AMMAN — A Royal Decree was issued on Saturday appointing the president and members of the Constitutional Court.

In a letter addressed to the newly appointed court members, headed by former minister and senator Taher Hikmat, His Majesty King Abdullah called the establishment of the court a “pioneering, national achievement” (see official translation of the letter).

Article 58 of the amended Constitution stipulates the establishment of the financially and administratively independent Amman-based court to replace the Higher Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution (HCIC).

Article 59 of the Constitution states that “the Constitutional Court shall monitor the constitutionality of laws and regulations in force and issue its judgements in the name of the King”.

The Constitutional Court “has the right to interpret the provisions of the Constitution if requested, either by virtue of a decision of the Council of Ministers or by a resolution taken by the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies passed by an absolute majority”.

The decree also appointed Marwan Dudin, Fahed Nsour, Ahmad Tbeishat, Kamel Saeed, Fuad Sweidan, Yousef Hmoud, Abdulqader Tawarah and Mohammad Ghazwi as members of the court.

The court’s members were sworn in before His Majesty in a ceremony at Raghadan Palace attended by Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh, Senate President Taher Masri, Judicial Council President Hisham Tal, Royal Court Chief Riyad Abu Karaki, Director of the King’s Office Imad Fakhoury and Justice Minister Khalifah Suleiman. (See profiles of the members)

In his letter, King Abdullah said monitoring the constitutionality of laws has always been an element of the Kingdom’s political life, citing the role of the HCIC, but he stressed that the country’s reform now requires a specialised court to assume this role.

“…The reformist approach we have committed ourselves to, in words and in deeds… requires that we vest the task of monitoring the constitutionality of legislation and bylaws in a specialised court.

“Such a court is expected to carry out this mission at a time when its responsibilities are growing together with the requirements of the coming political phase and the reform process that we support as part of a home-grown endeavour to build a better future for our dear country, God willing,” the King said.

The formation of this court “is a major step and milestone in the process of reform and democratic renewal we envisage”, His Majesty said.

He added that “[this] process will see in one of its key junctions the election of a new Lower House by the new year. A parliamentary government will emerge from this Parliament, reflecting the people’s will”.

His Majesty voiced confidence that the court “will emerge as a significant guarantee and major reference when it comes to cementing respect for the Constitution and separation of power and balance between the branches of government”.

“Having said that, this court will safeguard citizens’ rights and basic freedoms on the one hand, and enhance their confidence in the state, on the other.”

The Monarch added that the Constitutional Court will serve as “a guarantee of further balance and separation between the branches of government”, adding that it will monitor the respect of law and legitimacy “through tuning laws and by-laws in effect with the letter and spirit of the Constitution”.

“This will induce qualitative change, leading to improved performance by all branches of government.”

The court’s establishment signifies “unifying constitutional jurisprudence in one channel”, as it “emerges as the only reference for the interpretation of constitutional provisions”, the King said.

His Majesty also highlighted a set of principles that “should always” guide the court: “The Constitutional Court should be a symbol of neutrality, independence and transparency. Its rulings should be issued without any influence from any party whatsoever and this court, and its honourable judges, will have the necessary support through a set of guarantees.”

A Royal Decree was also issued on Saturday accepting Hikmat’s resignation as chairman of the National Centre for Human Rights board of trustees.

Two other decrees were issued accepting Dudin’s resignation from the Senate and Saeed’s resignation from his position as minister of state for prime ministry affairs and legislation.

In a statement to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Hikmat said the formation of the Constitutional Court was a real achievement that crowns the reform processes.

He added that the court meets the aspirations of many Jordanians, calling it a mark of an active, democratic and parliamentarian life where the law is paramount.