The Jordanian government’s decision to abolish the death penalty on a number of crimes has received mixed reaction in the country, with human rights groups lauding the move while the Jordan’s Bar Association (JBA) opposed it.
"We have been lobbying for an end to the death penalty for years. This is the first positive response from the government," said Essam Rababa'ah from Adaleh Human Rights group. He urged officials to consider annulling the capital punishment entirely.
Earlier this week, the government said the death sentence would no longer be imposed for a number of offences. Crimes to be exempted include the possession of illegal explosives and weapons, as well as preventing authorities by use of force from performing their duties. Both were punishable by death under the anti-terrorism measures imposed by the government after the terrorist attacks against three major hotels in Amman last November.
Drug-related offences will also be exempt.
Rights activists said it was a step in the right direction, but that the death penalty should be scrapped altogether.
International human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly said that Jordanian security officials often force people into confessing to crimes punishable by death. These forced confessions are admissible in Jordan’s military-run State Security Court.
As an example supporting his position, Rababa'ah cited the case of a man executed two years ago after the court found him guilty of a number of murders. But investigations later proved he was innocent.
"This is people's lives we are talking about. What if a mistake is committed?" said Nizam Assaf, director of the Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies. He said that there were still 16 crimes subject to the death penalty.
"This is a good step, but not enough. There are many crimes punishable by death that need to be scrapped from the Jordanian law books," Assaf was quoted saying by the Jordan Times.
However, top officials from the JBA said the government should not have succumbed to what they described as dictation from the West.
"This is absolutely unacceptable. Dubious human rights groups should not interfere in our legal system," said Saleh Armouti, President of the JBA.
Armouti said that during a 7 July meeting between Minister of Justice Abed Shakhanbeh and representatives of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, the government promised to consider abolishing the death penalty. "Instead they should focus on having the death penalty abolished in the US, the leading advocate of human rights, where tens of people are executed annually," Armouti told IRIN.
Jordan’s King Abdullah recently said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that "Jordan could soon become the first country in the Middle East without capital punishment."
At least 10 people were put to death in Jordan last year, according to official figures.
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