Jordan: reforms in law but not always in practice

Review of Jordan | HR Committee | Oct. 2017

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Jordan has hosted hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Photo credit: Al Jazeera

The fifth periodic report of Jordan was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on the 19th and 20th October 2017. The Committee commended Jordan on the many changes made in the right direction since the last report. The Arab spring was the trigger of many reforms, including a constitutional and institutional reform. A constitutional court was established, an independent commission to oversee elections was also set up, and civil liberties were enhanced. The Committee was also impressed by Jordan’s actions to take in Syrian refugees. However, these changes are not always visible in practice. Major concerns were the application of the death penalty, the position of women in society and the lack of criminalisation of torture. Other problems were the broad definition of terrorism, the protection of migrant workers and the lack of a comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. The Committee also asked the State to ratify both Optional Protocols to the ICCPR.

The webcast of the review is available here: part 1 and part 2

"The Quran is sacred, this cannot be put into question."

- Jordan delegation on the value of testimonies of women

Death penalty

Jordan had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2007, but recently it has applied the death penalty twice. Ms. Pazartzis, member of the Human Rights Committee, called this a major setback.

Jordan replied that all guarantees that are required in cases of death penalty, are stipulated in Jordan law. 

Position of women

Women in Jordan face several issues.  Firstly, polygamy remains a widespread practice, while women are not allowed to marry several men.

Secondly, the State repealed art. 308 of the Penal Code, which allowed the perpetrator of marital rape to remain unpunished. Still, marital rape is not criminalised in Jordan law. The Jordanian delegation clarified that if a woman is victim of rape or threatened with it, she can submit a request to put an end to the marital link between her and the perpetrator. This is considered as physical and psychological aggression in the law and the act does not need to be proven.

Domestic violence is another issue of concern. An act was adopted, but the current national legal framework still does not provide victims with effective protection. In particular, the Committee asked whether victims are physically protected and which services are provided to them. The Committee noted that there was a lack of training of officials and no disciplinary procedure. The Jordan delegation answered to the concerns by saying that they organise a mandatory training to all police officers.

The Committee also raised concern about the fact that Jordanian women are not allowed to transmit their nationality to their children. This results in children’s vulnerability as they can be taken away from their mother. Moreover, statelessness can result from this prohibition. The Jordanian delegation clarified that the authorities are ready to revisit the legal regime.

Furthermore, the Committee members were concerned about protective custody of women, which comes down to administrative detention for women threatened with marital or family violence. Women in administrative detention represent 65% of all female inmates. The State clarified that it did not consider this as detention and these women are given everything that they need.

The Committee also showed concern relating to the rise in honour killings of women in Jordan. The law allows perpetrators to have their sentences reduced if the family of the victim drops charges. The Committee asked what measures the State party was taking to eliminate this practice, but the state party did not reply to this question.  

Lastly, a testimony of a man equals two testimonies of women in Sharia courts in Jordan, which have jurisdiction over marriage, custody, guardianship and inheritance. The Jordan delegation replied to this laconically by saying that the Quran is sacred and cannot be put into question. 


The Committee noted that Jordan’s definition of torture does not comply with the international standards. It is only a misdemeanour in Jordan, while it should be a crime.

Moreover, incidents of torture are prevalent in the State party, in particular by security forces and in detention centres. There is a lack of complaint mechanisms and independent bodies to investigate allegations of torture. No sentence has been handed down for torture in many years.

The Committee asked whether the State had any intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

Jordan seems to be a State in reform: after the Arab spring, many concepts are being reformed or rethought. However, changes on the ground remain to be seen. 

Recommendations of the Committee

Within two years, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee’s Concluding Observations:

Violence against women, including domestic violence

  • Strengthen the legal framework for the protection of women against domestic violence, amend article 292 of the Penal Code to criminalise marital rape and remove the grounds for mitigating circumstances for honour crimes.
  • Revise its policy of protective custody and take all appropriate measures to ensure that women fleeing domestic violence have access to shelter and support without jeopardising their liberty.
  • Develop and implement more effective training programs for law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and lawyers as well as employees of the Administrative Governor’s department related to family protection and provide assistance to victims of domestic violence.
  • Conduct awareness-raising campaigns to combat violence against women including domestic violence, undertake research on the root causes of violence against women and use such research as a basis for enhanced awareness-raising efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women.

Right to life, liberty and security of persons and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty

  • Amend the Crime Prevention Law in order to put an end to the practice of administrative detention.
  • Take concrete steps to significantly reduce the number of people held in administrative detention.
  • Ensure that those held in administrative detention have access to an independent and impartial court with the power to rule on the legality of their detention.
  • Allow increased access for independent visits to all places of detention, including the facilities of the General Intelligence Directorate.

Refugees and non-refoulement

  • Take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the principle of non-refoulement, including for Palestinian refugees regardless of their status in Jordan.
  • Develop procedural safeguards against refoulement, including review by an independent judicial body and effective remedies.
  • Ensure that citizenship is not revoked, except in accordance with the provisions of domestic legislation that are in accordance with the Covenant and international standards, and under independent judicial review.
  • Adopt measures to improve the status and living conditions for refugees in camps. 

Jordan's next periodic report is due on 10 November 2022. 

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