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U.S. Department of State

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U.S. Department of State

Jordan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997.



The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Hussein since 1952. The Constitution concentrates a high degree of executive and legislative authority in the King, who determines domestic and foreign policy. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet manage the daily affairs of government. The Parliament consists of a 40-member Senate appointed by the King and an 80-member Chamber of Deputies elected by the people. Since the elections of 1989 the Lower House has increasingly asserted itself in the areas of domestic and foreign policy. Reflecting this trend, the Cabinet appointed in February included 22 deputies from the lower house, the highest number ever. The judiciary is independent.

The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and the Public Security Directorate (PSD) share responsibility for maintaining internal security and have broad authority to monitor the activities of persons believed to be security threats. The State Security Court and broad police powers remain in place as vestiges of martial law, which was in place from 1967 to 1991. The security forces continue to commit human rights abuses.

Jordan has a mixed economy with significant government participation in industry, transportation, and communications. The country has few natural resources and is financially dependent on foreign assistance and remittances from citizens working abroad. Because of the Government's policies during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis, some Arab Gulf state governments discontinued foreign assistance, expelled many Jordanian guest workers, and placed restrictions on imports of Jordanian goods. The domestic economy has been buffeted by high unemployment since the late 1980's. Traditional exports to Iraq dropped off sharply due to United Nations sanctions against that country and Jordanian initiatives to reduce the export of nonsanctioned goods under the bilateral trade protocol with Iraq. As part of a structural adjustment program mandated by the International Monetary Fund, the Government removed subsidies on bread and animal feed in August, resulting in a doubling of the price of bread and other price rises. The price increase was followed by riots in the south of the country. Some local commentators estimate that the standard of living for the average Jordanian has dropped by over half in the past 10 years. Per capita gross domestic product was estimated at $1,500 in 1996.

Since the revocation of martial law in 1991, there has been a steady improvement in the human rights situation. Nonetheless, problems remain, including: Arbitrary arrest; abuse and mistreatment of detainees; prolonged detention without charge; lack of due process; harassment of opposition political parties; restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association; official discrimination against adherents of the Baha'i faith; and restrictions on women's rights. Opposition allegations of human rights abuses in 1996 peaked following August riots in southern Jordan. Human rights activists protested detentions, the arrest of journalists and opposition party members, and the harassment of political parties. Discrimination against the Bedouin, violence against women, and abuse of foreign servants are also problems. Citizens do not have the right to change their form of government, although in recent years the King has taken steps to increase participation in the political system, such as legalizing political parties. Parliamentary elections in 1993 and nationwide municipal elections in 1995 were largely free and fair although there were opposition accusations of government misconduct.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There was one report of death in custody. Younis Mahmoud Abu Dawleh was arrested by officers of the PSD for his alleged involvement in the December 24 shooting of Hamzeh Nazzal, in what has been described in press reports as a dispute among former Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine members. He reportedly resisted arrest and police knocked him down a flights of stairs, sat on him, and beat him. He died of a heart attack on December 24 while enroute to the police station. His body reportedly showed signs of repeated blows to the genital area.

No progress was made in the Attorney General's review of the case of the death of Mahmud Khalifeh and wounding of his brother Bashir by security forces in June 1995. Opponents of the Government charge that security forces used excessive force against the two after the pair used firearms to resist arrest. The Khalifeh brothers were wanted for shooting at police patrol cars and sending faxes critical of the Government and the King to prominent citizens.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearance.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the Legal Code provides prisoners with the right to humane treatment, security and other police forces abuse detainees physically during interrogation. Torture allegations are difficult to verify because security officials frequently deny detainees timely access to lawyers. The most frequently alleged methods of torture are sleep deprivation, beatings, and extended solitary confinement. Defendants in high-profile cases before the State Security Court claim to have undergone physical and psychological abuse while in detention. Government officials reject allegations of torture.

