Recently the Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled: “Suspicious Sweeps: The General Intelligence Department and JordanÃ¢??s Rule of Law Problem”. The 66-page report was based on 16 cases mostly involving “Islamists”. The report relied mainly on what the prisoners said; mainly torture that ranged from being insulted and suffering from sleep deprivation to being beaten with bamboo sticks which is a plant I didnÃ¢??t even know actually grew in Jordan. Nothing as bad as say waterboarding or naked pyramids.
Ayman Safadi writes in Al-Ghad newspaper that while HRW is an important organization it needs to keep things in context, provide evidence for its claims and seek out the other side of the story. The editors of Al-Rai had a similar take on the report but were also concerned with the timing of the report that sounded a bit too conspiracy-like.
Interestingly enough, yesterday the “Public Freedoms and CitizensÃ¢?? Rights Committee” of the Lower House of Parliament criticized the report for not providing any proper evidence but mostly for not consulting with them, the committee established to oversee human rights violations specifically with regards to the prisons.
Jamal Dmour, rapporteur of the committee, said the allegations in the report were Ã¢??untrue and illogical in word and spirit.Ã¢?Â
He charged that the HRW relied on Ã¢??suspicious sourcesÃ¢?Â for its information, Ã¢??who have the habit of drawing a gloomy image of the state and security services in return for grants or financial support.Ã¢?Â
Dmour said his committee has been regularly visiting detention centres, especially at the GID, and made sure that all arrests were carried out according to due procedure, upon warrants issued by prosecutors, and there have been no signs of physical or psychological torture. He insisted that the parliamentary committee is the main authority and reference on freedoms and civil rights in the country, which, he said, fully abides by human rights principles. [Jordan Times]
I do think it’s difficult to formulate a report accusing a country and not consult with the committees or commissions the government has established to overlook human rights in the country. Part of the recommendations (demands) outlined in the report claim the need for more committees. But if such committees are set up will the HRW refer and/or consult with them in the future or simply ignore them?
What about sources? The problem with these charges of either torture or mistreatment is that they are not only frequent by way of HRW but also that they tend to rely strictly on interviews with the convicts or those released from prison and what they tell them. And of all people Islamists have never been fans of the GID and vice versa.
The government’s expected denials are just as legitimate as HRW’s claims. I’m inclined to believe as fellow blogger Natasha does that the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
That being said I do believe there needs to be a greater level of transparency throughout the kingdom’s prisons. We’ve had some riots and will continue to have them if the situation is not resolved. One of the biggest problems is that of due process or lack thereof. I strongly believe the GID does not arbitrarily arrest random people, as some would make it out to be; their information gathering allows them to know what the person had for lunch 3 years ago. But many of these people are not charged and when they are it takes months or even years before their case goes to trial. Why? What purpose could they serve? If there’s not enough evidence to convict them then they should be let go and perhaps monitored and if there is, then convict them and get it over with. I am talking about Islamists who have planned attacks on Jordanian soil, which I think these kinds of reports focus on. Fellow blogger Batir calls it the ultimate test for democracy in Jordan, I call it cleaning house.