Ammon News, Editor's Choice

Jordanian queen to visit Bangladesh Rohingya camps

[10/21/2017 2:23:04 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan is scheduled to visit Bangladesh to see on the ground the plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar. A statement issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugee in Bangladesh said that the queen will be in the camp in south-eastern Cox’s Bazar district on Monday. She will be visiting in her capacity as a board member of the International Rescue Committee and an advocate of the work of the UN humanitarian agency. The visit will underscore the urgent need for humanitarian assistance for the vulnerable population, the statement said. Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed the border after Myanmar army launched an offensive against the minority Muslims in Rakhine state on August 25. The Burmese army and their Buddhist vigilante supporters have killed many Muslims and burned down their homes. Queen Rania will visit Kutupalong Refugee Camp and its surroundings in Cox’s Bazar. She is expected to meet with women and children who have recently crossed the border from Myanmar and see some of the emergency services offered by the IRC, UNHCR, UNICEF, and other humanitarian agencies on the ground. At the conclusion of the visit, she will make a press statement. The recent influx Rohingya population are called the largest mass refugee movement in the region in decades and a major humanitarian emergency. In Bangladesh, the total number of Rohingya refugees is now estimated to have reached around 800,000, with more expected to arrive, according to international aid agencies. The sheer number of new arrivals has overwhelmed pre-existing service providers, leading to significant challenges in the provision of essential lifesaving services and highlighting the need for greater concerted urgent international response, the UNHCR said. *News Next

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Man who hailed Satan while cutting himself at Dubai airport is jailed

[10/15/2017 6:34:31 AM]

AMMONNEWS - A Jordanian man who tried to cut parts of his body with a knife while praising Satan and cursing God publicly, will spend three months in jail. The man denied blasphemy charges when he appeared at Dubai Criminal Court last month and said he was very drunk and could not remember what he said. The 28-year-old was taken into custody at Dubai Airport Police Station on July 3 where he was waiting for a flight to return to his country after visiting the UAE. Records show that as they approached the station, the man turned violent and began slashing himself with a blade he was hiding in his wallet. The paramedics were called and, with the help of the police, were able to calm the “uncooperative” man and treat his injuries. “Once the paramedics finished, he became enraged for no clear reasons and started hailing Satan and cursing God,” said prosecutors. A police officer, 36, said the man lost his temper when they offered to send him to hospital and then became “furious, aggressive and started hailing the devil.” The man told the prosecution he had been drinking when in Ajman and will be referred to courts in the emirate to face charges of consuming alcohol without a license. As for attempting suicide, the defendant was not faced with the charge as a medical report indicated his injuries were not fatal nor were they meant to end his life. He was convicted and sentenced to three months in jail and fined Dh5,000. He will be deported after serving his jail term. *The National

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Jordan- Two tigers rescued from Aleppo find new Dutch home

[10/15/2017 6:28:24 AM]

AMMONNEWS -Two tigers rescued from an abandoned zoo in the war-torn Syrian town of Aleppo are to be given a new home in a Dutch sanctuary, the animal refuge said on Friday. Brother and sister, Sultan and Sayeeda, will arrive on Monday in The Netherlands after they were among 13 animals evacuated earlier this year from the "Magic World" zoo and amusement park in the ravaged Syrian city. The Four Paws charity, which goes to the aid of animals in distress around the world, brought the tigers out of Syria and into Turkey at the end of July along with five lions, two bears, two hyenas and two dogs. After a short stay in Turkey to be cared for and treated for neglect, the animals were taken to Jordan in mid-August. While most of the 13 beasts are staying there, Sultan and Sayeeda, who were badly emaciated and de-hydrated, are to be cared for at the Felida refuge in northern Nijeberkoop. The felines, which will be housed in the sanctuary's quietest areas, will receive special medical treatment to help them get over the trauma of the war and develop a more natural behaviour. They "were living in a war zone. They were thirsty and hungry. They could hear lots of noise from the bombings" and suffered a lot of stress as a result, said Simone Schuls, the director of the refuge. "It's a great second chance for these animals," she said, adding the pair may eventually be rehoused elsewhere depending on their recovery. In April in a tough mission in Iraq, Four Paws also rescued a lion and a bear, the last survivors of the ravaged zoo in Mosul. *JT

