By Najat Shana’a
The recent tragic death of young Ra’ad A’mar at Al-Badia security center in Giza has resurrected the official response to death cases of torture as “individual behavior, which does not amount to systematic torture.”
An official statement issued by the government’s general coordinator for human rights, Basil Tarawneh on 8 May, stated that “The Director of Public Security is following up on the death incident.
This is an indicator to the extent of transparency by which the directorate handles any individual violation that would prejudice the rights and freedoms of citizens.”
After the arrest of 8 officers and non-commissioned officers following the filling of a number of charges against them, Tarawneh says that this measure demonstrates that no one is above accountability, regardless of his position.
The government’s response, as human rights activist Kamal Mashurki understands it, tends to diagnose the incident as an isolated incident, without considering that this justification has been repeated in several incidents, and in such a manner that have become so disturbing to human rights organizations that fear these individual practices will become a routine.
Torture Complaints in 2016
3 complaints were referred to the police court
3 complaints filed at the request of the complainant
20 complaints closed for inability to prove the violation
43 complaints are still pending.
63 complaints were filed by citizens against security officers
* A complaint: an allegation that torture or other forms of ill-treatment were inflicted upon
citizens by members of security centers and directorates.
Source: The 2nd periodic report on the status of temporary detention centers in the kingdom, issued by the National Center for Human Rights in April 2017.
Despite the denial of torture, the official justification for its occurrence ranged from the requirements of maintaining public security, preventing terrorism, and the social acceptance of the cruel treatment of those accused of criminal offenses, according to the first annual report of the Center for Human Rights Studies in March 2017.
But former head of the Jordanian Association for Human Rights, Sulaiman Sweis, said that “there is no justification for torture, not even maintaining the prestige of the state.”
However, the individual behavior of law enforcement agencies is dictated by law; that is, there is a mechanism for issuing and implementing orders and instructions in a context of discipline and accountability, commented human rights expert Fadi al-Qadi.
According to the judge, it is not permissible to say: “Whoever does so has committed an individual behavior and his officials were unaware and did not intervene nor punished him for his behavior.” Institutional context means that an individual or group of individuals are carrying out a certain behavior.
“Behavior comes from an institutional environment whose dominant culture allows, encourages, nurtures, develops, tolerates, or has no controls to foreclose preventive behavior.”
There seems to be no governmental concern that “individual behavior or violations” will develop into systematic torture. According to the government coordinator for human rights, Basil Al-Tarawneh, the firm measures against impunity, especially with regard to Ra’ad incident, is a message to everyone that no violator is above the law, regulations, and instructions that specifically combat torture in legislation, policies, and practices..
Torture: A problematic concept
The indications of official statement on the latter incident is not limited to justifying the behavior as individual. The verification of the 6 charges assigned to the officers concluded that their conduct was not referred to as “torture” in accordance with the concept stated in article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(UNCAT). The arrested officers in the case of Ra’ad were charged with several counts: “beating death in association, extraction of confession and information, intentional abuse, abuse of authority, violation of orders and instructions of maintaining the respect and dignity of the detainees.”
Complaints of torture or other forms of ill-treatment inflicted by law enforcement officials and different security directorates. Source: National Center of Human Rights
Definition of Torture
The constant denial of law enforcement agencies, as they refuse to recognize the nonindividual and systematic nature of torture against detainees, is only part of the problematic aspect of the disproportionate definition of torture in Jordanian law compared to the definition in article 1 of UNCAT, says Eva Abu al-Halawa, the Executive Director of the Law Group for Human Rights “Mizan”.
Adalah center’s “Accountability of Criminals and Delayed Justice” notes that while the concept of torture is included in article 208 of the Penal Code, and the minimum sentence has been increased from 3 months to 6 months, this provision is insufficient to prevent torture and is disproportionate to the gravity of the offense deemed by the international community as a serious crime that requires a deterrent punishment. However, the Jordanian legislation considers this crime a felony that can be voided by prescription contrary to the provisions of Article 8, Paragraph 2 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and the provisions of Article 1 of UNCAT.
In its concluding observations and recommendations on Jordan’s third report in 2015, the Committee against Torture called for the adoption of a clear concept of torture, encompassing all the elements set out in article 1 of UNCAT, and ensuring that torture is a criminal offense that entails a penalty that commensurate with the seriousness of the crime and cannot be erased by general pardon.
Complaints of torture or other forms of ill-treatment that took place in correction and rehabilitation centers Source: National Center of Human Rights
Torture: a practice or a mere fabrication If the security authorities do not consider the cases that were beaten to death as “torture”,then this refers to an official denial of the existence of torture mainly in the security centers and
places of detention, describing it as individual offenses. It also points out the absence of fair legal framework that classifies criminal acts as torture, which aims to avoid the legal consequences that will be in the benefit of the victim. Such observations raises a question whether torture is indeed practiced systematically or is merely a charge not related to those incidents.
