Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Jordan

Committee on the Elimination CERD/12/15
of Racial Discrimination 2 March 2012

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the combined thirteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Jordan on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Introducing the report, Rajab M. Sukayri, Head of the Delegation and Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reaffirmed Jordan’s commitment to combat all forms of discrimination on its territory, and to collaborate with United Nations human rights mechanisms. The Constitution of Jordan guaranteed the prohibition of racial discrimination. Information on human rights and non-discrimination was disseminated widely. All citizens were equal before the law without distinction of race, ethnicity or religion. All forms of violence on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion constituted a criminal offense under Jordanian law. Jordanian law prohibited propaganda in publicity or advertising which instigated racial discrimination, or disseminated ideas of racial superiority, racial hatred, or religious hatred. Jordan was a multi-ethnic State, but the Jordanian population was considered as a unity, and there was no space for racial discrimination. Jordan was also a major host State for Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, all enjoying the same rights as Jordanians without distinction.

During the discussion, Committee Experts regretted that the report did not contain sufficient statistics on the number and nature of population groups, disaggregated by ethnicity and gender. It was difficult to get a grasp of the figures. Committee Experts were concerned about the potential differences of treatment between Jordanians and non-nationals. Rules regarding the transmission of the Jordanian nationality were discriminatory against women, and could make their children stateless. Experts raised questions on how the Government addressed the problem of honour crimes, and asked whether victims and their family were given sufficient protection by the State. Many Experts raised concerns on the implementation of article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the prohibition of hate speech. Indeed some provisions of the Jordanian legislation seemed insufficient while others could lead to disproportionate infringements to freedom of expression. The Committee commended the establishment of a national human rights institution in Jordan, and raised questions on its activities and on the possibility for individuals to make complaints.

In concluding remarks, Patrick Thornberry, Country Rapporteur for Jordan, said that an open and constructive dialogue had been held and a number of issues had been raised openly. There was evidence of change and progress, but issues still remained to be solved. Remaining concerns of the Committee would be detailed in its final report.

Mr. Sukayri said Jordan was a tolerant society, and had integrated well its minorities. All societies in the world suffered from discrimination, and the Government of Jordan tried its best to eliminate racial discrimination. The Government was looking forward to implementing the recommendations by the Committee.

The delegation of Jordan consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Public Security Department, and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, 5 March when it will consider the combined sixteenth to eighteenth periodic report of Italy (CERD/C/ITA/16-18).


Report

The combined thirteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Jordan can be read here (CERD/C/JOR/13-17).

Presentation of the Report

RAJAB M. SUKAYRI, Head of the Delegation and Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, apologised for the long delay since Jordan had submitted its periodic reports, and reaffirmed Jordan’s commitment to combat all forms of discrimination on its territory, and to collaborate with United Nations human rights mechanisms. Jordan had ratified the main human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which had become an integral part of domestic Jordanian legislation. International treaties had priority over domestic laws. The Constitution guaranteed the prohibition of racial discrimination. All citizens were equal before the law without distinction of race, ethnicity or religion.

Constitutional amendments had reaffirmed the importance of an independent judiciary, and led to the adoption of a law guaranteeing freedom of association. Political parties were established on the basis of citizenship only. Officials of public security services had been trained on non-discrimination to ensure equal opportunity for all and equal access to public services. Training courses on human rights, including women’s rights, rights of the child, human trafficking and domestic violence, had been held for judges. Judges had also been trained to become trainers themselves in the field of human rights. All forms of violence on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion constituted a criminal offense under Jordanian law. Jordanian law prohibited propaganda in publicity or advertising which instigated racial discrimination or disseminated ideas of racial superiority, racial hatred, or religious hatred. Those rules were based on freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The Jordanian Criminal Code criminalised acts, including the publication of material that insulted or offended the religious sentiments or beliefs of individuals.

Values of tolerance and dialogue were part of the education of young Jordanians, as well as the teaching of Islam’s precepts. Jordan was a multi-ethnic State, but the Jordanian population was considered as a unity, and there was no space for racial discrimination. Jordan was also a major host State of for Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. Refugees were dealt with in the same way that Jordanians were treated. They enjoyed the same rights without distinction. There was no racial discrimination against specific ethnic groups in Jordan.

The Committee was a body that could help Jordan reinforce its implementation of the dispositions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Government of Jordan affirmed that recommendations by the Committee would be reviewed seriously.