There were a number of allegations of torture in connection with those detained after the disturbances in the south. Human rights monitors charge that two doctors who were treating detainees for injuries sustained at the hands of government authorities were detained themselves. The doctors were reportedly taken into custody for sending detainees to the hospital to be treated for a bullet lodged in the spine in one case, and broken hands in another. Credible sources alleged that the doctors were then abused. In another case, opposition deputies charged the Government with detaining and torturing Essam Al-Najjar, a Hamas supporter, for two weeks. They alleged that Al-Najjar was beaten in the stomach, throat, and on the soles of his feet, was cursed by guards, and had excrement wiped in his face.

The Court of Cassation overturned the June 1995 death sentences of defendants in the so-called "Udwan Mills" case, ruling that the criminal court could not base its sentencing solely on the defendants' confessions, which defense lawyers claimed were extracted under duress. The convictions were based solely on confessions.

Local police detention facilities are spartan but generally clean. Prisons generally meet minimum international standards. Prisoners detained on national security grounds are often kept in separate prisons maintained by the GID.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is permitted unrestricted access to prisoners and prison facilities. In August members of Parliament's Public Freedoms Committee visited Suwaqa Prison to assess the condition of Layth Shubaylat and Ata Abu Rishtah (see Section 1.e.). Following the disturbances in the south, however, the Committee was not permitted to inspect prisons or assess the condition of detainees until October 15, 7 weeks after the first arrests. In September representatives of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) were given permission by the court to visit the detainees but were not permitted by prison officials to tour the facility.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under the Constitution citizens are subject to arrest, trial, and punishment for the defamation of heads of state, dissemination of "false or exaggerated information outside the country which attacks state dignity," or defamation of public officials.

The Criminal Code requires legal authorities to file formal charges within 10 days of arrest. The courts routinely grant requests from prosecutors for 15-day extensions as provided by law. This practice generally extends pretrial detention for lengthy periods of time. In cases involving state security, the authorities frequently hold defendants in lengthy pretrial detention, do not provide written charges, and do not allow defendants to meet with their lawyers until shortly before the trial. Security defendants usually meet with their attorneys 1 or 2 days prior to the trial.

Testimony in July in the case of the Bayat Al Imam defendants, charged with plotting to carry out extremist attacks and illegally possessing and manufacturing of explosives, revealed that they had been detained by security forces for 5 months without charge and without access to an attorney, before being transferred to a military prosecutor for questioning.

According to the Ministry of Information a total of 572 people were detained following August's disturbances in southern Jordan; 521 were released, without being charged. All those remaining in custody were released and charges against them dropped under a general amnesty in honor of the King's birthday on November 14.

The Government detains persons, including jouranalists, for varying amounts of time for what appear to be political reasons (see Sections 2.a. and 2.b.). During the year all such detainees were released within 3 months. Observers estimate that in previous years approximately 400 people were detained each year for national security reasons, of whom all but a few were released after questioning.

The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of a Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Court rulings against the Government, including the Udwan Mills case (see Section 1.c.), indicate that the judiciary functions independently.

There are several types of courts. Most criminal cases are tried in the civilian courts, which include appeals courts, the Court of Cassation, and the Supreme Court. Cases involving sedition, armed insurrection, financial crimes, and drug trafficking are tried in the State Security Court, a remnant of the pre-1991 martial law period. Islamic, or Shari'a, courts, have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce among Muslims and inheritance cases involving both Muslims and non-Muslims (see Section 5). Under Shari'a law, a woman's testimony is only equal to half that of a man (see Section 5).

Most trials in the civilian courts are open. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, may challenge witnesses, and have the right to appeal. Defendants facing the death penalty or life imprisonment must be represented by legal counsel. Public defenders are provided in such cases.

The State Security Court is comprised of panels of three judges, who may be either civilians or military officers. It frequently restricts public attendance at its trials. Defendants tried in the State Security Court are often held in pretrial detention without access to lawyers, although they are visited by representatives of the ICRC. In the State Security Court, judges have inquired into allegations that defendants were tortured and have permitted the testimony of physicians regarding these allegations. To date the Court has not invalidated confessions obtained under duress, but on review, the Court of Cassation has ruled that the State Security Court cannot issue a death sentence on the basis of such a confession alone (see Section 1.c.). Defendants in the State Security Court have the right of appeal to the Court of Cassation, which is authorized to review the testimony, evidence, and judgment. Appeals are automatic for cases involving the death penalty.

