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Parliamentary Roundtable The Rule of Law with a special focus on the abolition of death penalty

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On Monday the 6th of November,the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS)  had the honour to join a roundtable discussion, initiated by the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and held in the Parliament of Jordan.

Government delegates, non-governmental organizations, abolitionists, and death-penalty experts, as well as international guests were invited to take part at the discussion in order to “help foster a stronger shared culture of legality and human rights in which the death penalty has no place and justice is not revenge”. The conference was divided in four distinct parts.

Dr. David Donat Cattin (PGA’s Secretary-General) opened the roundtable, followed by Hon. Wafaa Bani Mustafa (Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs to Combat Violence against Women), H.E. Mr. Hans-Peter Lenz (the Ambassador of Switzerland to Jordan) and H.E. Mr. Faisal al-Fayez, President of the Senate. They discussed topics such as traditions in Jordan, barriers given by the government and reinstallation of justice for victims. The joined conclusion was somewhat that not only people in civil society but also parliamentarians and judges are supporting the opinion shared in the speech of the honoured Swiss Ambassador. The ambassador quoted a Facebook comment, upon a post made by the Swiss embassy, in which the embassy sadly regretted the hanging of 15 people in Jordan on the 4 of march 2017. The comment upon this Facebook post was used as an indicator for the broader public opinion by the honoured ambassador and was put in the ambassador’s speech: “Retribution should be the same as the deed. So the one who committed a murder should be hanged. If those who commit murders knew that they would be executed, then they might have not committed the crime. [...] And because we live in a tribal community, it is hard to convince the family of the victim to accept another punishment than death”. (Attach link to speech)

Dr. Cattin shared with audience that in the United States those States allowing the death penalty by law have a higher crime rate than those that abolished the capital punishment in their constitution. Furthermore, he argued, that the capital punishment not necessarily reinstall a strong feeling of justice for the victims families, when compared to a fair and proper trial.

The second round was moderated by H.E. Dr. Bassam Talhouni, (Member of the Senate, Jordan) and under the light of the situation of the Death penalty in Jordan, the Challenges, the impact, and the Role of Parliamentarians. H.E. Ms. Taghreed Hikmat  (Senator, and a member in PGA, Jordan), H.E. Ms. Intisar Jabbouri (Member in the Iraqi Parliament, Iraq) and Dr. Mousa Braizat (Envoy for the National Center for Human Rights, Jordan) were discussing whether the abolition of the death penalty is reasonable and possible in Jordan. In addition also the role of judges, and their responsibilities when it comes to trials and the overall opinion that the death penalty in Jordan cannot be abolished, but only articles can be implemented to reduce the frequency of sentences. Ms. Intisar Jabbouri made an interesting point on the situation of her home province in, Nineveh in Iraq, that recently have been liberated from ISIS control by the government army. In the case of justice for victims of ISIS’s atrocities she seemed to favour the use of capital punishment, somewhat indirectly.

For the third round of the conference the topic was the international perspective of laws and treaties on the Death Penalty, moderated by H.E Basil Tarawneh (Governmen coordinator for Human Rights). He was joind by Dr. Mousa Braizat (Envoy for the National Center for Human Rights) Dr. Amer Al Hafi (A professor of Comparative religions at Al Bait University, and academic advisor to at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, Jordan) and at last Ms. Tagreed Jaber (Penal reform International (PRI) MENA regional Director, Jordan). Ms. Tagreed made a strong case against the use of Death Penalty, as she mentioned mythmaking of fictionally crowded prisons that could serve as excuses for use the penalty as to reduce numbers. In addition she did not see capital punishment of ISIS members as the right way, as this could not be a plausible future deterrent of terrorism. Dr. Mousa Braizat made a following remark that the reinstatement of the death penalty, cancelled the work of the 16th parliament, and was against the Islamic religion. Dr. Amer al Hafi inquired that the Islamic in- depth understanding of death penalty is still not reached, and the holy Koran actually states capital punishment as overly murder. He then followed with remarks of the international advocacy for abolishment was, in his view, only seeing half the picture when targeting countries like Jordan. He pointed to the use of Drone strikes as a mean of execution outside the jurisdiction of Human Rights, and that this use represented an international problem.

A round of questions and answers followed, in the which the Dr. David Donat Cattin (PGA’s Secretary-General) respond to the remarks on the unsanctioned drone strikes. He made it apparent that this really constituted a human rights abuse, and that the PGA condemned this practice. Another member of the audience addressed a certain remark, mentioned during the debate, that suggested that the recent use of death penalty in Jordan had been strongly influenced by public opinion. This member of the audience was not satisfied by this explanation, and made it clear that public opinion does not affect other issues, such as the prices of bread, so why so significantly in the case of death Penalty? After the round of questioning the discussion was summarized by going through the action plan of the PGA, which was conducted by the Dr. David Donat Cattin (PGA’s Secretary-General) and Hon. Wafaa Bani Mustafa (Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs to Combat Violence against Women)

What can we learn from the discussion?

We at the Amman Center For Human Rights Studies (ACHRS) welcomed this debate, as we for many years have been working actively towards the abolishment of the Death Penalty, as we have formed organizations such as the Jordanian Coalition against the Death Penalty. So far the panel seemed open, positive towards and generally in favour of eventually either reducing the use of capital punishment, or abolish entirely. Still it remained somewhat unclear what the members of the senate together with the parliament would actively implement in abolishing the use of the penalty. We remain to see if the religious argumentation against the use will gain political good will, so we might in the future have a reduced number of death sentencing.  And added to this, we need to further the awareness and advocacy against the use, in order to change the opinion of civil society, the parliament and the public at large. For us at the ACHRS, this discussion showed that there is a sign of willingness to face this sensitive issue and exchange views in a frank and open manner and hopefully abolished the practice in the near future.

Prepared by Wilma Middendorf and Jeppe Issing Køster

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