HRW: Amend Jordan's penal code to protect human rights
HRW has called on Jordan to implement amendments to its 1960 penal code to better protect human rights.
The human rights organisation made its request in a letter sent to Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour that was released on 13 September.
The proposed amendments were drafted by a legal committee under the justice ministry. They propose making changes to more than 180 articles of the current penal code, said HRW.
The amendments address a wide variety of subjects from water theft to gunfire at public celebrations. However, HRW focused on those directly relating to human rights.
Jordan's Legislative and Opinion Bureau, part of the prime minister's office, are currently reviewing the changes. If accepted they must pass both houses of parliament and be approved by the king to become law.
|The draft amendments also fail to address the issue of marital rape.|
HRW called on Ensour to ensure extra amendments are included to eliminate penal code articles that unduly limit free expression and peaceful assembly.
"Jordan's lawmakers shouldn't miss the chance to remove unnecessary restrictions on basic freedoms. When they consider the proposed amendments, they should ensure the new penal code enables citizens to speak freely," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for HRW.
One example is the proposed amendment to the penal code that will increase protection of the rights of people with disabilities. It does this by increasing penalties for those who commit crimes against them, including negligence, rape, manslaughter, deprivation of liberty, and financial deception. The 1960 penal code did not identify people with disabilities as a protected category in relation to these crimes.
"Jordan will take a step in the right direction if it changes the law to prevent rapists from getting away with their crimes and strengthens the rights of people with disabilities," Whitson said.
Another proposal would amend penal code article 308 to end the exemption from investigation and prosecution for persons accused of sexual assault who agree to marry their victims for at least five years. The amendment proposes to leave the exemption in place, however, for those - in practice, men - accused of consensual sex with a child over 15 years old who then agree to marry the child.
The draft amendments also fail to address the issue of marital rape. There is no proposed change to the current law that limits criminalisation to "[a]ny person who has forced sexual intercourse with a female, other than his wife…"