Defense attorneys have challenged the appointment of military judges to the State Security Court to try civilian cases as contrary to the concept of an independent judiciary. Military judges appear to receive adequate training in civil law and court procedure, and State Security Court decisions are reviewed by the Court of Cassation. At least partly in response to these charges, a panel of civilian judges was appointed to the court for the first time in December 1995 to try the case of Layth Shubaylat for slandering the King. The panel was dissolved in September and was replaced by military judges.

A number of the cases brought before the State Security Court in 1995 resulted in convictions. In the case of six members of the Islamic Revival Movement, three were sentenced to 7 1/2 years at hard labor for possession of explosives. The other three defendants were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. In two separate cases involving free speech, Ata Abu Rishtah and Layth Shubaylat were convicted of slandering the King and sentenced to 3 years in prison, the maximum sentence for this crime. Both sentences were upheld by the Court of Cassation on appeal. On November 8, the King ordered the release from prison of Shabaylat after he had served 7 months of his sentence.

In the case of an attack on the office of the GID at Al Baqaa refugee camp in 1994, five men were found guilty of plotting to carry out an extremist attack and were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment at hard labor. The five and another defendant were acquitted of charges of distributing pamphlets slandering the King. During the trial the defendants retracted their confessions, saying that they were extracted under duress.

In the case of two men accused of shooting a French diplomat in February 1995, the defendants were found innocent of attempted murder in criminal court, but were convicted of plotting to carry out extremist attacks and the manufacture and possession of illegal arms and explosives. The two men were sentenced to 10 years in prison at hard labor. Both men claimed that they were tortured while in custody.

In the "Bayat Al Imam" case, 4 of the 13 the defendants were found innocent, and 9 were convicted. Seven had been charged with plotting to carry out extremist attacks, illegal manufacture and possession of explosives with illicit intent, and slandering the King. The remaining six were accused with slandering the King. Of the seven charged with manufacturing explosives, two were found not guilty, four were convicted of the lesser charge of possession of explosives, and the seventh was found guilty of all charges. Three of the four were sentenced to 15 years at hard labor; the fourth was sentenced to 10 years at hard labor. The one defendant convicted on all charges was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at hard labor. Among those accused only of slander, one was found not guilty while the remaining five received sentences ranging from 2 to 3 years in prison. During the trial all the defendants claimed that they were forced to confess while in security detention for 5 months prior to being charged.

In 1996 the State Security Court began hearing the case of three men accused of planning attacks against Israeli tourists. The men are charged with plotting to carry out extremist attacks and possessing illegal explosives. The Court also heard the case of Mohammed Salameh Duwaik, an attorney arrested after neighbors accused him of making remarks that slandered the King and Government. Duwaik was cleared of the charges as a result of inconsistencies in witnesses' testimony. The press has carried details of the ongoing cases, including allegations of torture.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The authorities generally respect the Constitutional prohibitions of such practices. Police must obtain a warrant from the Prosecutor General or a judge before conducting searches. However, in security cases, authorities sometimes--in violation of the law--obtain warrants retroactively or obtain preapproved warrants. Security officers reportedly monitor telephones, read correspondence, and engage in surveillance of persons who allegedly pose a threat to the Government. While these practices are not believed to be widespread, the law permits them if the Government obtains a court order.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press; however, the Government imposes some restrictions on these rights. Private citizens can be prosecuted for slandering the royal family or the Government and for inciting sedition. Citizens generally do not hesitate to criticize the Government openly but are more circumspect in regard to the King and the royal family. The Press and Publications Law of 1993 restricts media coverage of 10 subjects, most notably the military services, the royal family, and monetary policy. In addition, journalists engage in self-censorship when reporting on security issues and opposition to the Government to avoid government censorship or retaliation.

The Government exercises control over the print media through its ownership of 61 percent of the Jordan Press Foundation and 40 percent of the Jordan Press and Publications Company, which together publish the country's three main daily newspapers. The 1993 Law gives the Government until 1997 to reduce its shares in press establishments to a maximum of 30 percent. The Government also requires licenses for newspapers and periodicals, but the Press Law does not prescribe penalties for publishing without a license. The Government may revoke a license only if a company fails to publish for an extended period of time. The Government licensed eight new weekly newspapers in 1996. No licenses were revoked.