Questions from Experts

PATRICK THORNBERRY, Country Rapporteur for Jordan, noted that Jordan was a Constitutional Monarchy but had no constitutional court to oversee the implementation of laws, though the establishment of such a body had been proposed on many occasions, and asked whether the latest spate of proposals to amend the Constitution envisaged the creation of such a court.

The question of data on the number and nature of population groups was always important, and the report did not contain sufficient statistics, disaggregated by ethnicity and gender. Jordan was a major host State for Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, on which score it was difficult to get a grasp of the figures. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency referred to three million Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Figures for Iraqi refugees also varied from 450,000 to one million. Jordan was not a party to the Convention on the Status of Refugees and to conventions on statelessness. The religious mix in Jordan was also very complex, including Christian and Bah’i groups, even if the vast majority of the population was Muslim. Islam was the religion of the State, and Arabic was the official language. There was a great deal to understand about the extent of the enjoyment of human rights by all the ethnic and religious groups.

Jordan had ratified core human rights treaties, but had been reluctant to accept communications procedures, including those set by Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee was interested in knowing cases when the Convention had been referred to and taken into consideration before courts. It seemed there was no specific legal regime to elaborate or implement concepts present in the Convention, which was not in line with article 4 of the Convention.

The Rapporteur asked whether Jordan had adopted special measures to allow ethnic and religious minorities to be represented in the Chamber of Deputies.

Several articles of the Constitution included dispositions on the rights and duties of Jordanians. Therefore there seemed to be a divergence between the rights available to Jordanian citizens only, and the rights available to all. A proposed amendment to the Constitution mentioned the establishment of a constitutional court. Would it be able to receive complaints from non-nationals? Could the Committee have more details on the work of the National Human Rights Centre, and on its awareness raising activities? Did the Centre monitor all aspects of Government activity? Had it accepted any complaints regarding racial discrimination?

The Rapporteur asked for more details on the Government policy regarding non-governmental organizations and on the prohibition to register any association whose object was unlawful. It was disappointing that no non-governmental organizations had come today. Furthermore, it was not very clear how the Government held consultations with non-governmental organizations for the preparation of its periodic reports, and how the Government intended to disseminate the conclusions and recommendations made by the Committee among members of civil society.

The report included a thematic section on the implementation of article 4 of the Convention, which was interesting. The reference to the weakening of the national sentiment was difficult to comprehend. Some provisions of the legislation regarding hate speech raised concerns regarding freedom of expression, such as for example the criminalisation of offenses to national or religious sentiments.

In relation to the right of nationality, there was evidence of cases of withdrawal of nationality. It would have been interesting for the Committee to have details and examples of such cases. The gender dimension of the transmission of nationality was a source of concern. Transmission of nationality was restricted for women, which raised issues of discrimination, and could lead to statelessness of the children of women married with foreigners, such as Palestinians.

The Rapporteur asked for more details on the criminal offense of offending the religious beliefs of others. Beside Sharia courts, there were tribunals for other religious communities which had been or would be recognised in the kingdom. What communities did that refer to?

Non-nationals were allowed to join trade unions but did not seem allowed to strike. Was it true that freedom of movement of migrant workers was restricted?

Jordan had not adopted any legislation guaranteeing the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and was not party to the Refugee Convention, though it for example gave refugee children access to public schools and gave refugees and asylum seekers access to the public health system. More data would have helped to understand the situation better.

The Rapporteur finally regretted the limited amount of information on education in the report, including on how ethnic minorities had access to education in their own language.

Other Committee Experts said that more statistics were needed to allow the Committee to understand the evolution of the situation of ethnic minorities, in particular of Bedouins, in Jordan. Experts raised questions on the status and rights of minority ethnic groups in Jordan. How were the ethnic groups represented in national institutions and in the educational system? Did children from non-Arabic speaking minority groups have the opportunity to learn their own language at school? What was the nationality of the Palestinians living in Jordan? Palestinian women did not have the right to obtain Jordanian nationality, which led to concerns regarding the fate of their children. The Jordanian nationality was inherited from the father only. Why was such a restriction applied?

An Expert regretted that there was nothing in the report on the implementation of article 1 of the Convention. Experts said that a definition of racial discrimination was needed in the Jordanian legal system, and that all aspects and effects of racial discrimination were not covered by domestic laws. For example, the law on publicity prohibited propaganda in urban areas only. Furthermore, such a law on publicity, which was not a criminal law, could not set criminal offenses. Legislation intended to implement dispositions of the Convention on hate speech was also too broad in a way, and went beyond the spirit of the Convention, for example regarding the issue of defamation of religion, which could lead to violations of freedom of speech and could be used to restrict the activities of human rights defenders. Experts asked for details about the obligation to register non-governmental organizations, and regretted that there had been no consultation with non-governmental organizations for the preparation of the report.