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Syrian rebels resist Jordan pressure to hand over border crossing

[10/5/2017 5:41:45 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Syrian opposition groups are resisting Jordanian pressure to hand control of a border crossing back to the Syrian government, a step that would be a major boost for President Bashar al-Assad and undermine rebel groups in southwestern Syria. Talks over reopening the Nasib crossing have gathered pace since a Russian-U.S. brokered ceasefire in July brought relative calm to southern Syria, the first peacekeeping effort in the war by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. Jordan, which hopes to revive a once flourishing trade route and encourage Syrian refugees to return, has plenty of leverage over the rebels: many of the opposition groups in southern Syria depend on logistical support from the staunch U.S. ally. But rebel groups which seized control of the crossing in 2015 have so far resisted proposals for a return of Syrian government authority to Nasib, even in the form of civilian officials with no Syrian army presence. The possibility of the crossing being reopened underlines just how far the scales have tipped in favour of Assad, who is steadily winning back territory with Russian and Iranian help, forcing neighbouring states to rethink their policies. “The presence of any regime employee is like restoring legitimacy to a worn-out regime against which the Syrian people rose up,” said Adham al Karad, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel commander who led battles in Deraa city against the army. Jordan has trodden a careful path during the six-year long war, maintaining diplomatic ties with Damascus even as it became a hub for a U.S.-led programme that funnelled aid to vetted Syrian rebels. Trump recently decided to shut down that programme. Before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, Nasib served as a major transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf in multi-billion dollar annual trade. Its closure has also had a knock-on effect for other economies in the region, including Lebanon’s. Jordan has put forward proposals by which rebels would secure the road to Nasib, 100 km (60 miles) from the capital, while a civil administration from Damascus would run the crossing, according to Syrian opposition officials. Rebels would receive a portion of the customs fees as part of the deal. The proposals were discussed during a meeting between the Jordanian government and opposition-run local councils and rebels from southern Syria in Amman at the end of last month. “The situation of the crossing is delicate and sensitive and until now we have not responded (to Amman’s demands),” Ali Salkhadi, the governor of opposition-run Deraa province, told a meeting of local figures on Sunday, footage of which was posted on YouTube. Jordan told the opposition delegation that it was obliged to deal with a recognised state in order to open the crossing and to allow trucks to proceed to third countries, he said. It also threatened the opposition delegation it could open another land crossing into Syrian government-controlled Sweida province, east of Nasib, if rebels fail to reach a deal. “If they open Sweida crossing they would close the other humanitarian crossings … this is what they are saying,” Salkhadi said in the meeting. Syrian government officials could not be reached for comment. A Jordanian government official contacted by Reuters declined to comment. REBELS UNDER PRESSURE Though rebels stand to profit if the crossing were opened, they also risk losing local support if seen to make such a big concession to Damascus. They want long-standing demands, including a detainee release, addressed before talks on Nasib. “We will not watch with our hands tied, we won’t allow this and will work to stop all the efforts to hand over critical areas to the regime and to confiscate them from the rebels and impose a fait accompli on us,” said Abu Jasem al Hariri, a rebel commander in southern Syria. Jordan last month succeeded in pressuring two Western-backed rebel groups operating in southeastern Syria near the Jordanian border, an order that resulted in them abandoning their territory to advancing Syrian government forces. But while Amman has recently sought to mend fences with Damascus, a full restoration of ties seems a distant prospect as Jordan remains deeply concerned over expanding Iranian influence in Syria. The Syrian army and allied militia are steadily seizing more and more of the Jordanian frontier from insurgents. But while the government is gaining ground at the Jordanian border, key crossings to Turkey and Iraq remain outside its control. *REUTERS

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Fatal shooting casts long shadow over Israel-Jordan ties