The Government also requires licenses for journalists, editors, and publishers. Journalists have long complained about the requirement that they must join the government-sponsored Jordan Press Association (JPA). However, the Government has not taken legal action against journalists who refuse to join the association. Foreign journalists and Jordanians working for foreign news agencies must register with the Ministry of Information. The Press Law offers limited protection for the confidentiality of a journalist's sources.

The Penal Code authorizes the State to take legal action against any person who incites violence, defames heads of state, disseminates "false or exaggerated information outside the country which attacks state dignity," or defames public officials. Ahmed Oueidi Abbadi, a former deputy, is charged with undermining national unity, inciting people to criminal acts, and fueling bigotry for writing a June editorial in which he called for Government confiscation of the property of Palestinians living in Jordan.

Persons accused of violating the Press and Publications Law are tried in a special court for press and copyright cases. During the year there were 13 cases involving violations of the Press and Publications Law. Journalists are also prosecuted for criminal and security violations in connection with their work. Most such cases result in acquittal or are dismissed before coming to trial. In 1995 only 2 of the 20 cases heard resulted in guilty verdicts. The Government uses detention and prosecution or the threat of prosecution of press and publications cases as a means to harass and intimidate outspoken journalists and encourage self-censorship. Fourteen journalists have been charged with security and press offenses related to the August disturbances in southern Jordan. Charges include "publishing material deemed offensive to the public," "carrying inaccurate or misleading reporting," slandering the King, and instigating public disorder or sedition. Salameh Na'mat, the Amman correspondent for Al Hayat, was acquitted in April of slander, inaccurate reporting, and "damaging national unity" under the Press and Publications Law. He was detained in October 1995 for 3 days in connection with the charges.

Two Lebanese journalists and the chief editor of an Egyptian opposition paper were denied entry by the Government into the country in December on the grounds that their writings were insulting and slanderous to the King and the Jordanian leadership.

Radio and television news is more restricted than the print media. Television news airs criticisms of the Government but rarely covers alleged human rights abuses. During the August disturbances foreign television crews were permitted to film the riots, but the crew from Jordan Television was denied access to Kerak, where the disturbances were taking place. All political parties have access to broadcast facilities, but the cost of air time is prohibitively high. Opposition parties have complained that Jordan Television reports only the Government's position on controversial matters. In August opposition parliamentarians boycotted Parliament over complaints that their views about the bread subsidy issue were not being aired. International television programs are widely available by satellite; Israeli and Syrian television can be received with an antenna.

Although the Government does not usually interfere with the importation of foreign newspapers and magazines, individual issues sometimes do not appear on the newstands, as was the case with a number of British publications immediately following the August disturbances. In October over 30 publications on display at Amman's International Book Fair were confiscated by officials from the Press and Publications Department because they had not been submitted to the Department in advance. The confiscated books covered political and social topics and included novels and poetry.

There were no cases of leftist or Islamist university professors being dismissed for advocating extremist political views. Intellectuals, however, believe that there are no safeguards to prevent such dismissals. University of Jordan sociology professor Ibrahim Abu Arkoub was detained in September without charge for 45 days, apparently for his connections with Hamas.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Citizens must obtain permits for public gatherings. Since 1989 the Government has granted some permits for peaceful demonstrations. The Government denies permits for public protests and rallies that it determines pose a threat to security. Following riots and demonstrations in response to the August increase in bread prices, the Government denied opposition and Islamist organizers permission to hold a "hungry million march" to protest the price increase. The Government indirectly limits conferences, workshops, and seminars by requiring that the organizers obtain Government approval for any such gathering. The Government has not refused such permission in 1996.

The Government routinely licenses political parties. Twenty-six parties have been licensed since 1992. Membership in an unlicensed party is illegal. The High Court of Justice may dissolve a party if it violates the Constitution or the Political Parties Law. The Government has no discretion to deny a license to a party that submits a complete application, including names of the founders, financial information, and bylaws. There are over 50 political movements that are not licensed by the Government as full-fledged political parties.

