Wave of worker's rights protests turn violent in Jordan

Peaceful Assembly

The town of Dhiban, which lies 70km south of the capital Amman, has recently seen a spate of clashes related to worker's rights. On 22nd June, local activists organised a sit-in on a roundabout to demonstrate against high unemployment and lack of job opportunities in the area. Security forces used tear gas to forcefully disperse the protest leading to clashes with protesters, multiple injuries and reports of over 22 arrests. Undeterred, local residents rebuilt the camp and continued with the sit in. On 14th July, authorities once again dispersed the camp and broke up the protest. As tensions escalate, security forces have brought in military backup and tanks to dissuade any further protests in the area. Despite facilitated negotiations, local activists maintain that none of their original demands around worker's rights have been met and strongly condemn the government's inaction over the issue.

In a separate incident, protests over poor working conditions were also organised by employees of the Jordanian Electricity Distribution Company (EDCO) in Ma’an. 

Association 

A proposed draft law on associations seeks to tighten already restrictive legislation governing CSOs in Jordan. Human Rights Watch recently highlighted that the proposed law gives the government overbroad powers to dissolve existing CSOs, places restrictions on international CSOs operating in Jordan and makes it harder for all Jordanian civic groups to access funds from abroad. The proposed amendments also extend the government's powers to decide whether or not citizens can establish an organisation, without any effective redress mechanism to challenge government denials. Many civil society groups fear that, if enacted, the proposed draft will seriously imperil associational rights in Jordan. Deliberations continue. 

Expression 

Despite an improving regulatory environment for freedom of expression in Jordan, local groups have highlighted the risk of reprisals faced by critics of the government. From 11-13th July, a session organised by UNESCO discussed proposed amendments to the existing audio-visual law. During the debate, local lawyer and activist Nahla al Momani from the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) noted that the “proposed amendments greatly expand media freedom, but when increasing the ceiling of media freedom we always encounter security concerns.” A recent statement issued by NCHR highlighted the worrying increase in government persecution of individuals freely expressing their opinions, illustrating how security legislation creates a grey area that continues to impede freedom of expression throughout Jordan.