[10/4/2017 4:00:22 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Zakariya al-Jawawdeh often visits the grave of his 16-year-old son Mohammed, watering plants and reciting a prayer. His trips to the cemetery, just a few steps from his home in Jordan’s capital of Amman, also stoke frustration that his son’s killer, an Israeli Embassy security guard, has not been held accountable. The furniture store owner’s grievances are entangled in one of the most toxic diplomatic crises since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, only Israel’s second with an Arab country. The relationship — typically low-key, but strategically important — has been “hit hard” on all levels by the July 23 shooting, next to the Israeli Embassy complex in Jordan in which the Israeli guard also killed his middle-aged Jordanian landlord, said a Jordanian official. Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which says the guard acted in self-defense after the teen attacked him with a screw driver, declined comment on potential damage to the relationship. Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel will share the eventual results of an ongoing investigation with Jordan, but would not describe the type of inquiry under way. Even during the current crisis, core elements of the relationship remain in place. Security cooperation continues against shared enemies, such as Islamic extremist groups, but at a reduced level, said the Jordanian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid a further escalation of tensions. A multi-million-dollar energy deal remains on track, with natural gas to start flowing from Israel to Jordan by early 2020, said Binyamin Zomer, the Israel country representative for the Noble Energy company. The level of bilateral trade, relatively low for years, has remained unchanged, according to the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel. But other endeavors have suffered. The third phase of a program to employ Jordanians in Israeli hotels — which would have raised the number of workers from 1,000 to 1,500 — is on hold, said Shabtai Shay, head of hotel association in Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat. A conference on water and energy cooperation, scheduled for October in Jordan with the participation of Cabinet ministers from both countries, has been put off, said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli co-director of EcoPeace Middle East, the organizer. A Jordanian delegation stayed away from Israel’s recent bi-annual conference on water technology, he said. A sustained breakdown in communications on sharing water and energy sources, a national security interest for both countries, could have “terrible implications,” said Bromberg, whose group promotes cooperation between Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis on water security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been assigned much of the blame for the diplomatic crisis, because of his handling of the shooting aftermath. The shooting came amid tensions over a Muslim-administered Jerusalem holy site that is revered by Muslims and Jews. In mid-July, Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen near the site, prompting Israel to install metal detectors there. The decision triggered Muslim protests, including by Jordan, the site’s Muslim custodian, which viewed it as Israeli encroachment. Ten days into the controversy, Mohammed al-Jawawdeh delivered bedroom furniture to a building owned by the Jordanian landlord of the Israeli guard. Jordanian security officials said at the time that an argument ensued and that the teen attacked the guard with a screw driver. The guard, who was lightly hurt, opened fire, killing the teen and severely wounding the landlord who stood nearby and later died of his injuries. The following day, after a phone call between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Jordan allowed the guard to leave under the cover of diplomatic immunity, while Israel removed the metal detectors in an apparent tradeoff. What came next infuriated the Jordanians. Two days after the fatal shooting, Netanyahu praised the guard in a hero’s welcome at the prime minister’s office. Netanyahu told the guard he had acted “calmly” and that he was “happy that things ended the way they did.” Jordan’s monarch promptly slammed Netanyahu for “provocative” behavior, accusing him of trying to score political points in Israel, where the prime minister was being criticized for his handling of the metal detector controversy. Since then, Jordan has told Israel that the Israeli ambassador — who had returned to Israel along with the guard and other embassy staff — would not be welcome back and that the relationship would continue to suffer unless Israel launched a proper legal inquiry into the shootings. It marks the first time since 1994 that Israel does not have a top diplomat present in Jordan, said Oded Eran, a former Israel ambassador to the kingdom. Eran said that “most of the damage could have been averted” if Netanyahu had refrained from his televised, back-slapping welcome of the guard. “The relations between Jordan and Israel were affected certainly on the highest level, that is to say between the prime minister of Israel and the king of Jordan,” said Eran, who served in Jordan during another tense period, in 1997, when Netanyahu authorized the ultimately failed attempt to assassinate a leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas in Jordan. The current crisis is a “serious hiccup,” he said, adding that shared interests over security, water and energy may prove stronger in the end. Wider diplomatic interests of both countries could be harmed by a continued standoff. Netanyahu’s troubles with Jordan will make it more difficult for him to promote the idea of a “regional peace,” based on purportedly improved ties, both open and hidden, with Arab states. In this model, closer cooperation with Arab neighbors would precede any deal with the Palestinians. Such a deal seems increasingly remote, despite declarations by the Trump administration that it is working on a new peace initiative. Netanyahu has further hardened positions, saying in recent weeks that Israel will not uproot Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians seek as a centerpiece of a future state. Jordan, meanwhile, prizes its role as Mideast mediator, which is currently being overshadowed by Egypt’s high-profile involvement in brokering a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian camps, with Israel’s tacit backing. Domestically, the relationship with Israel remains widely unpopular in Jordan, where a majority of the population is of Palestinian origin. Such sentiments were inflamed by the embassy shooting at a time of growing dissatisfaction among Jordanians over a worsening economy, said Hind al-Fayez, a former Jordanian parliament member. If Jordan’s leaders won’t abrogate the peace treaty, they must at least ensure justice for the two slain Jordanians, she said. Al-Jawawdeh, the bereaved father, dismissed the possibility that his son had carried out a politically motivated attack, describing him as an ordinary teen. The 44-year-old said he wants Israel to put the guard on trial, so that “Jordanians don’t feel weak and say they are losing their rights in their own country.” *AP