In August the Government took action against opposition party members suspected of instigating unrest in the south. Members and officials of the Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party, the Jordan People's Democratic Party, and the Jordanian Communist Party from various parts of Jordan were detained and charged for involvement in the riots (see Section 1.d.).

c. Freedom of Religion

According to the Constitution, Islam is the state religion. The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for "personal freedom." Sunni Muslims constitute over 90 percent of the population. Government control of Islamic institutions is managed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Trusts, which appoints imams and subsidizes activities sponsored by the mosques. The Political Parties Law prohibits houses of worship from being used for political party activity. This has been interpreted to prevent Islamist parliamentarians from preaching in mosques. However, enforcement of the law has not been consistent. Religious instruction is mandatory for all Muslim students in public schools.

The Government does not interfere with public worship by Jordan's Christian minority. The Government does not recognize the Baha'i faith as a religion but does not prohibit the practice of the faith.

The law prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing. Muslims who convert to other faiths complain of social and government discrimination. The Government does not fully recognize the legality of such conversions. Under Shari'a law, converts from Islam are regarded as apostates and may be legally denied their property and other rights. In Jordan this principle is not applied. Converts from Islam do not fall under the jurisdiction of their new religion's laws in matters of personal status and are still considered Muslims under Shari'a law.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for the right of citizens to travel freely abroad and within Jordan except in military areas. The law requires that Jordanian women and foreign women married to Jordanians obtain written permission from a male guardian to apply for a passport. A woman traveling abroad with children may also be asked for authorization from her spouse before being allowed to depart. Legal authorities enforce requests from fathers to prevent their children from departing the country, even when traveling with their mothers.

Many Palestinian residents are Jordanian citizens, with the rights of citizenship. Jordanians with full citizenship receive passports valid for 5 years. Until 1995 the Government issued passports valid for 2 years to Palestinians who arrived after 1967, as well as to Palestinians in areas under Israeli occupation who did not have other travel documentation. In 1995 the King announced that virtually all applicants would be eligible for 5-year passports. The Government stresses that these passports are for travel only; they do not denote nationality. Palestinians must obtain permits from the Ministry of the Interior for travel between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied territories. Such permission is routinely granted.

The Government cooperates with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The Government provides first asylum. Since 1991 thousands of Iraqis have sought asylum in Jordan and been assisted by the UNHCR. There were no reports of forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The Constitution prohibits the deportation of citizens.

Over 1.35 million Palestinian refugees are registered in Jordan with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The Agency counts another 800,000 Palestinians as either displaced persons from the 1967 war, arrivals following the 1967 war, or returnees from the Gulf.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Executive and legislative powers are so concentrated in the hands of the King that citizens do not have any meaningful ability to change their system of Government. The King has sole discretionary authority to form and dismiss cabinets, appoint and remove prime ministers, dissolve Parliament, and establish the broad outlines of public policy. Appointments made by the King to high government posts do not require legislative approval. The executive power is vested in the King, who exercises his powers through his ministers in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

The Parliament is composed of a Senate appointed by the King and a Chamber of Deputies elected by the people. The Parliament is empowered to approve, reject, or amend legislation proposed by the Cabinet. In practice Members of Parliament ask the Government to submit specific legislation for consideration. The Parliament may amend such draft legislation. The King proposes and dismisses extraordinary sessions of Parliament and may postpone regular sessions up to 60 days. In August the King terminated the extraordinary session of Parliament in which the proposed hike in bread prices was to be discussed. The King must approve by decree all laws passed by Parliament. If the Government amends or enacts a law when Parliament is not in session, it must submit the law to Parliament for consideration during the next session.

Women have the right to vote, and women's groups encourage women to vote and become active in the political process. In the Amman area, over 43 percent of those who voted in the 1995 municipal elections were women. In 1996 there was one woman in the Cabinet, one in the Chamber of Deputies, and two in the Senate. Eleven women were elected to municipal posts in 1995, including one as mayor of Khirbet al Wahadneh, near Ajloun.

Of the 80 seats in the lower chamber, 9 are reserved for Christians, 6 for Bedouins, and 3 for the Circassian or Chechen ethnic minorities.

