Suspicious Sources Or A Torturous Mistake?

Recently the Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled: “Suspicious Sweeps: The General Intelligence Department and Jordanâ??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 didnâ??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 Citizensâ?? 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 â??untrue and illogical in word and spirit.â?

He charged that the HRW relied on â??suspicious sourcesâ? for its information, â??who have the habit of drawing a gloomy image of the state and security services in return for grants or financial support.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.

19 Comments

  • HRW is a reputable human rights organization. When it issues a report, it does have an impact in the hearts of many people around the globe who doesn’t question its credibility.

    In the other hand, the reaction of the government along with the governement writers in the journals is suspicious. SO what if the HRW went astray? Attacking the organization credibility won’t clear the damage the report has done. A way to do so is as you said Nas, to try to be more transparent.

    Why not inviting some of the HRW officials and let them examine our prisons? If we are not ashamed of anything and dont have anything to hide, why not help them examine things? They would then give a better report about us if we are better indeed.

    Even terrorists should be treated with rules. Human rights rules that is set around the globe. We don’t want to lower our standard of human rights in the process of fighting terror. Let us fight it while maintaining what we have.

  • Observer, I agree with you and I am ashamed of the denial of many Jordanians. As if Jordan is a shining light of democracy and human rights. Common people!!! Do you want a model Jordan, you have to earn it. Do you call yourselvs liberals, act like it instead of shoving dirt under the carpet.

    The best thing is for the jordanian government to close the CIA-funded torture chambers that bring shame and revenge attacks in Jordan. Some may say that we have no control over our government’s actions. This may free us from any moral obligation, but it will make Jordan a target for vengful people who may have lost loved ones in Jordan’s torture chambers. What a good Jordanian to do?

  • to being beaten with bamboo sticks which is a plant I didnâ??t even know actually grew in Jordan

    In my high school a lot of teachers carried sticks made from bamboo, in Arabic we call it “khairazaneh”. There’s a folklore song that goes “la tedrobni la tedrob, kassart el khaizaraneh”? It might be Iraqi though. So, not only is it available in Jordan, but it’s also being used in high schools, which will make me almost 100% sure it’s used in prisons.

    But the thing is, the report isn’t only about torture like many who are trying to discredit it would like to narrow the debate to. Torture is only mentioned in one section that is titled “Torture and ill-treatment”. So even if every account of torture in this report was refuted, there is still a lot in it about Jordan’s GID and security aparatus. Mainly about the arbitrary detentions and holding people for a week or more without any charges or trials. Anyone who’s read the Jordanian constitution should know that’s a violation of constitutional rights.

    There is one thing the report does say about torture, which is that the testimonies related to torture are coming from peopole who were eventually released without any trial, which basically means they really don’t have any reason to lie and say they were tortured. Normally, someone who was given a trial and was found guilty would have a reason to say they were tortured, just like Sajida Al Rishawi who retracted her confession and said it was forced out of her. These individuals weren’t found guilty of anything, but they’re still saying that they were tortured. Not solid evidence that torture or ill-treatment happened, but nevertheless it’s a good indicator, besides the fact that they were held in detention with no charges for a good period of time arbitrarily.

  • The situation is somewhere far more than the report exposes, nevertheless, the “conspiracy-like” theory is always amusing. If you want to realize what’s happening inside the Jordanian prisons you don’t use google Nas, you simply go to the streets of eastern Amman, Zarqa, or maybe Mafraq. A report like this only describes what can be, to some point, proven, and absolutely ignores the bigger part. You want to test its credibilaty? Ok, go to some public place and say something bad about the king, then wait three or four days, you’ll be welcomed in some ‘nazara’ and beaten until you forget your name, then, you’ll be subjected to all kinds of curses until you’re convinced that dignity is a fairy tale, this is all a welcoming party compared to what others face in serious crimes like terrorism, or to those who are sent from the US to be questioned in Jordan(from all the countries of the world!). One of our neighbours is trying to divorce his sister from her husband who happened to be working in some prison in the south, the reason is that her husband returns everyday from work with pale face, he spends the night crying like babies, when he starts hallucinating about the things he does out there the woman freaks out and runs to her brother house crying and trembling of fear.

