Spotlight on Jordan ahead of Human Rights Review


Ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), civic space in Jordan is under the spotlight. During the 31st session on 8th November 2018, the UNHRC will review the situation for human rights in Jordan. Ahead of this Universal Periodic Review (UPR), civil society groups have pointed to discrepancies in reporting. As part of the process, Jordanian authorities submit an official report to the UNHRC, which is then balanced with information from civil society stakeholders. Onlookers have noted the two reports paint a very different picture of civic space.

The national report highlights positive progress. It notes amendments to laws which have enabled NGOs and journalists to operate freely. Yet, the compilation of information from civil society claims this isn't strictly true. In particular, its evidences that the Anti-Terrorism Law has been used to criminalise journalists and dissidents. The law, originally enacted in 2006 was revised in 2014 to broaden and strengthen its provisions. In fact, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' (OHCHR) regional office even recommended that the law be revised to "eliminate censorship and criminal sanctions on journalists." In this context, amendments to Jordan's Cybercrime Law have stoked further concern. The amendments made in 2018, have been criticised for imposing hefty fines and up to three years in prison for sharing hate speech online. CSOs have highlighted the new provisions fail to provide safeguards which protect free speech. As such, it has been viewed as a press muzzle. In particular, The Jordan Press Association commented on the plans:  

"The law as a whole is not needed, especially when such acts are already penalised in the Press and Publications Law and Penal Code."

OHCHR report, aligns with the joint report prepared by Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Phenix Center and CIVICUS on civic space. The compilation report acknowledged that “the space for civil society and unions had been shrinking.” 

Labour rights have been a consistent issue in Jordan. In particular, a restrictive legislative framework essentially bars some workers from collective bargaining. Ahead of the UPR there have been no modifications to Article 98 of the Labour Law which designates the professions and sectors allowed to form unions. This situation has been repeatedly condemned by civil society groups. In this context, even the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has drawn attention to the situation for worker's rights in Jordan. The ILO's desk officer for the Arab region noted that there is a “large file of complaints” against the Jordanian government concerning workers’ freedom of association. In fact, during the reporting period, it is reported that the registration for an agricultural workers' trade union was rejected by Jordanian authorities.