AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Monday paid surprise visits to centres providing care to children with disabilities, following media reports that abuses were routine in these facilities. 

The unannounced tour came after news reports on the British Broadcasting Corporation and two local news outlets cited abuses and violations against children, a Royal Court statement said.

He later issued directives to the government to investigate the work of private and public centres providing care for people with disabilities (PWD), by forming a probe panel and then refer violators to court.

“This committee should wrap up its mission within two weeks,” the King said in a letter to Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh (see official translation of the letter).

“It is expected to compile a detailed report on the situation of these centres and the levels of compliance with licensing requirements and local and international monitoring standards,” he said. 

His Majesty stressed the need to “take immediate and decisive measures” to refer anyone involved in the violations to court.

“We have been shocked at media reports indicating that a segment of our people who are dear to our hearts and the centre of our attention — namely, people with disabilities — are being subjected to abuse and violations,” he said, stressing that such abuses are rejected and constitute an “insult to Jordanian pride and human decency”.

“It has given us pain to hear of a situation where there is abuse and blatant violation of human dignity, which is a red line and a priority over all other priorities.” 

“These violations and incidents of abuse, if confirmed, indicate an enormous failure on part of supervisory and monitoring authorities of these centres, whose reported practices are in absolute contradiction with their original mission,” the King stressed. 

The Monarch said the government should monitor and inspect all private and public facilities that provide social development services. 

“These efforts should be aimed at assessing their [the facilities’] commitment to their duties and making sure they aptly shoulder their responsibilities and play their roles, especially with regards to preserving human dignity.”

He also emphasised the need to revisit all laws governing the work of special education centres.

“Our priority has always been to provide citizens with a safe, healthy and sound environment where all segments of society can live in dignity,” the King said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Development Wajih Azaizeh on Monday said the ministry has formed a committee of forensic experts and members of civil society organisations and human rights institutions to investigate violations in the five public and 54 private centres providing services for PWD. 

The minister added that upon His Majesty’s directives, the committee will immediately start its work and issue its report within two weeks, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

The panel will take legal action against perpetrators and close down centres proven to be involved in the abuses, according to the minister. 

He added that the committee will also review the regulations governing the work of PWD centres.