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Opposition, rights groups blast draft anti-terror bill

[Jordan] Critics say the proposed anti-terrorism law would turn Jordan into 'a police state'. [Date picture taken: 06/04/2006]
Critics say the proposed anti-terrorism law would turn Jordan into 'a police state'. (Maria Font de Matas/IRIN)

Leaders of opposition groups and professional associations decried the government’s proposed anti-terrorism law on Sunday, saying it would serve to turn the country into “a police state”.

“This bill is catastrophic to human rights and civil liberties in the kingdom,” said Saleh Armouti, head of the Jordan Professional Association council, an umbrella group of 14 professional associations that plans to launch a nationwide lobby campaign against the bill. “The draft law is unconstitutional because it deprives the judiciary authority of its powers and grants security forces a free hand to do what they wish,” added Armouti, who is also head of the Bar Association.

Last week, the government announced it had completed the draft legislation, which was first proposed in the wake of last November's bombings in Amman, allegedly carried out by Iraqi terrorists, in which 60 people were killed. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, purportedly led by the Jordanian fugitive Abu Musab Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the bombings at the time and vowed more attacks. In response, the government vowed to introduce an anti-terrorism law aimed at “thwarting attacks before they happen”.

Late last year, Jordan's King Abdullah asked the government during an inaugurating speech of parliament to draft an anti-terrorism law as part of “a security strategy” in the kingdom.

He said the country “requires the drafting of legislation that serves this strategy to ensure that Jordan will remain as it always has been: An oasis of security and stability and a haven for freedom where human rights are respected.”

The draft law includes provisions allowing security forces to detain suspects for two-week periods, which can be renewed. It also allows authorities to conduct surveillance on suspects, impound their possessions and bar them from leaving the country.

According to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the law is meant only to “strengthen the grip of the security forces and limit public freedoms”. “There is absolutely no need for this law,” said Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Jamil Abu Baker. “The current penal code is enough.” Abu Baker added that he believed the law was imposed on Jordan by the US.

Local human rights groups echoed these criticisms. Assem Rababeh, head of the Adaleh Human Rights group, said he believes the new law will turn the country into a police state. “Jordan has been promoting itself as an oasis of democracy and freedoms in the Arab world,” said Rababah, “but with this anti-terrorism law, the country will immediately lose all it has accomplished.”

Armouti, who urged members of parliament to reject the draft bill, said his group would invite lawmakers to explain the “negative impact” the new law would have on the nation.

Jordan, a staunch US ally, is the first Arab country to join the ranks of Western states in issuing an anti-terrorism bill. The legislation is expected to be debated during next month's extraordinary session of parliament.

MBH/AR/AM


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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