The Palestinian community, estimated to be slightly over one-half the total population, is not represented proportionately in the Government. Five of 31 ministers, 9 of 40 senators, and 13 of 80 lower house deputies are of Palestinian origin. The electoral system gives greater representation to south Jordan, which has few inhabitants of Palestinian origin.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Local and international human rights groups investigate allegations of human rights abuses and have published and disseminated findings critical of government policy. However, the Press and Publications Law restricts the publication of information about the military and security services, which, in effect, prevents the publication by local groups of reports alleging torture and other abuses committed by the security services.

The ICRC is permitted to visit prisoners and assess the condition of security detainees, including those held by the GID. The AOHR and the Amman-based Peace Center for Humanitarian Studies are registered with the Government and have raised human rights cases with government officials. Both organizations have drawn public attention to alleged human rights abuses and have pressed the Government to explain the status of detainees and to charge or release them promptly. In February the AOHR released a report detailing human rights abuses in 1995. In October the AOHR released an "emergency report" about human rights abuses following the August disturbances. The Jordanian Human Rights Society (JHRS) received its license to operate on November 30 from the Ministry of Interior.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Although Jordanian law does not distinguish between citizens on the basis of race, women and minorities are treated differently under the law and may face discrimination in employment, housing, and other categories.


Violence against women over the age of 15 is common. Reported incidents of crimes against women do not reflect the full extent of the problem. Medical experts acknowledge that spousal abuse occurs frequently. However, cultural norms constrain victims from seeking medical or legal help and frustrate an objective assessment of the extent of abuse.

Abused women have the right to file a complaint in court against their spouses for physical abuse, but in practice, familial and societal pressures discourage them from seeking legal remedies. Marital rape is legal. Nongovernmental organizations such as the Jordanian Women's Union, which has a hotline for victims of domestic violence, provide assistance in such matters. Wife beating is technically grounds for divorce, but the husband may seek to demonstrate that he has authority from the Koran to correct an irreligious or disobedient wife by striking her.

The Criminal Code allows for leniency for persons found guilty of committing a "crime of honor," the term commonly used for a violent assault against--or murder of--a female by a male relative for alleged sexual misconduct. Law enforcement treatment of men accused of "honor" crimes mirrors widespread social approval for such acts. As of September, the press reported 11 such cases in 1996. However, these figures likely understate the actual number of cases, as most crimes of honor are not reported by the press, and the actual number of such crimes is believed by a local expert to be four times as high. According to the law, a "crime of honor" defense may be invoked only by a defendant who "surprises his wife or any close female relative committing adultery," in which case there is no punishment. Although few defendants can meet the stringent requirements for a "crime of honor" defense, which requires that the defendant have witnessed the female victim engaging in sexual intercourse, convicted offenders rarely spend more than 2 years in prison. More commonly, such defenses rely on the male relative having acted in the heat of passion upon hearing of a female relative's sexual transgression, without any investigation on the part of the killer to determine the veracity of the allegation before committing an act of violence. Women may not invoke this defense for murdering a male relative under the same circumstances, nor may they use it for killing men who attempt to rape, sexually harass, or otherwise threaten their "honor." In contrast to "honor" crimes, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder is death; the maximum penalty for second degree murder is 15 years.

Women also experience legal discrimination in matters of pension and social security benefits, inheritance, divorce, and the value of testimony in court (see Section 1.e.). The Government provides men with more generous social security benefits than women. The Government continues pension payments of a deceased male civil servant to his heirs but discontinues payments of a deceased female civil servant.

Under Shari'a or Islamic law, female heirs receive half the amount of a male heir's inheritance, while the non-Muslim widows of Muslim spouses have no inheritance rights. A sole female heir receives half her parents' estate; the balance goes to designated male relatives. A sole male heir inherits all his parents' property. Male Muslim heirs have the duty to provide for all family members who need assistance. Shari'a law regards the testimony of two women to be equal to the testimony of one man. This technically applies only in religious courts but in the past has been imposed in civil courts as well, irrespective of religion. Men are able to obtain divorce more easily than women under Islamic law. Marriage and divorce matters for Christians are adjudicated by special courts for each denomination. The Government bans married women from applying for diplomatic posts. A woman was appointed as a judge for the first time in 1996.