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Companies, Syrian Refugees Come Together at Jordan Job Fair

[10/4/2017 4:04:17 PM]

AMMONNEWS - More than 50 Jordanian and international companies have advertised hundreds of jobs in textiles, construction and agriculture at a job fair for Syrian refugees, part of an EU-sponsored effort to help the displaced become more self-reliant during what could be years of exile. Andrea Matteo Fontana, the senior EU representative in Jordan, said Wednesday that any product made with at least 15 percent Syrian labor will be given easier access to the European market. Fontana says this will hopefully result "in more jobs for Syrian refugees, for Jordanians and a bigger Jordanian economy that will benefit everyone." The fair was held at the Zaatari camp, Jordan's largest for Syrian refugees. Some 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since conflict there erupted in 2011, including 660,000 registered in Jordan. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. *AP

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Jordan: Parliament Passes Human Rights Reforms

[10/4/2017 6:59:26 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Jordan’s parliament has approved a series of important human rights reforms in 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. Positive changes include a new law that improves rights of people with disabilities, the full repeal of a controversial penal code article that allowed people who commit sexual assault to avoid punishment if they marry their victims, and new limits on pretrial detention and other criminal justice reforms. “After years of promising reforms Jordan is finally delivering real change on important issues,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should swiftly move to carry out these legislative changes that will improve the lives of Jordanians with disabilities, women, and criminal suspects.” Jordan’s 18th parliament, formed following lower house elections in September 2016, passed the reforms during its first ordinary session, between November and July, as well as the first extraordinary session from July to August. The Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law, which King Abdullah II set up in September 2016, recommended many of the reforms. The committee presented its 282-page report to the king on February 26. In March, Human Rights Watch urged Jordanian officials to carry out the program. Disability Rights In May 2017, authorities promulgated the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the official gazette. For the first time, the law explicitly prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, and largely complies with established disability rights definitions and principles in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Jordan ratified in 2008. The law is groundbreaking in that it is one of the first national disability laws to protect the right to legal capacity – the right to make decisions about one’s own life, in line with the international disability rights treaty. The law states that a person with a disability, or the legal guardian of a child with a disability, must freely consent to “every action, procedure, or legal measure to be taken regarding their rights or freedoms after being notified, in a way that he/she understands the content, results, and impacts thereof.” This provision on decision-making underscores the autonomy and inherent dignity of people with disabilities to be treated like anyone else. The law also includes a unique provision requiring the authorities to closely consult with people with disabilities and their representative organizations any time the legal capacity provisions are revised in the personal status law or any other law. Article 2 defines discrimination as “every constraint, exclusion, restriction, cancellation, or denial either direct or indirect due to disability of any rights or freedoms determined in this law or in any other law, and that constitutes discrimination on the basis of disability and refusal to provide reasonable accommodation contrary to the provisions of this law.” The law also expands the meaning of disability, defining it as a “long-term physical, sensory, mental, psychological or neurological impairment, which, as a result of interaction with other physical and behavioral barriers, may hinder performance by such person of one of the major life activities or hinder the exercise