The story is as follows. A wife and mother tells her husband that she’s been sleeping around with other men in exchange for money and wants a divorce. So they go to a lawyer’s office and she writes down the names of all these men, for what reason, I cannot possibly comprehend. Then she’s taken to her parents’ home where her father ties her up so she won’t leave. She was made to rewrite the list in front of her family, for what reason, I cannot possibly comprehend. Her 17-year old brother comes home to find out what’s happened, goes to the kitchen to grab a knife and stabs his sister to death while his father watches, only to congratulate him on a job well done afterward. The brother was given 16 months in jail but was recently let go for having served those months while awaiting trial, while the father was acquitted of premeditated murder charges.
So far this reads like a textbook honor crime. Outrageous but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to honor crimes in Jordan.
Now here’s the court ruling:
In its ruling, the court decided to amend the premeditated murder charges to a misdemeanour as stipulated in Article 98 of the Penal Code because the defendant committed the murder in a moment of rage.
“It is obvious that the defendant did not plot the murder and his actions came immediately after reading his sister’s confessions,” the court said, noting that the defendant benefits from a reduction in penalty because his sister was involved in extramarital affairs in return for money, which led to her divorce and “brought her family shame and disgrace”.
“Her actions hurt her parents, brothers and unmarried sisters’ honour and reputation and are considered by the court as dangerous and unlawful, especially to the defendant, since in our customs and traditions a man is valued by his sister’s behaviour and honour among his community,” the court ruled.
The tribunal comprised judges Majid Azab, Mohammad Khashashneh and Hayel Amr. [source]
With recent debates on the blogosphere about the rule-of-law in Jordan, and how it can be abused by authority figures for the sake of pushing personal values and beliefs on everyone – which is obviously no way to run an objective judicial system – I can’t help but wonder if the same can said here.
Here we have a group of judges who essentially condone the actions of this young man based on their interpretation of local customs and values; justifying his taking of a life for a lesser crime his sister committed. The judges become the perpetrator’s defense team. They did not commit the crime themselves, but, like the father, stood watch as it took place, quietly nodding in approval.
It only serves to emphasize a point I’ve tried to make before: the problem is not only with the loophole in the law itself, but is essentially in the way that law is used by judges.
In a country where the minimum age for being a judge is 27, we are dying for some judicial reform.