    When I hear people questioning the fact the there are crimes inside the Jordanian prisons and the GID cells, I can’t laugh, I immediately throw up! Sometimes, some people need to visit Jordan, they need to realize that there’s a slight difference between Jordan and utopia! Seriously pathetic!

  • omar, that’s a great story you just told, and i’m not saying the report is false or that we should discredit it, but i’m guessing you don’t really read the post till the end and just decided for yourself what i was “bound” to say.

    my problem is the lack of evidence when it comes to these reports. that in itself is one problem. the troubles inside our jail which I know exist are a whole other problem. and in between are the people who tell good ghost stories and present them as evidence of the latter; perhaps with a greater sense of credibility than google. 😉

  • Nas, it is a difficult problem because no one is going to invite in an oversight agency, whether local, foreign or NGO, and then torture the prisoners or detainees in front of them so that there is absolute proof.

    Additionally, not all forms of torture leave physical marks, and those that do can be written off as isolated cases carried out by individuals and not demonstration of policy. It would be the same case even if someone could provide film of torture incidents, the government could just say that it is an aberration.

    I do not know if HRW should have spoken with the established agencies or not, but unless those agencies or committees have absolute independence from the government there is a definate conflict of interest involved.

    So it does boil down in a sense to whether or not you believe the testimony of one person over another. It seems to me though that if the testimony of those who have been detained consistently points in one direction and if the details they provide are plausible and realistic then at minimum it should be taken seriously and probably describes the reality.

  • it is a difficult problem because no one is going to invite in an oversight agency, whether local, foreign or NGO

    actually there are several organizations that do visit the prisons on a regular basis like the international red cross.

    unless those agencies or committees have absolute independence from the government there is a definate conflict of interest involved.

    I agree with you on this note, but even if we are to discredit this one parliamentary committee, what about the many Jordanian institutions that are disconnected from the government, our own ngo’s for example. and at the end of the day even the parliamentary committees should have a say in these reports especially if the centeral purpose of such reports is to make recommendations to the government. do you see what i’m saying?

  • When I realize your stand, it’s easy to figure your “very vague” opinion about these particular subjects, keeping that in mind and trying to swallow these hints of yours;

    “The report relied mainly on what the prisoners said;” because, you know, there’s a possible chance that HRW would interview some GID guys who conducted the interviews and ask’em about that!

    “beaten with bamboo sticks which is a plant I didnâ??t even know actually grew in Jordan” you’re not implying that this is a lie, or do you? 😉

    “But if such committees are set up will the HRW refer and/or consult with them in the future or simply ignore them?” Here you’re not implying that the HRW is not professional, or may be you are?

    “And of all people Islamists have never been fans of the GID and vice versa.” Let’s agree on that, the interviews were bunches of lies to sabotage the country’s image. (the same image that invited the US to choose Jordan to interrogate its terrorists!)

    “If thereâ??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.” Maybe that works in Canda, not here.

    I don’t really find my self so mistaken when I “decided for yourself what i was â??boundâ? to say”!.

    Please, explain to me exactly what you mean by evidences, maybe Al Thahabi caught on tape admitting torture! btw, I’m not really fond in telling stories, and after all, it’s not really that hard to meet people who ‘visited’ the GID, but after all, they’re all part of the big conspiracy (sorry! conspiracy-like) against Jordan… God! they just can’t stop conspiring dude…

  • OmAr, will you please relax and stop making this about Nas? it’s quite interesting how you keep pointing out irrelevant personal info about him as if it changes anything of what we have at hand or how his opinion is viewed. And it’s funny how you think you can predict what he’s trying to say or what he means by this or that.
    Oh you make me wanna throw up, oh this is pathetic, oh I can’t believe people like you still exsit…how easy do you think it is to think and talk like that? and I don’t see myself more convinced, if anything I’m much less interested in your opinion and thoughts because apparently you’re unable to control your emotions and keep your personal baseless judgement aside when you talk.

    Stop picking on him and your comments will actually sound smarter, for lack of a better word to describe it.

