AMMAN — Officials at the UN second universal period review of Jordan’s human rights record in Geneva urged the Kingdom on Thursday to address pending problems related to discrimination against women and press and publications restrictions.

They also called on Jordan to eliminate and investigate the issue of alleged ill treatment of detainees, while some delegates applauded the achievements made so far in several domains.

Scores of budding Jordanian human rights defenders and law students watched a live-webcast of the Geneva review from Amman and reflected on the issues raised and the presentation.

At the gathering held at the University of Jordan, they also commented on recommendations from the representatives of foreign governments at the international meeting.

Highlighting the Kingdom’s efforts at the review, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad Momani said Jordan’s work to boost human rights is “an ongoing process”.

“It is a constant approach,” he said, citing several recent reforms, including the constitutional amendments, which, he said, incriminated any acts of aggression against human rights.

The minister, who is also government spokesperson, cited several laws endorsed recently to boost human rights, including the Elections Law, the Political Parties Law and the Law on Protection Against Domestic Violence.

Addressing human rights officials in Geneva, Momani also highlighted the various steps Jordan has taken as part of its comprehensive reform process since the UN last review in 2009.

At intervals, students raised questions on legislation and some criticised the lack of real implementation of laws and the continued discrimination against women by not allowing them to pass on their citizenship to their children.

“The main problem is much more related to the question of implementing laws rather than having them,” Hashem, a student at Al albayt University said, supporting a similar remark by a female law student who noted that changes made are merely cosmetic. 

Students and activists also raised concerns about the continued trial of political activists at the State Security Court.

Furthermore, Nofal Mahamid, another participant, said change towards safeguarding human rights has to come from within society.

“We should educate ourselves to respect the other,” he noted.

Another attendee, a lecturer at Amman Private University who identified himself with his first name, Khalid, said the statements made by the Jordanian delegation at the Geneva meeting overlooked main issues of real concern for Jordanians.

“Prisons are packed with young activists because they wanted to express their views against corruption,” he charged.

Some speakers acknowledged the Kingdom’s efforts to move ahead with reform, stressing the presence of a political will for progress and the need to raise awareness on the importance of respecting human rights in order for Jordan to become a developed country.

Representatives of foreign countries at the UN meeting urged Jordan to take further steps to consolidate reform measures. 

They called for lifting all sorts of discrimination against women, improving guest workers’ conditions, ensuring the proper separation between powers and stepping up reform measures related to press freedom.

The UK representative expressed his country’s concern about the situation of press freedoms in Jordan, especially after the Press and Publications Department (PPD) blocked around 200 unlicensed news websites under a new version of the relevant law.

He said the amendments to the Press and Publications Law, which authorises the PPD to block unregistered news websites, is a step backwards.

Other delegates among the representatives from 193 nations participating in the review stressed the importance of efforts to increase women’s participation in political life and the need to investigate allegations of torture at prisons and detention facilities.

Momani defended the current Press and Publications Law, saying it was not drafted to restrict or undermine press freedom, but to regulate the situation of news websites and to hold them accountable in the case of any violations. 

“Now we have more than 140 licensed and registered news websites,” he added.

The minister highlighted the ongoing national dialogue between the government and various components of society as well as other efforts, including legislative amendments, to arrive at an advanced status of press freedoms. 

The minister also spoke about challenges straining the country’s economy, in light of the impact of the global financial crisis, the high cost of energy and the continued influx of Syrian refugees.

In his closing statement, Momani said Jordan will continue with its reform drive and will take the comments of the delegations of other countries into account. 

He said that Jordan is taking steps to amend the Elections Law to ensure a just representation of all components of society. Further steps to boost political life will also be taken into consideration, he added.

An NGO representative speaking via Skype from Geneva said NGOs will continue to observe and record achievements. 

They will work with the government to encourage it to accept the largest number of reforms to push for further public freedoms and civic rights.

NGOs will now have a chance to work and decide on what is and can be achieved afterwards, an official from the American Bar Association (ABA) told The Jordan Times.

A lengthy discussion, hosting a panel of human rights advocates, followed the UN review, during which participants addressed loopholes in the Civil Status Law and the country’s reservations on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The live broadcast of the dialogue between the Human Rights Council member states and the government delegation was sponsored by USAID’s Human Rights/Legal Education Project, implemented by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative.