AMMAN Ã¢?? Human rights activists have called on lawmakers to reject a draft anti-terrorism law, which they described as Ã¢??unconstitutionalÃ¢?Â and a flashback to the martial law era. The bill, completed by the government last week, will be debated during next monthÃ¢??s extraordinary session of Parliament.
The draft proposal, which sets harsh penalties for anyone who condones or supports acts of terrorism, is expected to be given urgency status.
Ã¢??This law judges people on their intentions rather than their actions,Ã¢?Â said Assem Rababeh from Adaleh Human Rights group, warning that public freedoms will be severely restricted if the bill is passed. Rababah said the bill has been written in a Ã¢??loose language, which gives authorities the liberty to decide what is terrorism and what is not.Ã¢?Â
The human rights activist cited an article of the law which states that Ã¢??anyone in possession of material that could be used for terrorist acts will be liable in front of the law,Ã¢?Â as evidence of its ambiguous nature.
Ã¢??If a person is found in possession of a gas cylinder the authorities could claim it was intended to be used in a terrorist act,Ã¢?Â said Rababah. Hani Dahleh, head of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, believes the law is unconstitutional because it Ã¢??deprives citizens of the right to fair trials.Ã¢?Â
The draft grants authorities the power to detain any terror suspect for up to two weeks, which may be renewed without the need for a court order. Under the current Penal Code, suspects may be held for a period of 24 hours after which a court order is required authorising further detention. The anti-terrorism bill also contains measures to identify, prosecute and convict terrorists and provides law enforcement and security agencies with powers to gather intelligence and prosecute suspected terrorists, including placing individuals under tight surveillance, seizing financial assets and barring them from travel.
Ã¢??This is going to be worse than the martial law era in Jordan during the 1970s and early 1980s,Ã¢?Â Dahaleh warned. The countryÃ¢??s 14 professional associations also protested against the law, describing it as restrictive and announced plans to start a campaign to oppose it. [Jordan Times]
Perhaps ambiguous anti-terror laws that allow the authorities to arrest everyone is not exactly what we need right now. Then again, I guess passing such a law is just calling a spade a spade. It’s the same old song, we’re just putting words to it now. I say this despite the Amman bombings and despite recent anti-terrorism moves in the country. I still believe we can have a country where the priority of security doesn’t infringe on the fundamental rights of the general populace. But that’s just me.