  • Not solid evidence that torture or ill-treatment happened, but nevertheless itâ??s a good indicator

    my problem is the lack of evidence when it comes to these reports. that in itself is one problem

    So, what’s sufficient enough for us to really know and believe that torture is taking place in these prisons?

    Nas, you mentioned that there are a few organizations that do visit the prisons on a regular bases – such as the international red cross … Amnesty and HRW do as well … shouldn’t their reports (though extremely limited in information – see below) be ‘sufficient’ enough for us to take a walk in the daily life of a prisoner in these prisons?

    This bleak picture contrasts with some steps that the Jordanian authorities have taken in recent years in an apparent attempt to improve the situation of detainees in Jordan. The authorities have introduced various complaints mechanisms and they have facilitated the establishment of a national human rights institution, the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), to promote rights awareness and investigate complaints, including complaints of torture. In addition to ongoing visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Jordanian authorities have permitted various national human rights bodies to visit and inspect places of detention. Also, in one notable, if qualified, case, the authorities prosecuted 10 police officers in connection with the death of an inmate at Jweideh prison, about 20 km south of Amman, apparently due to “torture and maltreatment.” They were reportedly sentenced to prison terms in March 2005.(6) Such positive if qualified steps, however, cannot mask the government’s continuing failure to take more significant steps, including addressing the problem of torture and other abuses by the GID and elsewhere.

    the Jordanian Liberties Committee, which is part of the Professional Associations(14), was permitted to carry out visits to six prisons between October and December 2005, following which it published a report on its findings in April 2006 (see Chapter 8). According to the Committee, they were given unrestricted access in all cases except at Swaqa, about 90 km south of Amman, and Jweideh prisons.

    Most importantly, for many years the Jordanian authorities have permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit security prisoners being held by the Jordanian authorities, including both untried detainees and sentenced prisoners. In particular, the ICRC is permitted regular visits to the main GID detention centre in Amman. In accordance with its normal rules of procedure, the ICRC is permitted such access on condition that it reports its findings confidentially to the Jordanian government, so little information is available about the visits and the conditions and treatment of the detainees to whom the ICRC has access. However, as described later in this report, some detainees held in the GID have alleged that they were concealed from visiting ICRC delegates, apparently so that their presence would not be known and to prevent the ICRC delegates seeing injuries which they had sustained through torture or other ill-treatment. Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture stated in June 2006 that while he “visited a number of detention facilities where he could carry out unrestricted inspections and private interviews” there were “two notable and regrettable exceptions”: at the GID he was denied the right to speak in private with detainees, and at the CID “where the authorities attempted to obstruct the fact-finding … and to hide evidence.”

    http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/document.do?id=ENGMDE160052006 [i suggest this read!]

    http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/document.do?id=ENGMDE160102006

    http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/ click on
    2006 Commission on Human Rights report – Communications – E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.1

    Pages 96-98 Salah Nasser Salim â??Ali, aged 27, and
    Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah, aged 37, [read the description of torture]

    [ This addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur contains, on a country-by-country basis, summaries of reliable and credible allegations of torture and other cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that were brought to the attention of the
    Special Rapporteur, and were transmitted to the Governments concerned.

    It also contains replies from Governments. This addendum does not illustrate the state of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world, but rather reflects the state of information brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur.]

  • Dare one say that Abu Ghraib may have degraded the standards for suspecting torture in Middle East countries? Is it possible that after Abu Ghraib, the only imaginable reason for admitting that a country has a torture and abuse problem is having pictures and videos of the torture and abuse as it happens? That no one person’s testimony is accepted?

    But having torture aside, don’t we all know that we already have a problem and it’s as clear as the sun? That in Jordan arbitrary arrests are made and people are held in detention with no charges, no lawyers, for sometimes weeks? There is nothing, to my knowledge, in Jordanian law that says authorities can hold a person for weeks in detention without charging them with a crime and without giving them the right to an attorney. Doing that, is actually a violation of the constitution. As far as I know.

  • Doing that, is actually a violation of the constitution. As far as I know.

    Well, in such countries the constitution can be clearly violated at the government’s own discretion … and no one can really do much about it!

