Mustafa Abu Ruwais, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, has been sentenced to death for terrorism on Tuesday, 12th of January.
In 2019, Abu Ruwais stabbed eight people in the touristic site of Jerash. All eight victims, four tourists and four Jordanians including a tour guide and a security officer, survived the attack. Abu Ruwais was immediately arrested and was charged with terrorism offences. Tuesday 12th of January 2021, he was sentenced to death by hanging by the Jordanian State Security Court. The Court noted that he had followed the ideology of the Islamic State, had attempted to join the caliphate and had been in contact with an ISIS member who approved of the attack. The Court therefore considered the stabbing was a terrorist act, even if the Islamic State never claimed responsibility. Two other defendants, Abu Ruwais’ accomplices, were condemned to life imprisonment and seven years in prison. Abu Ruwais’ execution date does not appear to have been set.
In 2006, Jordan was on the verge of abolishing the death penalty. It adopted a moratorium halting the use of capital punishment and King Abdullah II even announced the Criminal Code would be amended to abolish it. Unfortunately, probably because of the rise in terrorism, extremism and violence in the Arab region, Jordan ended the de facto moratorium in December 2014 when it executed 11 men. It later executed 2 men on terrorism charges in 2015 and 15, 10 of which were condemned for terrorism offences, in 2017. Jordan’s tendency therefore seems to be to focus on the executions of people who have been convicted of terrorism or other charges which have chocked the population.
The Amman Center for Human Rights Studies is strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty, especially in sensitive cases such as terrorism cases, and condemns Mustafa Abu Ruwais’ sentence. International law does not yet explicitly prohibit the death penalty. However, several human rights bodies have already considered that the use of the death penalty is violating human rights law, in particular the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. To only give a few example, the Second Protocol to the ICCPR, the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights oblige State Parties to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances. The Human Rights Committee considered that prolonged periods of death row detention were a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Furthermore, in its recent 2019 Ally Rajabu v. Tanzania case, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights found that sentencing someone to death by hanging was a violation of the prohibition of torture as hanging makes the person suffer. Finally, the European Court of Human Rights went as far as to consider, in its Al-Saadoon and Mudfhi v. United Kingdom case, that the death penalty was in itself an inhuman and degrading treatment. There therefore is a growing tendency to limit, or even abolish altogether, the death penalty.
Seeing capital punishment is a breach of both the right to life and the prohibition of torture, the Center urges the Jordanian Government not to execute Abu Ruwais and to commute his condemnation to imprisonment. It further takes the opportunity to urge the Government to reinstate its moratorium, ratify the Second Protocol to the ICCPR, and halt the use of capital punishment altogether, even for terrorism charges.
In 2006, King Abdullah II declared that Jordan could “soon become the first country in the Middle East without capital punishment”. Let “soon” be “now”.