UN expert visiting Jordan finds ‘general impunity for torture and ill-treatment’

UN expert visiting Jordan finds ‘general impunity for torture and ill-treatment’

Concluding that there is “general impunity for torture and ill-treatment in Jordan,” a country which serves as a vice chair on the newly established Human Rights Council, a United Nations rights expert recently returned from there has recommended a raft of measures to strengthen the legal system and prevent such abuses.

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak met the Minister of Foreign Affairs and various other officials during his 25 to 29 June mission, the UN said in a press release, highlighting also that he visited a number of detention facilities where he could carry out unrestricted inspections however it said there were “two notable and regrettable exceptions.”

“During his visit to the General Intelligence Directorate he was abruptly denied the right to speak to detainees in private…The second exception concerns the Criminal Investigation Department in Abdali, central Amman…It is not surprising that these two facilities were the ones most often cited by various sources of information as the two most notorious torture centres in Jordan,” he said.

“On the basis of a thorough analysis of the legal system, his visits to detention facilities, interviews with detainees, the support of forensic medical evidence, and interviews with Government officials, lawyers and representatives of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), the Special Rapporteur concludes there is general impunity for torture and ill-treatment in Jordan,” the press release said.

Mr. Nowak also highlighted that no functioning complaints mechanism exists to report and seek effective redress for acts of torture, but said that the absence of a crime of torture in accordance with article One of the Convention against Torture was only part of the problem.

“At the heart of it lies a system where the presumption of innocence is illusory, primacy is placed on obtaining confessions, and public officials essentially assume no responsibility, or sense of duty to investigate human rights violations against suspected criminals.”

The Special Rapporteur went on to say that he recognized the “significant challenges” faced by Jordan given its strategic location in the Middle East, not least the prevailing sensitive security situation and the continued threat of terrorism, but emphasized that Government security measures “must respect international human rights norms.”

To improve the situation he laid out six recommendations, adding that Jordan’s position as “a vice-chair of the UN Human Rights Council and the clear commitment of the Government to human rights” had assured him that every effort will be taken to take these up.

The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government:

criminalize torture in full accordance with the definition contained in article One of the Convention against Torture, and impose appropriate penalties;

investigate effectively every allegation of torture and bring the perpetrators to justice;

abolish the special courts, such as the police and intelligence courts;introduce effective measures aimed at preventing torture, such as medical documentation of torture allegations, access to lawyers, monitoring of interrogation methods;accept the right of individual complaints to UN human rights bodies, including the Committee against Torture;ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and establish effective national mechanisms to carry out preventive and unannounced visits to all places of detention.

Mr. Nowak, who is unpaid and serves in an independent personal capacity, will now submit a comprehensive written report on his visit to the Human Rights Council.