Jordan on Sunday ended laws enacted at the start of COVID-19 that gave the authorities powers to enforce a state of emergency that rights groups said were used as an excuse to suppress civic and political liberties.
A royal decree approved a cabinet decision to annul the state of emergency that was passed nearly three years ago at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, granting the prime minister powers to curtail basic rights and freeze existing laws.
It would mean a return to implementing scores of ordinary laws that were suspended as the government enacted many defense orders that touched every aspect of public life, according to government officials.
WHO declared COVID emergency over
"We have a legislative system that will go back to functioning as normal as life has gone back to normal," Minister of Government Communications Faisal Shboul told state media.
The move comes two days after the World Health Organization on Friday declared an end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency, marking a major step toward the end of the pandemic that disrupted the global economy and ravaged communities.
Critics say Jordanian authorities used the draconian powers despite calls by King Abdullah to apply them without infringing on citizens’ political and civil rights, to quash political dissent and silence voices.
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Jordan had in the last few years intensified persecution and harassment of political opponents and ordinary citizens using a string of laws to silence critical voices.
"Jordan’s state of emergency long-outlasted measures to fight the pandemic and was arbitrarily used since 2020 to curb the right to peaceful assembly amid a decline in civic space," said Adam Coogle, deputy director of Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.
"Shelving the emergency law would be a good first step in increasing respect for basic rights," Coogle added.
Dozens of activists were imprisoned and harassed and officials deny widespread abuses but said they would not tolerate civil unrest in Jordan at a time of economic hardship.