The Jordanian Association for Human Rights submitted a file of 8 cases of torture to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2015 during the years (2010-2015), “We asked the competent authorities to allow us to put a summary of UNCAT in every security center, however, our request was declined on the pretext that torture does not exist,” says the former head of the association,
The “Accountability of Criminals and Delayed Justice” report indicated that according to monitoring and documentation procedures, a certain pattern of torture practices is maintained by some security agencies, particularly the Anti-Narcotics and Counterfeiting Department, the Criminal Investigation Department, and some of the correction and rehabilitation centers.
Complaints of torture and ill-treatment according to the statistics in the Public Prosecution records
Amman court: 14 cases;
South Amman court: 14 cases
Irbid court: 5
Source: Accountability of Criminals and Delayed Justice report issued by Adalah center – July 2017.
Concerns about the Spread of Torture
In its concluding observations in the 3rd Jordan report 2015 on anti-torture, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern at the independent reports of the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of accused persons by security officials and law enforcement officials, particularly in detention centers administered by the General Intelligence Service, the Criminal
Investigation Department, and the Anti-Narcotics and Counterfeiting Department, which are subordinate to the Directorate of Public Security. Such behaviors aim to extract confessions and information to be used as evidence before the courts.”
Transient Justification of Incidents
The incident of Ra’ad was preceded by the death of the young Abdullah al-Zu’bi, who lost his life after being tortured by members of the General Security in the security center north of Irbid governorate in 2015. Initially, however, al-Zu’bi case was not officially recognized as torture, and the young deceased was accused of throwing himself from the 3 rd floor. Subsequently, the incident was described as an individual act of torture, which led to the arrest of 4 members of the General Security Service.
According to Adalah’s report, there have been cases of torture that have not been accompanied by any official condemnation of torture. In fact, torture was denied in all cases.
UNCAT imposes a number of legal obligations on the State, including the condemnation of torture, but the Human Rights Report asserts that no condemnation of torture has been issued by any authority and that statements condemning torture do not constitute a fulfillment of this
obligation, especially that these statements were issued following many death incidents inside detention centers.
In its third periodic report before the Committee against Torture at the end of November 2015, the NCHR stressed the need to put an end to the phenomenon of non-prosecution of torture under article 208 of the Penal Code, and to the fact that law enforcement agencies treat acts of
torture as mere procedural offenses that do not require the enforcement of this article. Based on this, persecution of the General Security Service officials shall be carried by the Public Prosecutor’s Office under article 37 of the Public Security Act.
In its October 8, 2008 report, Human Rights Watch included in its report, entitled “Torture and Impunity in Jordan’s Prisons: Reforms Fail to Tackle Widespread Abuse”, a quote by officials
of correction and rehabilitation centers claiming that beatings and other ill-treatment are no more than individual incidents, and that the reform program for correction and rehabilitation centers, launched in 2006, improves prison conditions and accountability for abuse.
The organization called on the country to end the widespread and ongoing practice of torture in Jordanian jails. Its report documented credible allegations of ill-treatment, often amounting to torture. These allegations were made by 66 out of 110 inmates interviewed in 2007
and 2008 from 7 out of the 10 Jordanian prisons.
In 2007, 10 years ago, the report of the UN Special Rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment stirred up a fuss after the insight
it provided on Jordanian prison. Mr. Nowak said: “There is systematic torture in prisons.”
Subsequently, the Assistant Director of Public Security for Judicial Affairs, Brigadier General Khaled Saidat,said that the investigations proved that “individual cases of torture” were committed
by security officer, and were thus referred to the relevant courts, where some of the referred officers were convicted and the necessary penalties were imposed upon them.
Most common methods of torture in Jordan
Beatings (punching and kicking)
Hitting with whips and batons
Solitary confinement for long periods of time
Threats to inflict ill-treatment upon a family member
Electric shock using methods that leave no marks on the victim’s body
Severe beating for long periods of time upon arriving at the detention centers
Detention for long periods of time with no right to see family members to a lawyer
Forced to stand in painful positions for long periods of time
Detention of a family member
Source: Accountability of Criminals and Delayed Justice report of 2017 issued by Adalah center for Human Rights Studies.
What is Systematic Torture?
The security authorities refuse to call it systematic torture and see it as individual cases that do not reflect the policies of the authorities. This denial indicates legal ignorance of the term as determined by law experts. Systematic torture is expressed through public policy without the need
for a decision taken by the authorities. A public policy coupled with impunity, concealment of perpetrators, absence of prosecutions and justice for victims, and non-independent investigations carried out by the courts of the same authorities to which the perpetrators belong.
Eva Abu Halawa believes that the state’s decision to ratify the UNCAT means that it is committed to the prevention of torture. However, the problem relates to the immunity of perpetrators of torture. There has been no court ruling condemning the crime of torture or applying Article 208 of the Penal Code to the case.