The law requires a married woman to obtain her husband's permission to obtain a passport (see Section 2.d.). Married women do not have the legal right to confer citizenship on their children. However, they may obtain citizenship for their non-Jordanian husbands who may then confer citizenship on the children. Civil law grants women equal pay for equal work, but in practice this law is often ignored.

Social pressures discourage many women from pursuing careers. Nonetheless, women have employment opportunities in many professions, including engineering, medicine, education, and law. Women constitute approximately 14 percent of the work force. Women's groups stress that the problem of discrimination is not only one of law but also of women's lack of awareness of their rights or unwillingness to assert those rights. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization reported in 1995 that women who work in agriculture average 15-hour days and earn less than men. The Jordanian chapter of the Business and Professional Women's Club gives seminars on women's rights and assists women in establishing small businesses. Members of the royal family are working actively to improve the status of women.


The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare, especially in the areas of education and health. In October the Minister of Labor issued a memorandum to all ministry inspectors ordering them to fine every employer of children under 16 years of age. However, the Government's progress in these areas is constrained by limited financial resources. Education is compulsory to age 15. The children of Iraqi citizens living in Jordan without residence permits are not permitted to attend school.

The Government safeguards some children's rights, especially regarding child labor. Although the law prohibits children under the age of 16 from working, child peddlers work the streets of Amman. The Ministry of Social Development has a committee to address the problem and in most cases removes the children from the streets, returns them to their families or to juvenile centers, and may provide the families with a monthly stipend. However, the child usually returns to the streets soon afterward. The law prohibits corporal punishment in schools.

Although the problem is difficult to quantify, social workers believe that there is a significant incidence of child abuse in families. The law specifies punishment for specific abuses against children. Rape or sodomy of a child under 15 years of age carries the death penalty. In January the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence of a man for repeatedly raping and threatening the life of a 10-year old girl. The incidence of crimes, especially sexual crimes, is significantly higher than reported in the press.

People with Disabilities

High unemployment in the general population restricts job opportunities for the disabled. The Government passed legislation in 1993 requiring future public buildings to accommodate the needs of the disabled and the retrofitting of existing public buildings, but implementation has been slow. Since 1993 the Special Education Department of the Ministry of Social Development has enrolled approximately 10,000 mentally and physically disabled persons in public and private sector training courses. It has placed approximately 400 disabled persons in public and private sector jobs. A new law requires that 2 percent of the available jobs be reserved for the physically disabled. Private organizations and members of the royal family actively promote programs to protect and promote the interests of the disabled. Jordan participates in the Special Olympics with the active encouragement of the royal family.

Indigenous People

The Bedouin, Jordan's nomadic people, carry Jordanian passports and are increasingly assimilated into society. However, the Bedouin face social, economic, and professional discrimination, although the Government reserves six seats for the Bedouin in the Chamber of Deputies. The military and police forces have special units primarily composed of Bedouin.

Religious Minorities

The Government does not recognize the Baha'i faith as a religion. It does not record the religion on national identity cards issued to Baha'is, nor does it register property belonging to the community. Unlike Christian denominations, the Baha'i community does not have its own court to adjudicate personal status and family matters. Baha'i personal status matters are heard in Islamic law courts.

The Government does not officially recognize Jehovah's Witnesses, the United Pentecostal Church, the Church of Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it allows them to conduct their activities without interference.

