Jordan rights activists demand government respect right to free expression

Jordan rights activists demand government respect right to free expression
Jordanian rights activists published a letter on Tuesday calling on the government to respect the right to freedom amid arrests of pro-Palestine protesters.
3 min read
03 April, 2024
Rights groups have condemned what they said was the Jordanian government's attempt to quash pro-Palestine activism. [Getty]

More than two dozen prominent Jordanian human rights activists signed a letter on Tuesday demanding the government respect the right to free expression and assembly after a spate of arrests of pro-Palestine protesters in recent weeks.

The letter said that "peaceful demonstration and legitimate gatherings is a right of Jordanians that should not be prevented, restricted or demonised as being against the Jordanian state."

Protesters broke into the Israeli embassy compound on 24 March and have since held daily demonstrations against the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza, which has killed more than 32,000 since 7 October. A key demand of the protesters has been cancelling the 1994 Wadi Araba peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

Authorities have arrested "hundreds" of protesters, including some journalists and activists, charging them with unrelated crimes such as "assaulting an officer" or "insulting official bodies." Those arrested are frequently held in administrative detention and only released after paying bail and pledging not to protest again.

Tuesday's letter condemned the arrest campaign and called for the "immediate" release of all those detained in connection with the pro-Palestine protests.

"The West is seeing massive protests, and they haven't arrested a single person. Why is Jordan arresting people, then? This is a right guaranteed in the Jordanian constitution," Salah Armouti, a member of the Jordanian parliament and signatory to Tuesday's letter, told The New Arab.

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Jordan's Public Security Directorate (PSD) said on Sunday that it had arrested "rioters" and was doing its work professionally in a way that protects citizens' freedom of expression.

Rights bodies have said that the Jordanian government has harassed and arrested likely hundreds of Pro-Palestine protesters since October, before the current round of protests.

The Jordanian government has, in recent years, cracked down on civic space and relied on administrative detentions, which are extrajudicial arrests, to quash protests.

In recent days, Jordanian officials have said that the ongoing pro-Palestine protests are being exploited by individuals and groups which aim to destabilise the Kingdom.

"We are wagering on the awareness of Jordan's youth against those who attempt to sway it in favour of partisan and factional agendas," Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said on Tuesday.

The Jordanian government has also expressed concern about popular support for Hamas, the Islamist group which governs the Gaza Strip, among the Jordanian people.

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On 27 March, former Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal addressed Jordanians directly, saying that the group wants "millions to take to the streets for Palestine."

Activists have denied that protests result from any foreign agendas or affect Jordan's stability.

"The government is trying to create divisions within the Hirak [movement]; this is not acceptable. All parties and all agendas, everyone in Jordan is participating in these protests," Armouti said.