Geneva – The Jordanian authorities have detained dozens of citizens for participating in peaceful protests on Wednesday, leading some of them to go on an open hunger strike, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement.
The Jordanian authorities had arrested about 200 protesters who participated in in what is known as “March 24th” popular movement and other peaceful demonstrations in various regions of the Kingdom, protesting against what they said was government inactiveness that caused the Salt Hospital incident on March 13. The authorities released some of the protesters, demanding political reforms, but many are still in detention.
About 45 detainees in Marka prison announced yesterday they were going on a hunger strike to protest against being detained and their detention conditions. The detainees are being held in a room sized 6x8 meters, which is not lined with the Coronavirus-related health measures.
The charges directed against the detainees (disturbing public comfort, violating defense orders and unlawful assembly) are vaguely worded and outside the jurisdiction of the public prosecutor who issued the arrest warrants against them.
Some of the detainees were arrested because they tried to film some of the security forces’ violations against the demonstrators from their cameras or phone cameras. The security forces were quick to detain them and prevented them from covering the events.
Muhammad Al-Alimat, brother of detainee Abu Rashid Al-Alimat, told Euro-Med Monitor: “My brother Muhammad, along with a number of activists, went out to demand reforms at Al Dakhliya Roundabout on March 24. Before beginning of the demonstration at about 4 p.m., he stated a live broadcast to document the gathering. Instantly, a security officer violently arrested him. He was taken to the Abdali Security Center, along with a group of activists”.
“After that, he was detained by a public prosecutor order based on charges, according to the lawyer, that does not call for detention. Then he was imprisoned in Marka prison, where he is still detained until now. During the investigation, the lawyer was only able to communicate with him in a short call that did not exceed 40 seconds at 8 p.m. on Friday, which the prison administration allowed. In which, he talked about the poor services and the absence of health measures”.
The Jordanian authorities' failure to meet the Coronavirus-related health standards inside detention centers heralds’ dangerous consequences, especially in light of the unprecedented increase in the number of deaths and infections in the Kingdom.
Jihad Al-Muhaisen, a released detainee who participated in the “March 24th” popular movement, told Euro-Med Monitor: “When I was arrested, a group of detainees and I were transported by a deportation vehicle. We were about 11 detainees, and there was no regard for the protective measures where we stayed for an hour and a half”.
“After that, we were detained in a security center, as there were about 25 people in two very small rooms that did not meet any health safety standards with regard to social distance. I was released after that, while a number of others are still behind bars until now”.
Omar al-Ajlouni, legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, said: “The charges that have been brought against the detainees do not require arrest. Even if they do, the constitution has defined, exclusively, the cases in which detention is permissible, in Article 114 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and considered it as an exceptional measure only and for specific purposes”.
“Failing to meet the coronavirus-related measures clearly violates their right as inmates in reform and rehabilitation centers, as stipulated in Article 22 of the Rehabilitation and Correctional Centres law of 2001”.
Arresting and detaining citizens peacefully expressing their views violates a right stipulated in the Jordanian constitution and guaranteed by relevant international covenants.
Article 15 of the Jordanian constitution stipulates: “Every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law”.
Likewise, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Jordan ratified in 2006, states: “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.
The Jordanian government should immediately release the detainees, and work to meet the suitable health-measures on them and all detainees and prisoners to preserve their safety and health.
The authorities should also allow citizens to exercise their legal rights, especially the right to expression and peaceful assembly, and stop arbitrary use of laws to legitimize repression and restrict freedoms.