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Human Rights Watch calls for stronger Penal Code amendments

By JT - Sep 14,2015 - Last updated at Sep 14,2015

AMMAN — Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for an updated penal code that would “better protect human rights,” in a letter sent to Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, which was released Wednesday. 

Currently there are 186 proposed amendments under review, according to a statement by HRW, which would change over 180 articles of Jordan’s current Penal Code, which has been in effect since 1960.

But according to the New York-based rights watchdog, the new amendments do not go far enough and should include articles that better protect free expression, peaceful assembly and women.  

“Jordan will take a step in the right direction if it changes the law to prevent rapists from getting away with their crimes,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Whitson is referring to Article 308 in Jordan’s Penal Code, which states if a “perpetrator” marries the women he raped, the charges against him will be dropped. One of the proposed amendments would end this practice. 

The amendments also do not address provisions government officials have used to silence free expression and peaceful assembly, HRW said in the press release. 

Articles 118, 149 and 183 currently state a person can be detained and sentenced for “acts or writings the government did not authorise that expose Kingdom to danger”, “undermining the political regime or inciting opposition to it” or “abstaining from work” through strikes.

But the proposed amendments do include a provision to alternate methods of sentencing that could include community service instead of time behind bars. It does not specify which crimes or what type of community service the provision would include. 

Some amendments also categorises people with disabilities into a protected class and increase penalties for those who commit crimes against them like “negligence, rape, manslaughter, deprivation of liberty and financial deception”, the watchdog said. 

All proposed changes are under review by Jordan’s Legislation and Opinion Bureau, which is affiliated with the prime minister’s office. They must pass through both Houses of Parliament and receive His Majesty’s approval before they can go into effect. Whitson hopes the final product removes restrictions of basic freedoms, she said.   


“Constitutional guarantees that protect basic rights amount to little more than ink on paper if the authorities don’t get rid of Penal Code articles that are used to undermine them,” Whitson said. 

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