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Parliament endorses anti-terrorism law

[Jordan] Jordanian parliament. [Date picture taken: 08/27/2006] Maria Font de Matas/IRIN
The Jordanian parliament in session.
The Lower House of the Jordanian Parliament on Sunday endorsed a controversial anti-terrorism law which allows security forces to put suspects under tight surveillance, detain them and ban them from leaving the country.

The draft law allows suspects to be detained without a court order and to be tried at the State Security Court (SSC). The SSC has come under fire from human rights groups in the past because it comprises two judges from the army and one civilian and rules by majority vote.

In a show-of-hands vote, the majority of parliamentarians said “yes” to the draft law after two days of tense discussions between pro-government MPs and others from the opposition, mainly the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

Opponents of the law said it was an infringement on human rights and public freedoms.

"The law judges people on their intentions rather than their actions. This is a gross violation to the country’s agreements on human rights with the international community," said MP Nedal Abadi, from the IAF bloc at the parliament, who has urged his fellow MPs not to vote for the law.

MPs and opposition party leaders feared the law might grant security forces a free hand to curb their peaceful political activities.

In the meantime, human rights activists said they fear the law would turn the kingdom into a police state.

"This is a step in the wrong direction as far as democracy and human rights are concerned," said Issam Rababa, head of the Jordanian Adaleh human rights group.

"Jordan had won applauds from the international community and received numerous aid packages for its human rights record, but apparently security has become more important than human rights," Rababa told IRIN.

Hani Dahleh, from the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, said he was concerned for the future of democracy in the kingdom. He said with the law going into effect, "more human rights abuses are expected to be carried out by security forces”.

However, pro-government MPs stressed during their deliberations that the law was "important for the safety and security” of the country and its citizens.

"This is a special law aimed at protecting citizens from terrorists," said MP Jamal Dmour, a member of the parliament’s legal committee that recommended lawmakers ratify the draft law.

Dmour said he believed the law did not contradict human rights agreements. "The law has been weaved in harmony with other existing legislation that protect civil liberties," he said.

The law is expected to go into effect within a month after it is approved by the Upper House of Parliament, a group of 50 hand-picked individuals known for their loyalty to the regime.

The government proposed the law a few weeks after the kingdom was targeted, allegedly by terrorist group al-Qaeda, in a triple suicide bombing that killed 60 people and injured 100 in November last year.

Jordan has become the first country in the Middle East to endorse anti-terrorism legislation, emulating a number of western countries, including Britain, Germany and Italy.

MBH/AR/ED

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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