, defendants have the right to appeal their sentences to the Court of Cassation, which has the authority to review issues of both fact and law.
The government allowed international observers to visit the State Security Court and the Military and Police Courts to observe court proceedings in June and September. International observers watched Military Tribunal proceedings in June and July for the trial of Maarek Abu Tayeh, who shot three foreign armed forces members at Prince Faisal Air Base in November 2016.
Civil, criminal, and commercial courts accord equal weight to the testimony of men and women. In sharia courts, which have jurisdiction over Muslim marriage, divorce, and inheritance cases, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
During the year the government detained and imprisoned activists for political reasons including criticizing the government, criticizing the government’s foreign policy, the publication of criticism of government officials and official bodies, criticizing foreign countries, and chanting slogans against the king. Citizens and NGOs alleged the government continued to detain other individuals for political reasons and that governors continued to use administrative detention for what appeared to be political reasons.
On February 17, authorities detained activist Rani al-Zawahreh, linked to the Hirak opposition movement since 2010. Security agencies arrested him under provisions of the terrorism law. Law enforcement authorities previously targeted Zawahreh in connection with his opposition activities and charged him with “defamation and incitement.” As a result of those charges, he served a six-month jail sentence and abandoned the opposition movement. Authorities released Zawahreh after a 15-day hunger strike and sit-in by members of his tribe.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals may bring civil lawsuits related to human rights violations through domestic courts.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, but the government did not respect this prohibition. Individuals widely believed that security officers monitored telephone conversations and internet communication, read private correspondence, and engaged in surveillance without court orders. They widely believed the government employed an informer system within political movements and human rights organizations.
Activists reported that GID officials withheld documents and threatened to bar children of activists from entering or graduating from university.
Former prisoners alleged authorities banned them from obtaining security clearances needed for employment.