General: Jordan: Authorities must respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of association

01.09.20

Despite the release of a prominent cartoonist and members of the teachers’ syndicate, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is concerned about the Jordanian authorities’ lack of respect for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 

On 30 August 2020, Assistant to the Deputy General of the State Security Court approved the decision of the State Security Court Prosecutor to prevent the prosecution of well-known cartoonist Emad Hajjaj and ordered his release without bail. The case was sent back to the Public Prosecutor of Amman and the charge against him was modified from “publishing writings that would disturb relations with a friendly country” to a charge of defamation and insult under the Cyber Crimes Law. After his release from Al-Salt prison west of the capital Amman, Hajjaj called his family while accompanied by the head of the Journalists Syndicate, Rakan Al-Saidah (as seen in the photo on the left above).

Hajjaj stated after his release, “I did not commit any crime, and everyone who follows my drawings knows what political caricature is, and it is an obvious right for any artist or creative person to express his opinion.” For more information about his case, see:

https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2460

In a separate case, on 23 August 2020, Judge Mohammed Al-Tarawneh of Amman's Court of First Instance decided to release 13 members of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate (JTS) Council, including the deputy head of the JTS, Nasser Nawasrah, and the media spokesperson for the union, Noureddine Nadim, after one month in detention.  

The lawyer for the JTS, Bassam Freihatstated, “The release of the members of the Teachers’ Syndicate came due to a mandatory judicial decision that is not permissible to postpone.” According to the provision in Article 114 of the Criminal Procedure Code, “It is not permissible for a period of arrest for any person assigned to an act punishable by imprisonment for a period of more than two years, in any case, to exceed one month counted from the first day on which he was arrested.” Freihat estimated the number of teachers arrested judicially and administratively as 280 teachers, preceded by hundreds of administrative arrests of teachers who were released on the same day during protests that Jordan witnessed in recent months.

On 31 August 2020, Freihat announced, “It has been decided to agree on the release of all teachers and those who showed solidarity with them, who are administratively arrested in all Governorates.”

Al-Nawasrah said in a statement, “The Syndicate Council welcomes dialogue with the government directly and without intermediaries, stressing that any dialogue must be preceded by an official decision to return the syndicate to its usual work, to open branch headquarters, and to review the decision to stop the work of the Syndicate Council. And to release the arrested teachers.” 

For more information about his case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2452

The Jordanian authorities' release of Hajjaj and members of the JTS came after widespread campaigns of solidarity on social media, as well as the continuous demands of human rights organisations to respect public freedoms and release all activists and prisoners of conscience.

While GCHR welcomes the release of prominent cartoonist Emad Hajjaj, members of the JTS Council and the rest of the detainees, it calls on the Jordanian government to stop all legal procedures against them, as well as to fully restore the JTS and all its branches, and restore full legal authority to its administrative body, including the Syndicate Council and the Central Committee and branch bodies. The duty of the government is to protect the rights of syndicates and not fight them with arbitrary decisions that contradict the constitution and human rights principles.