Jordan steps up curbs on political dissent - HRW

Jordanian Authorities used vague laws to detain, interrogate and harass journalists, political activists, members of political parties and independent trade unions according to Human Rights Watch.

JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH II listens during a meeting in Amman in May. (photo credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)
JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH II listens during a meeting in Amman in May.
(photo credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Jordanian authorities have in the last four years intensified persecution and harassment of political opponents and ordinary citizens using a string of laws to silence critical voices, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

Authorities used vague laws to detain, interrogate and harass journalists, political activists, members of political parties and independent trade unions, and their family members, and restricted their access to basic rights to quash political dissent, the rights group said in a report.

“There is an urgent need to address the downward spiral on rights we are seeing in Jordan today,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“‘Maintaining stability’ can never be a justification for abusing people’s rights and closing space that every society needs,” Fakih added.

“‘Maintaining stability’ can never be a justification for abusing people’s rights and closing space that every society needs.”

Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch Middle East director

There was no immediate response from the government to a Reuters request for comment on the HRW report.

 Jordanians carry flags and banners during a demonstration to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and to celebrate the Israel-Hamas truce, in Amman, Jordan, May 21, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MUATH FREIJ) Jordanians carry flags and banners during a demonstration to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and to celebrate the Israel-Hamas truce, in Amman, Jordan, May 21, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MUATH FREIJ)

How did HRW come to this conclusion?

The New-York based rights group said it investigated 30 cases between 2019 and 2022 in which authorities used overly broad criminal defamation provisions to arrest and charge citizens for peacefully expressing political opinions on social media platforms or in public gatherings.

The Jordanian government has also dissolved political parties and independently elected trade unions, HRW said.

Scores of activists have been arrested in recent years over comments on social media.

Staunch US ally King Abdullah had called on the intelligence services to limit activities to national security and fighting terrorism, in a rebuke to the agency with a pervasive influence in public life.

Politicians say the monarch faces challenges from a conservative establishment to push for wider economic and political reforms.

Jordanian rights activists have previously accused the government of using draconian powers under emergency laws enacted to curb COVID-19 as an excuse to limit civic and political rights.

The government recently said a newly enacted political parties law earlier this year lifted restrictions on peaceful opposition activism and was a move towards greater democratization.