Capital Punishment Returns to Jordan

capital punishment

On Dec. 21, Jordan held its first executions in eight years, ending an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment with the hangings of eleven Jordanians, reports the BBC. The eleven men were convicted of murders occurring between 2002 and 2004 and were only a handful of more than 100 prisoners sentenced to death since the country’s last execution in March 2006.

According to interior minister Hussein Majali, a committee was formed in November to consider the possibility of lifting the ban following public complaints that a recent rise in crime was attributed to the moratorium on capital punishment. According to Jordan’s Department of Statistics, crime in Jordan increased from 24,700 in 2009 to 33,800 in 2014.

Jordanian courts continued to issue death sentences for crimes such as rape, treason, terrorism, espionage and murder, but the use of capital punishment is ultimately decided by King Abdullah II. According to The Jordan Times, His Majesty said in 2005 that the ministry was considering changing its penal code and ending capital punishment in the country in coordination with the European Union.

No changes were made to the penal code, and death sentences continued to be handed down, but four months after the possible changes were announced, the king stopped signing the orders. According to Jordanian law, no executions can be carried out without endorsement from the king and the Court of Cassation. By December 2014, there were 122 inmates on death row, says Human Rights Watch (HRW). Adam Coogle at HRW in the Middle East called the renewed executions a “huge blow” to Jordanian human rights.

According to The New York Times, the European Union has long fought for an official ban on capital punishment to be written into the Jordanian penal code and heavily criticized the death penalty’s return. Peter Millet, British ambassador to Jordan, urged the country to reinstate the ban and put an end to any further executions. Many Jordanians, however, called for a return to capital punishment, writing letters to the king in favor of ending the ban citing the nation’s rise in crime, says Jordanian activist, Adeeb Akroosh.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for countries to abolish capital punishment and to improve transparency in countries with the death penalty, calling the punishment “too absolute,” adding that the most sensible way to avoid executing those who have been wrongfully convicted is to move away from the death penalty. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the abolishment of capital punishment. Of the 193 UN member states, 150 have already abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it, and a recent vote showed that 117 countries support the resolution, while only 38 voted against it.

Jordan is not the only country to reinstate the death penalty after an extended unofficial ban. Pakistan ended a six-year moratorium in response to a recent attack on a school that left 148 people dead, most of them children.The country ostensibly plans to execute about 500 convicts, says the UN, following an announcement from Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, which cancelled a moratorium on the execution of non-military personnel for crimes associated with terrorism. The nation also instated new legislation for the punishment of acts of terrorism, though many UN members fear “acts of terrorism” may be too vague a term and could invite misuse by the Pakistani government.

By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa

The New York Times
Department of Statistics
The Jordan Times
Human Rights Watch
United Nations
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