Established religious groups, which include Muslims, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Syriacs, and Armenian Orthodox, require official government recognition in order to register property in the name of the church, but members may practice their religion without government recognition. In general Christians do not suffer discrimination. Christians hold cabinet and other government positions and are represented in the media and academia approximately in proportion to their presence in the general population, which is estimated at 6 percent. Christian and Baha'i children in public schools are not required to participate in Islamic religious instruction.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government granted full citizenship to all Palestinians who fled to Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and to a large number of refugees who arrived after the 1967 War. However, refugees who fled Gaza after 1967 are not entitled to citizenship and until 1995 were issued only 2-year passports. As of October 1995, most Palestinian refugees became eligible to receive 5-year passports, but the Government has stressed that these passports are for travel only and do not connote nationality (see Section 2.d.). Palestinians suffer disproportionate scrutiny in taxation and discrimination in the award of university scholarships and appointments to senior positions in the Government and the military.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Workers in the private sector and in some state-owned companies have the right to establish and join unions. Unions must be registered to be considered legal. The law prohibits union membership for noncitizens. Over 30 percent of the work force is organized into 17 unions. Although union membership in the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU), the sole trade federation, is not mandatory, all unions belong to it. The Government subsidizes and audits the GFJTU's salaries and activities. Union officials are elected by secret ballot to 4-year terms. Although the Government cosponsors and approves the timing of these elections, it does not interfere in the choice of candidates.

Labor laws mandate that workers must obtain permission from the Government in order to strike. Unions generally will not seek approval for a strike, but workers will use the threat of a strike or wildcat action as a negotiating tactic. Strikes are prohibited if a labor dispute is under mediation or arbitration. If a settlement is not reached through mediation, the Ministry of Labor may refer the dispute to an industrial tribunal by agreement of both parties. If only one party agrees, the Ministry of Labor refers the dispute to the Council of Ministers and then to Parliament. The tribunal is an independent arbitration panel of judges appointed by the Ministry of Labor. The decisions of the panel are legally binding. Labor law prohibits employers from dismissing a worker during a labor dispute. There was one reported strike in 1996.

The GFJTU belongs to the Arab Labor Organization, the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, and to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have, and exercise, the right to bargain collectively. The Constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, but the ICFTU claims that the Government does not adequately protect employees from antiunion discrimination and that the Government has dismissed public sector employees for political reasons. Workers may lodge complaints of antiunion discrimination with the Ministry of Labor, which is authorized to order the reinstatement of employees discharged for union activities. There were no complaints of antiunion discrimination lodged with the Ministry of Labor in 1996.

The national labor laws apply in the free trade zones in Aqaba and Zarqa. Private sector employees in these zones belong to one national union that covers both zones and have the right to bargain collectively.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids compulsory labor, except in a state of emergency such as war or natural disaster. Compulsory labor is not practiced.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Labor law forbids children under the age of 16 from working except as apprentices. At age 13 children may begin part time training for up to 6 hours a day with night work prohibited. Ministry of Labor inspectors attempt to enforce the law on child labor, but in practice enforcement often does not extend to some small family businesses that employ underage children. Education is compulsory to age 15. Families in remote areas frequently keep some school-age children at home to work. Child peddlers work on the streets of Amman (see Section 5).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage. The Government periodically adjusts a minimum wage schedule for various trades, based on recommendations of an advisory panel representing workers, employers, and the Government. The lowest minimum wage rate on the schedule is about $150 (80 dinars) per month, including allowances. Workers earning the lowest wage find it difficult to provide a decent living for their families. The Government estimates the poverty level at a monthly wage of about $93 (65 dinars) per month for a family of three.

The law prohibits most workers from working more than the customary 48 hours a week, and 54 hours for hotel, restaurant, and cinema employees. Workers may not work more than 16 hours in any continuous period or more that 60 hours' overtime per month. Employees are entitled to 1 day off each week.

The law does not apply to domestic servants, who do not have a legal forum to address their labor grievances and have no standing to sue in court for nonpayment of wages. Abuse of domestic servants, most of whom are foreign, is widespread. Imprisonment of maids and confiscation of travel documents by employers is common. Complaints of beatings, underfeeding, and rape are not generally reported to officials by victims, who fear losing their work permits and being sent back to their nation of origin should they file a complaint. Domestic servants are generally not given a day off.

The law specifies a number of health and safety requirements for workers, including the presence of bathrooms, drinking water, and first aid equipment at work sites. The Ministry of Labor makes an effort to enforce health and safety requirements but is hampered by the lack of qualified inspectors. The inspectors do not have the power to order firms to comply with health and safety standards. The law does not require employers to report industrial accidents or occupational diseases to the Ministry of Labor. Workers do not have a statutory right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking the loss of their job.

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