The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Jordan is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Jordan is not a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Jordan is a state party to the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights. Under Article 24(6) of the Charter, every citizen has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 16(i) of the 1952 Constitution of Jordan (as amended) provides that "Jordanians shall have the right to hold meetings within the limits of the law".
The primary legislation on assembly in Jordan is the 2011 Act on Public Assemblies (amending earlier law on the issue). The amended Law allows Jordanian nationals only to assemble following notification 48 hours in advance to the authorities.Art. 2, 2011 Act on Public Assemblies (as amended). Article 3(a) in the Act on Public Assemblies provides that: "Jordanians are entitled to hold public assemblies and organize demonstrations."The notification must include the names and addresses of the organisers, as well as details of the assembly’s purpose, time and place. Organisers are held accountable for any violence that occurs during an assembly.
Article 2(c) of the Instructions Regulating Public Assemblies and Demonstrations 2011 prohibits “slogans, cheers, cartoons, pictures, or symbols that compromise state sovereignty, national unity or law and order.” Article 2(f) of the Instructions states that assemblies must not disrupt vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Article 5 of the 2011 Act deems any assemblies held without due notification to be unlawful. Accordingly, spontaneous demonstration is unlawful and is punishable under the law. The Penal Code criminalises unlawful assemblies. Under Article 7 of the 2011 Act, the administrative governor “may order the dismissal of an assembly or scattering of a demonstration the way he deems fit if the assembly’s or demonstration’s objectives change.” The law also grants authorities the right to disperse gatherings likely to provoke violence or be detrimental to the public interest.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Article 9 of Public Security Law No. 38 of 1965 allows law enforcement officials to use force in order to perform their duties. According to the law, such use of force should be limited to cases when it is the last resort.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
The 1965 law provides that use of firearms is allowed only if it is the only way available to achieve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, and only after warnings have been issued. This is more permissive than international law allows.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Jordan, the Human Rights Committee noted that through the 2011 Act on Public Gatherings, the Jordanian Government
took steps to facilitate peaceful assembly, providing for example that authorization for demonstrations is not required and that notification suffices. However, the Committee notes with concern reports that the Act is being circumvented in practice. The Committee is concerned that many demonstrations have been prohibited; that participants and organizers have been detained under the Act on crime prevention and the Act on prevention of terrorism and that many have been forced to sign pledges not to engage in demonstrations; and that civil society organizations have been subjected to severe restrictions, including on their funding....
The Committee called on Jordan to
guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, in conformity with article 21 of the Covenant and international standards. The State party should not use security laws and measures to intimidate members of civil society who exercise this right and should ensure that they are able to operate freely, with access to funding.
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Jordan, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern "at reports of excessive use of police force in dispersing demonstrations, including and in particular against journalists, which may amount to ill-treatment or torture". The Committee was also concerned
that investigations into the use of force against journalists by police and security forces in relation to demonstrations that took place in April and in July 2011 were carried out by the Public Security Directorate that employs the alleged perpetrators, and that the investigations resulted in only disciplinary measures being taken against perpetrators in relation to the July 2011 demonstration, but none of the alleged perpetrators in either the April or the July 2011 events was prosecuted.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Jordan:
Jordanian law limits free assembly. Authorities require prior notification for any demonstration or event and have broad discretion to disperse public gatherings. At times, the Interior Ministry cancels planned public events without advance notice or explanation. Violations of the law on assembly can draw fines and jail time. Security forces are known to engage in violent confrontations with protesters.
The government further restricted the right to assemble in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, it used the Defense Law to restrict public gatherings of more than 10 people, and later 20; restrictions on assembly persisted even after other measures were rolled back in June. Authorities used these powers to disperse demonstrations after the Teachers’ Syndicate was closed in late July. Several dozen protesters were arrested in an Amman demonstration held several days after the union’s closure, and some were physically attacked by police. Security forces similarly attacked participants of protests held in several cities in July and August. Some protesters were later pressured to sign pledges promising to refrain from further activity, under penalty of hefty fines. In addition, the authorities restricted Facebook Live, limiting the ability of social media users to view footage of the demonstrations.