There was a need to strengthen the protection of children from ethnic minorities, including Palestinian children. Could the Delegation explain more on the situation of Bedouin and stateless persons? Was there a plan to ensure the necessary funds and personnel to the national human rights institution of Jordan, created in 2002, so that it complied with the Paris Principles?

The national human rights institution and the Ombudsman could receive complaints from individuals affected by decisions by the administration, but the report mentioned that there were no cases of racial discrimination in Jordan, which seemed contradictory. There were cases of racial discrimination everywhere in the world. What measures had been taken to follow-up recommendations of the working group of the Universal Periodic review, accepted by Jordan, particularly on issues such as honour or traditional killings or the situation in detention centres? What steps had been undertaken to improve the human rights situation of migrant workers? How did the court deal with cases of honour crimes, meaning women killed by members of their families?

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said that Jordan had never shown any racial discrimination. The national human rights institution confirmed that there had not been any recorded cases of racial discrimination. It simply did not exist in Jordan. All minorities had the right to hold public offices, to join the army, or to marry members of any other ethnic group. The obligation to register non-governmental organizations was a means to prevent the set up of racist or extremist organizations. Access to justice or to security services was guaranteed for all citizens equally.

On the issue of complaints regarding ill-treatment, efforts had been made to improve the situation in detention facilities, and to close all detention facilities that did not comply with international human rights standards. There was a code of conduct for police officers, which referred to neutrality and equality of treatment of all detainees, and which referred directly to international human rights standards.

Civil society organizations did not come because they had no cases or issues to raise.

On the issue of statistics on the population, the delegation said that the Government had not been able to find official statistics on the ethnic or religious composition of the population to include in the report. There was a general policy considering that all Jordanians were citizens. Only gender and geographical localisation were taken into consideration. Health services were provided to Bedouins living in the desert, and they enjoyed all rights equally. Ninety per cent of the Bedouins now lived in urban areas, and there were very few nomadic Bedouins.

On the issue of nationality law, a delegate said human rights issues were taken very seriously in Jordan, as suggested by the establishment of a national human rights institution in 2002 or the organization of human rights awareness programmes. The withdrawal of Jordanian citizenship from Palestinians could only take place after verification that the concerned person had retrieved Palestinian papers and was able to return to the West Bank. There was an appeal procedure against decisions of withdrawal. Jordan was providing assistance and support to Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, sometimes exceeding the recommendations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Jordan exerted its utmost to protect the rights of the Iraqi refugees, and worked in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Syrian refugees had come to Jordan because of the recent events in that country. The Government had established centres to accommodate those refugees. Jordan had limited resources, and its capacity had been overstretched by the large number of arriving refugees. Nevertheless, the political will of the Government to assist the refugees demonstrated a large culture of tolerance in the country. Many Palestinian refugees had been granted Jordanian nationality, and were considered as Jordanians of Palestinian descent, and enjoyed full rights. Their political rights to return to Palestine and to compensation made it more practical to still consider them as refugees.

On the fact that no cases of racial discrimination were recorded in Jordan, the delegation explained that it meant only that there was no general discrimination against a specific ethnic or religious group. But on the individual level many complaints had been recorded, and acts of discrimination were effectively punished by law. The national human rights institution of Jordan advised the Government to ratify optional protocols of international conventions that established individual complaint procedures. The Government was ready to think about such recommendations but the priority was enhancing Jordanian national mechanisms, including the enforcement of the complaint mechanisms of the National Human Rights Centre and of the Office of Ombudsman. The latter could receive complaints from all citizens. The main complaints were addressed against the civil service and the recruitment administration. Administration appeals had been established.

The constitutional amendments, although they mentioned explicitly the rights of Jordanians, contained provisions that applied for both Jordanians and non-Jordanians. The setting-up of a constitutional court was not in the agenda of the Government, but that did not mean the constitutionality of laws could not be challenged before courts. National courts could receive complaints from non-citizens. The definition of racial discrimination was indeed not included in the national legislation, but the Convention had the force of national laws after its ratification by a law. The definition present in the Convention therefore directly applied in the Jordanian legal system.

Quotas on gender representation allowed the State to guarantee the representation of women in public institutions.