Abu Halawa refers to the existence of cases of torture raised by her institution to the
judiciary, but as lawyers or complainants, they do not know the fate of those cases or where they stand now.
“The case of impunity is systematic and not individual.” Abu Halawa says, “Only 3 cases have been referred to the Police Court under Article 208 of the Penal Code. There is no deterrent to individuals from committing the crime, and the state of immunity and impunity exists as long as the situation is not handled as a crime specified in the Penal Code.”
“Public security pursues criminals outside its directorate and is incapable of prosecuting them within the directorate.” Abu Halawa added. Sawis refers to the spread of the “slap” culture that law enforcement agencies use to extract confession. However, they refuse to abandon the term “individual behavior” as justification for torture.
On the other hand, the government coordinator, Basil Tarawneh, stresses to al-Sabeel newspaper that the legal procedures are very firm, while acknowledging the existence of flaws, mistakes, and obstacles. However, the main fault of the state is not addressing the flaws.
The government has put firm and strict measures to deliver a clear message that torture is humiliating and that Jordan is keen to be humane and moral.
Why do Individual Practices Continue?
Human rights expert, Fadi al-Qadi, asserts that repeated behavior means that there is a serious imbalance in the environment and culture of the system adopted by the administration of these institutions. Also, the impunity indicates the existence of an environment where law enforcement officials are allowed to commit violations to the principles of human rights on an
ongoing basis without any deterrent.
Activist Kamal al-Mashraqi adds that torture requires accountability, eradication of impunity, and the application of penalties that commensurate with the severity of the act of torture.
However, the government coordinator Bassil Tarawneh considers that individual behavior only represents the perpetrator, and that the judiciary is well-capable of protecting the dignity and human rights of the victims. And although there are many individual violations that are systematic
in some countries, but we say: We fight torture in a systematic manner.
In its general comment on the application of article 2 of the Convention, the UN Committee Against Torture warned State parties that any differences or inconsistencies between the concept of the Convention and the way in which the concept is incorporated into domestic law will lead to
the creation of actual or potential gaps for impunity. Therefore, local authorities must take the necessary measures to include a provision in the Penal Code that eliminates prescriptions to crimes of torture, and that the crime of torture shall not be subject to public or private amnesty/pardon.
Adalah’s Human Rights Report asserts that impunity contributes to any official policy or practice of torture and ill-treatment, and is a consistent component of both. According to the Special Rapporteur on torture, impunity is a “condition for the continued practice” of torture.
Therefore, addressing and overcoming impunity are key elements in the eradication of torture and successful prosecution. The most obvious sign of the existence of an official policy is the intolerance of torture.
Impunity indicators are evident when investigations are not conducted or are inadequate, the suspected criminals are not subject to fair trial proceedings, prosecutions are not done effectively, no convictions are issued despite sufficient evidence, or the sentences issued against the convicts are ridiculous and in no way proportionate to the gravity of their crimes.
Number of Cases
The number of cases confirms the observations of human rights experts: the torture that affects individuals in temporary detention centers and other security centers is only an individual behavior.
During 2013, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Jordan began investigating allegations of torture in 2013 and established a national record of torture cases in 2014: the total number of cases from 2013-2014 to 2015 was 33.
According to the second periodic report issued by the National Center for Human Rights in 2016 on the situation of temporary detention centers in the Kingdom, out of 63 complaints received by the Center, 3 complaints were referred to the police-court, 3 were filed at the request of the complainant, 20 were closed for inability to prove the violation, and 43 complaints are still
Lawyer Huda Al-Nasr says that the number of cases of victims does not coincide with the statement that what happens is within the scope of individual work.
Al-Nasr is defending her brother Omar al-Nasr, one of the victims of torture at
Al-Bayader security center. Al-Nasr’s brother was arrested in September 2015 after an assault on security patrol and the killing of one of its officers. Omar was arrested solely because the shooter took refuge in the building where he lived.
In her personal experience, Al-Nasr affirms that torture is not an individual behavior, rather a phenomenon that reflects a systematic policy. Her family received threats and pressure to receive her brother’s body and bury it, but when she refused, the family was threatened that the victim’s image and reputation will be maimed.
The family also had a number of visits from officials
Al-Nasr further explained that the torture and beatings her brother suffered within 8 days meant that the investigation was carried out with many parties and various security personnel, which indicates that they witnessed torture and what happened was an agreed action.
However, Al-Nasr distinguishes between the current security era and the era that dominated before to Ra’ad’s case. The previous policy that was implemented before the new Public Security Department was handed to a new administrated constituted fertile ground for the practice of torture
among members of the security forces through attempts to conceal the violations.
The story was published on AlSabeel Newspaper: https://bit.ly/2v27wPX
* In cooperation with Journalists for Human Rights Organization (JHR)