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Webinar held to mark 18th World Day against the Death Penalty

By Rana Husseini - Oct 10,2020 - Last updated at Oct 10,2020

AMMAN — Activists and former officials on Saturday called for limiting the application of the death penalty in Jordan until social attitudes are altered and the punishment is abolished altogether from the legal textbooks.

The call was made during a webinar, which was organised by Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) and titled “Opposition to Death Penalty”, funded by the European Union.

The event, which is part of SIGI’s Rule of Law and Fair Trials from a Gender Perspective Project, was organised to commemorate the 18th World Day against the Death Penalty.

Around 20 women are awaiting execution in Jordan according to a local human rights organisation in Jordan.

Lawyer Fatima Dabbas said that “despite the fairness of the justice system in Jordan, human errors are possible”.

“There have been some international cases whereby some people were put to death by their governments and later it was proven that they were innocent,” Dabbas said.

That is why, Dabbas maintained, “it is important to start lobbying against the death penalty so that there would be a chance for individuals who are sentenced to death in the event of a human error”.

Meanwhile, SIGI Executive Director Asma Khader touched on the issue of women who are sentenced to death in Jordan during the three-hour webinar.

“Obviously there is discrimination in the familial treatment of men and women who are sentenced to death,” Khader said.

Khader added that her observations are based on examining dozens of files related to women who are sentenced to death and interviewing some of them.

“Obviously families do their utmost to try to save their male members from execution by appointing the best lawyers, trying to reach a financial settlement with the victims’ families and would visit them regularly while they are incarcerated as a form of moral support,” Khader said.

But the situation for women who are on death row are totally the opposite, according to Khader.

“Families would rarely visit them, if they are married, they will be immediately divorced and in most cases the court appoints a lawyer to defend them and their families will never attempt to reach a financial settlement with the victims’ families so that they would drop charges against them, which would spare their lives,” Khader said.

SIGI Programmes and Activities Director Inam Asha added that “most of the sentenced women have no idea of their legal rights and are not properly guided through court proceedings, which results in them being sentenced to death”. 

Asha stressed that it is of utmost importance to “cancel the death penalty in Jordan and substitute it with life imprisonment”. 

Former Court of Cassation Judge Mohammad Tarawneh added his voice to the other speakers by describing the death penalty as an “ugly punishment”.

“This is an ugly punishment and I would like to tell everyone who thinks that the death penalty will contribute in decreasing the crime rate in Jordan or elsewhere in the world that they are wrong,” Tarawneh stressed during the webinar session.

On the contrary, Tarawneh maintained, the crime rates in countries that “still apply the death penalty are on the increase”.

Also speaking during the webinar event was theatre director Hakeem Harb who told the audience that he had conducted theatre tours at several correctional and rehabilitation facilities in the Kingdom.

“We were really surprised when we went to the women’s correctional and rehabilitation centre and interacted with women there, including ones who are on death row,” Harb said.

“In the beginning we felt that these women had hatred feelings, tired and stressed because they felt they were marginalised and that the world was not fair to them,” he said.

“But we discovered that many could sing, act, or perform comedy acts so we decided to focus on them so that we would give them a new hope by allowing them to vent out their frustration and hatred of the world,” Harb said.

Activist Amani Jarrar, who did her thesis on human rights and the right to life and justice, said it is “of utmost importance to investigate the reasons that lead these people to commit murders”. 

“We need to focus on the human angle by trying to understand why these crimes are committed and at the same time to stop another life from being taken away and instead sentence them to life imprisonment,” Jarrar stressed.

Other suggestions to push for cancelling or limiting the death penalty in Jordan included initiating a study to determine the gender discrepancy “between the way women and men are being tried by the justice system and how they are being treated by their families”.

Tarawneh suggested launching a meeting with the judiciary branch to discuss “the death penalty since judges have the authority make use of the Penal Code to issue a punishment that is not the death penalty”. 

Dabbas emphasised the need to establish a special fund for women on death row in particular, “because on many occasions, women do not have the financial means to reach a settlement with a victim’s family”. 

Asha said she was hopeful that the Jordanian government would work to stop the application of the death penalty, as has been the case since 2006, and to reduce the crimes punishable by death until capital punishment is completely abolished.

SIGI had prepared several statements to commemorate this day including: “The priority is to guarantee the right to life. No to capital punishment”, “The postponement of executions is a double punishment”, “The death penalty will never deter a crime”, “Executions are unhuman punishments”, and “No matter how the justice system is fair and transparent, human errors could occur in death sentence”.

In July, SIGI launched a coalition named “Life”, to oppose and reduce the death penalty from a gender perspective and to highlight the importance of the right to life and justice for all.

The coalition, which is part of SIGI’s Rule of Law and Fair Trials from a Gender Perspective Project, strives to build a peaceful and secure society by conducting several activities from a gender perspective to raise awareness about this important topic and work gradually to decrease the offences that are punishable by death.

Currently, there are 120 people on death row in Jordan, including 20 women. The last time a woman was executed in Jordan was in February 2015 when Iraqi national Sajida Rishawi, 44, was executed after being convicted by the State Security Court in a terror-related case.

Rishawi, was convicted in September 2006 of possessing explosives and plotting terrorist attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which left 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

During the period between 1975 and 2016, Jordan carried out more than 1,226 death sentences, including 26 carried out since 2014, according to a recent statement by SIGI. 

 

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