  • omar, slow down, take a breath, i’m inclined to believe you didn’t read my post fully through or you are delibertly refusing to acknowledge the fact that I am acknowledging the existance of problems in our system. but at the same time you have to be willing to also acknowledge the flaws in such reports that rely primarily if not essentially on prisoner interviews. i have said no more or less than that. and even despite the reporting flaws and/or lack of evidence i still acknowledge the problems we have in our system.

    you seem to be under them odd impression that i think this is some conspiracy theory to make jordan look bad, even when i “hinted” in my post my distaste for the al-rai editorial that implied as such.

    so what’s the problem?

    iman,

    shouldn̢??t their reports (though extremely limited in information Рsee below) be ̢??sufficient̢?? enough for us to take a walk in the daily life of a prisoner in these prisons?

    when an organization on level with hrw issues such a report with the aim of making demands/recommendations/criticisms, should it rely on interviewing a few prisoners? public policies do not rely on information that is “suffiecient” enough, otherwise we are setting a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope.

    i don’t like it when we take these reports and treat them like scripture. likeso, I don’t like when we completely discredit these reports as complete falsehood.

    I am doing neither. I acknowledge the problems in our prisons as our annual riots seem to be “sufficient” evidence of that, but I also acknowledge the flaws of such reports and that we should treat them with caution.

    the point is to not swing too far to either side when it comes to forming an informed opinion. formulating public policy is another matter.

    Hamzeh, I mention abu ghrieb as an extreme case of torture in our modern times and region, and i use it in context of what the kind of torture and/or ill treatment this report is refering to.

    ——-

    people…i think you’re allowing what you already think or know about me cloud your judgement here and are brushing aside my opinion on the matter. so ease up on the high ground a little and try to listen to my opinion rather than just hear it.

  • Naseem,

    The report is a UN report
    It’s not as though HRW or Amensty are being creative with their reports! These same reports are critical of the US, the UK and other countries throughout the world, so it’s not like they’re picking on Jordan in particular…
    when you have some prisons that are strictly off limits to Human Rights Organization, then common sense would ask, why?! what is so bad taking place in these prisons that human rights groups cannot see? and though some organizations like the ICRC are permitted regular visits to the main GID detention centre in Amman they are only “permitted such access on condition that it reports its findings confidentially to the Jordanian government, so little information is available about the visits and the conditions and treatment of the detainees to whom the ICRC has access.” so I am not sure how else we would gain sufficient evidence regarding torture conditions in prisons… that’s not to say that we shouldn’t question the validity of such reports, but what other evidence do you see sufficient enough to accept such reports? (so the UN doesn’t seem to be too credible anymore!?)

    ===
    lol..what do we know :p … please take it easy, I don’t see any personal connotations in this entire thread of comments

  • Iman, when some prisoners are off limits we can consider the fact that there are reasons of national security amongst other things. transparency is a must but it shouldn’t be at the cost of national security and confidential information which every country has a right to safegaurd. secondly my post was in reference to this specific report and the reaction taken to it, followed lastly by my personal opinion on the matter and the need for greater transparency.

    the fact that you make the assumption that im saying the UN is not credible when i made absolutely no mention about the UN is reason enough to believe you are jumping to conclusions.

    lastly, it’s ironic that i am able to acknowledge the obvious: that there is a problem and there are is a need to solve it, but you are unable to acknowledge the flaws in such a report. why is that I wonder?

  • Nas, Let me be direct here, I felt, based on some parts of this post plus many other posts of yours, that what you’re doing here is simply an effort to polish the government’s image, I understand that you’re talking and akcnowledging that there exist a problem, but at the same time, when you talk about harsh evidences and when you question this report to some point, this can only imply one of two things, that you’re either trying to polish the government’s picture by saving what is left to be saved, or you don’t live in Jordan! Why am I saying this? Because the problem is far too big to think that this report needs more evidences to be authentic! Because the problem is so rooted and so huge to think or talk about more evidences, or to talk about hearing the other side’s story! And why am I picking on you? It’s because I can’t believe that an educated person like you doesn’t know that fact! And because I realize from tens of other posts and comments where you stnad when it comes to the government, and I can’t hold my self from talk like that when I hear someone, who I’m certain he knows all, saying that the government’s claims, which basically are telling us that the report is hypocrisy, are also legitimte! And again, because I have a certain background about your views, I couldn’t just go for the explanation that this is just an objective point of view of yours that seeks the ultimate truth at the end, rather, I chose to think that this is your way of absorbing and distracting the attention and the fuss that is surrounding the government due to this report.

