| 8 December 2023, Friday |

Jordan ends emergency laws that stifled public freedoms

Jordan repealed regulations adopted at the beginning of COVID-19 that granted the government the authority to impose a state of emergency and that rights organizations claimed were used as a pretext to stifle civil and political liberty on Sunday.

Almost three years after the epidemic began in March 2020, the state of emergency that gave the prime minister the authority to restrict fundamental rights and immobilize existing laws was revoked by a royal decree that was approved by the cabinet.

It would mean a return to implementing scores of ordinary laws that were suspended as the government enacted many defence orders that touched every aspect of public life, according to government officials.

“We have a legislative system that will go back to functioning as normal as life has gone back to normal,” Minister of Government Communications Faisal Shboul told state media.

The move comes two days after the World Health Organization on Friday declared an end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency, marking a major step toward the end of the pandemic that disrupted the global economy and ravaged communities.

Critics say Jordanian authorities used the draconian powers despite calls by King Abdullah to apply them without infringing on citizens’ political and civil rights, to quash political dissent and silence voices.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Jordan had in the last few years intensified persecution and harassment of political opponents and ordinary citizens using a string of laws to silence critical voices.

“Jordan’s state of emergency long-outlasted measures to fight the pandemic and was arbitrarily used since 2020 to curb the right to peaceful assembly amid a decline in civic space,” said Adam Coogle, deputy director of Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

“Shelving the emergency law would be a good first step in increasing respect for basic rights,” Coogle added.

Dozens of activists were imprisoned and harassed and officials deny widespread abuses but said they would not tolerate civil unrest in Jordan at a time of economic hardship.

  • Reuters