Geneva – The Jordanian authorities should repeal the National Defense Law since most restriction measures imposed to fight the Coronavirus in the Kingdom last year were lifted and rely on the Public Health Law in facing the pandemic, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement.
There is no logical justification for maintaining the law since the epidemiological situation has remarkably improved in Jordan.
The government has allowed the resumption of work in various sectors, completely ended the curfew, and allowed the establishment of many public events. The number of Jordanians who received two doses of the vaccine reached more than 3,400,000, and the general immunity ratio in the capital, Amman, reached 85%, according to official statistics.
Maintaining the law confirms the selective nature of applying the law, especially with the authorities using the law as a pretext to restrict public freedoms in several events in the country since March of last year.
The Jordanian authorities had announced the implementation of the National Defense Law No. 13 of 1992 as of March 17, 2020, to face the outbreak of the pandemic, based on Article 124 of the Jordanian Constitution, which states, “In the event of what necessitates the defense of the country in the case of emergencies, a law in the name of the Defense Law shall be enacted by virtue of which power shall be given to the person specified by the law to take the necessary actions and measures including the power of the suspension of the ordinary laws of the State to ensure the defense of the country.”
The Article 2 of the Defense Law stipulates that “In case of […] the outbreaking of a plague or epidemic […] the law shall be issued by Royal Decree […] based on the decision of the Cabinet.”
The Jordanian authorities used the law to limit public freedoms by applying it selectively. This includes the decision to illegally close the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate (JTS) on July 25, 2020, suppressing the protests that followed, and detaining about 720 teachers for several hours under the pretext of applying the Defense Law.
Moreover, the authorities referred dozens of union activists – including members of JTS’s council – to early retirement and provisional retirement. On March 24, 2020, the security forces also prevented a peaceful demonstration, arrested dozens of protesters, and hindered the organization of a union event on the pretext of applying the Defense Law. On August 9 of the same year, 30 teachers were detained in the Karak governorate in the south of the Kingdom.
It is worth mentioning that all detentions did not observe the application of the health protocol during the transfer of detainees in security vehicles or their places of detention.
Worse, while the authorities fined some individuals for violating health rules in public places based on the Defense Law, they licensed many public celebrations and events that witnessed massive overcrowding and clear violations of health rules.
“Even at the time the country suffered a massive outbreak of the virus, applying the Defense Law was not justified,” researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, Omar Al-Ajlouni, said. “Applying Article 22 of the Jordanian Public Health Law of 2008 would have sufficed. It states that ‘if an epidemic disease breaks out in the Kingdom or any region in it, the minister must take all measures urgently to combat it and prevent its spread.’ Hence, applying other laws that limit public freedoms is unnecessary.”
"Maintaining the Defense Law in light of the significant improvement in the epidemiological situation is unjustified,” he said. “The Public Health Law is enough to confront any negative change in the epidemiological situation, without disrupting the lives of citizens and opening the door for the authorities to misuse the law.”
The Jordanian authorities should repeal the law, stop using it as a pretext to limit the freedoms of individuals and political, union, and societal entities, and lift all restrictions related to the freedom of peaceful demonstration and union work.