    I don’t pick on others, and I’m not comfortable in doing that. take care.

    -Shaden, is it written somewhere that I’m trying to impress you or convince you with anything?

  • omar

    I felt, based on some parts of this post plus many other posts of yours, that what youâ??re doing here is simply an effort to polish the governmentâ??s image

    this is not what my intentions are in this post or in any other post. my education and political interests are based primarily on public policy so I attempt to address most topics with an open mind to formulate a more informed opinion rather than a pre-tailored one that is generic and applies to all. this is the best approach if one’s intentions are to truly analyze a problem and find alternatives and solutions. i’m not one to say that the government and the country is perfect and i’m not keen on saying everything is going to hell either. there needs to be a balanced approach.

    you seem to be part of the camp that praises polarization of opinion, in the sense that if i’m not attacking our government or the monarchy or throwing out useless insults that are as predictable as night and day in our sad state of affairs, then that means i am naturally kissing someone’s butt. while this camp seems to enjoy it’s time, it’s not my cup of tea. i like to address problems and look for their solutions. it saves on having to constantly complain about them.

    Because the problem is far too big to think that this report needs more evidences to be authentic! Because the problem is so rooted and so huge to think or talk about more evidences, or to talk about hearing the other sideâ??s story! And why am I picking on you? Itâ??s because I canâ??t believe that an educated person like you doesnâ??t know that fact!

    when a group of people are sitting around in a cafe discussing problems in our society or in our government, it’s fine to say “this is what i think” and “this is what my neighbour told me” and “this is what my second cousin twice removed once said about his best friend’s brother who works for et cetera et cetera”, but when it comes to an international reputable organization such as HRW, I’m inclined to ask for a bit more than just interviews from prisoners.

    at the very least, in the absence of evidence, they should be consulting with established committees in the country, both indepedent and governmental. the royal commission on human rights for example. in this regards the lower house was valid in it’s claim. any effecient researcher with the intention of reaching an informed objective decision should seek out all sources, even those that refute his findings.

    and as i said in my post, we must be able to acknowledge the problems we have in our prisons, seek out policies that will solve those problems, as well as acknowledge the fact that such reports presented in such a way as this one are subject to obvious flaws especially if they fail to integrate another point of view.

    but as you said in your last comment, you failed to see my opinion (as others are currently doing so as well) because you already have preconcieved notions concerning myself and what you think I believe in. that’s fine, it’s up to you.

  • the fact that you make the assumption that im saying the UN is not credible when i made absolutely no mention about the UN is reason enough to believe you are jumping to conclusions.

    The report includes information that the UN reports includes …no assumptions were made … rather a question was raised!

    lastly, itâ??s ironic that i am able to acknowledge the obvious: that there is a problem and there are is a need to solve it, but you are unable to acknowledge the flaws in such a report. why is that I wonder?

    I’ll quote ” thatâ??s not to say that we shouldnâ??t question the validity of such reports, but what other evidence do you see sufficient enough to accept such reports?”

  • Iman,

    Iâ??ll quote â? thatâ??s not to say that we shouldnâ??t question the validity of such reports, but what other evidence do you see sufficient enough to accept such reports?â?

    I doubt my opinion would matter anyway. Even if I said for instance, forensic or medical evidence or professional testimonials, I’m sure you’ll find away to patronize it or at the very least overlook my essential arguement of the need for oversight and transparency.

    Suffice to say reports by such organizations, which I personally respect, must have a more comprehensive source of documentation. At the very least it should have sought out resources provided by the country’s commissions and committees. It would have, at the very least, sustained a greater sense of credibility. It’s as simple as that.

Your Two Piasters: