Jordan: amended laws for labour and cybercrime restrict civic space

During the first months of 2019, Jordan passed legislative amendments to the Labour Code and Cybercrime Law that violate the rights to freedom of association and threaten freedom of expression. Civil society groups actively opposed these changes and demanded a revision of these laws.


Between January and March 2019, the Jordan House of Representatives and the Senate passed amendments to the Labour Code that remain restrictive for freedom of association and would violate workers' rights. The amendments were opposed by the Jordan Federation of Independent Trade Unionsand theInternational Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

In April 2019, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) sent a letter addressed at the Jordanian King calling for the revision of the Labour Code, for it to be brought in accordance with the international labour standards. Article 98 of the Labour Code violates the right to freedom of association as it provides that unions can only be organised in government designated sectors and there may only be one per sector, which excludes independent unions. Jordan Federation of Independent Trade Unions also demanded the abolition of Article 98 of the Labour Code as it restricts the right of workers to form and join unions. The amendments further provide for government interference in the registering of unions, as they make it a requirement for the Ministry of Labour to approve union bylaws when they register with the government and also give the Ministry the authority to dissolve unions, and to impose fines and imprisonment for those who continue union activities when an union has been dissolved.

Additionally, the Labour Code denies the right to join or form unions to certain groups:

  • By setting 18 as the minimum age for accessing union membership, although persons who attained the age of 16 years work, excludes workers 16-18 years of age.
  • The law remains unclear with regard to domestic and agricultural workers to form or join unions.
  • Excludes migrant workers: despite the fact that Jordan hosts more than 315,000 registered migrant workers, the law does not permit them to form unions.


Freedom of expression threatened by new amendments of the cybercrime law

In April 2019, MENA Rights Group, a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO, revealed that the latest amendments of the Cybercrime Law still failed to address concerns raised by civil society and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and continue to threaten freedom of expression. According to the MENA Rights Group, the draft has not been made public yet, but a copy was obtained by Jordanian civil society groups. As covered on the CIVICUS Monitor in the December 2018 update, the draft cybercrime law was withdrawn on 9th December 2018 following pressure by the civil society and representatives of political parties, as well as from the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, who expressed concerns that the draft amendments failed to meet international standards governing freedom of expression online.

The latest amendments to Cybercrime Law No. 27 of 2015 were introduced before the House of Representatives on 12th December 2018, few days after the opposed amendments were withdrawn and without any consultation with civil society. The move was criticised by civil society.

The MENA Rights Group called on the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to intervene with the authorities once again, and ensure the Cybercrime draft is brought in accordance with the international human rights standards. The CSO highlighteda number of problematic amendments that can lead to censorship or be used as tools to suppress freedom of expression. The MENA Rights Group raised concern that the draft provides an "excessively vague" definition of hate speech that could easily be used to criminalise criticism from activists and HDRs; it continues to criminalise defamation on social media or online media outlets; introduces penalties including prison terms to up to two years for publishing “fake news” and “rumours”, without clear definitions of those terms. Of further concern is the introduction of a specialised court to hear complaints without strong guarantees for its independence.