A delegate apologised for the fact that no non-governmental organizations from Jordan were present at the session of the Committee. The establishment of civil society associations and trade unions was guaranteed under the Constitution. The Constitution had been amended in 2010 so that all persons could join trade unions, without discrimination or the condition of being Jordanian. The publication laws were considered criminal law. A law of 2008 regulated the right of association and simplified the procedures. It provided for new forms of association in accordance with the wishes of the founders. This law had provided that the number of founders would be decreased for every association. Registration of associations had to occur within two months, and was automatically approved if it met the requirements of the law. Jordanians had the right to join political parties, regardless of their race, colour or any other factor.

The delegation said that the Labour Law of 2010 regulated the conditions of work of legal migrant workers. Several specified agencies regulated the work of domestic workers. Employees had the obligation to open a bank account for migrant workers before hiring them. Migrant and domestic workers could resort to the courts for full reparation if their rights had been violated. Domestic workers were supervised by the Ministries of Labour and of Interior, with regards to residency, etc. Migrant workers rights were guaranteed by Jordanian law. Bilateral dialogues were conducted with neighbouring countries on the treatment and the respect of the rights of migrant workers.

A delegate explained that human trafficking was defined and prohibited by a law of 2009, in accordance with international standards. A committee had been established to fight human trafficking, to host and rehabilitate the victims and to raise awareness on the issue. Judges, law students and police forces had been trained on the issue of human trafficking, including how to interview victims and investigate cases of human trafficking. Crimes of honour were efficiently punished by a minimum of ten years imprisonment.

Languages of minorities, including Chechen and Circassian languages, were taught at school. There were television channels broadcasting in minority languages. Religions could be exercised freely by all. There were programmes to ensure that extremist ideas were not propagated.

On the cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, a delegate said that Jordan was improving its collaboration with Special Procedures, and was about to receive several mandate holders on its territory. Recommendations of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review were being implemented.

Access to health was guaranteed for all, without discrimination. The right to education was guaranteed for all, and primary school was mandatory. Health and education would be provided to the Syrian refugees.

Questions from Experts

An Expert raised concerns about the way honour crimes were addressed by the criminal law. Victims and their families needed protection from the State. Were there any follow up programmes to help victims psychologically and to facilitate their reinsertion? What was done to protect those women? Was there any dialogue conducted between the different parties taking part in these crimes? Refugees enjoyed protection from the State, but did they have a right to residence, a right to employment and a right to healthcare? What guarantees were provided for them within the law on refugees? Was there any Jewish minority in Jordan?

Response by the Delegation

Responding, the Jordanian delegation said that honour killings and other crimes made the society suffer for many reasons. Jordanian society was considered to be conservative; this was why honour killings unfortunately sometimes took place. Honour killings were punishable by law. Special aid was provided to children and women victims of domestic violence, and judges were especially trained on that issue. Palestinian refugees enjoyed the same rights as other citizens. There was no Jewish minority in Jordan. Some Jewish persons however came as tourists for a limited amount of time, and were not victims of discrimination. The Peace Agreement signed between Jordan and Israel guaranteed freedom of movement.

Questions from Experts

The Country Rapporteur asked whether Jordanians were able to change religion, or to marry someone from another religion. Was there a right to strike for non-citizens?

An Expert asked whether the national human rights institution and the Ombudsman were known and accessible everywhere in the country. What measures had been taken to restrict the length of administrative detention? Another Committee Expert asked what effect the financial crisis had on the rights of refugees. What was the percentage of women in Parliament? Was accountability for crimes of hatred guaranteed by domestic law?

Response by the Delegation

There were issues when Muslims and non-Muslims married, especially if they later divorced, but those had nothing to do with the Government. There was nothing preventing non-nationals from going on strike. The issue of administrative detentions would be tackled by the Government, in order to make them more in line with international human rights law. The financial crisis had had an impact on all the population, and the Government was committed to respect human rights despite its lack of resources.

Concluding Remarks

PATRICK THORNBERRY, Country Rapporteur for Jordan, commended the delegation and the Committee Experts for the open and constructive dialogue held today. A number of issues had been raised. There was evidence of change and progress, but issues still remained to be solved. Remaining concerns of the Committee would be detailed in the Committee’s final report.

RAJAB M. SUKAYRI, Head of the Delegation and Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, was also satisfied with the interactive dialogue and with the recommendations made by the Experts. Jordan was a tolerant society, and had integrated well its minorities. All societies in the world suffered from discrimination, and the Government of Jordan tried its best to eliminate racial discrimination. The Government was looking forward to implementing the recommendations by the Committee.


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