by such a person of any right or basic freedom independently.” Article 6 extends the law’s protections to people with temporary disabilities, defined as expected to recede within 24 months. In line with international standards, article 4 calls for “inclusion” of people with disabilities “into all areas of life.” The law enshrines into law the principle of “reasonable accommodation,” meaning that steps must be taken to “enable the person with a disability to practice a right and freedom, or to gain access to services on equal basis with others.” The law also provides an expansive definition of “violence” against people with disabilities, as “an action or a denial that will deprive a person with a disability of a certain right or freedom.” Those who violate this provision are subject to jail terms of one year or a fine of up to 1,000 Jordanian Dinars (US$1,411). Employers who refuse to employ a person with a disability solely because of the disability are subject to fines between 3,000-5,000 Jordanian Dinars (US$4,235-US$7,058). The law also provides for deinstitutionalizing people with disabilities. Article 27 says that the Social Development Ministry should create a comprehensive national plan for alternatives to governmental residential institutions and prohibits licensing new residential institution for people with disabilities. The law also contains some elements that are not in line with the treaty. It uses fixed definitions of “major life activities” in a way that could lead to restrictions for people with disabilities in areas that the law does not specifically mention. It also does not clearly guarantee the right to live independently and to be included in the community. Violence Against Women In August, both houses of parliament passed amendments to the country’s 1960 penal code. Among the most important was the full repeal of article 308, an infamous provision that allowed those responsible for sexual assault to avoid punishment if they married their victims. The full repeal was adopted over another provision that would have maintained impunity for those responsible for certain sexual offenses, including those who have sex with children ages 15 to 17. The debate was part of a regional move toward canceling provisions that allow impunity for sexual assault. Since July, Tunisia and Lebanon have also repealed similar penal code provisions. Lawmakers also amended article 98 to disallow mitigated sentences for those who commit crimes against women. The provision leaves a loophole, however, under article 340, allowing mitigated sentences for those who murder their spouses discovered committing adultery. According to press reports, about 20 women are killed in Jordan each year by male family members in so-called “family honor” crimes. Criminal Justice Reforms In mid-2017, both houses of parliament adopted royal committee proposals to overhaul the criminal procedure law, to guarantee all suspects the right to a lawyer from the time of arrest and during interrogations and to create a legal aid fund to provide lawyers for suspects who cannot afford them. A 2012 closed criminal case study by the Justice Center for Legal Aid, a local organization that offers free legal services, found that 83 percent of defendants were not represented by a lawyer during the investigation and pretrial stages, and 68 percent were not represented in court. Other changes include measures to limit the use of pretrial detention. The law now makes pretrial detention an “exceptional measure,” allowed only under certain circumstances, including when it “is the only means of preserving evidence or material signs of a crime” or “to prevent coercion of witnesses or victims, or to prevent the suspect from contacting his partners or associates in a crime...” The changes limit pretrial detention for minor offenses to a maximum of three months, removing courts’ authority to extend these detentions, and limiting extensions for serious offenses to a maximum of one year or 18 months, depending on the alleged crime. The changes also provide for alternatives to pretrial detention for the first time, including electronic monitoring, travel bans, house arrest, or other restrictions on movement. The National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) 2016 annual report says that 28,437 people were held in pretrial detention in Jordan in 2015, almost double the 15,765 serving sentences. The amendments do not appear, however, to apply to detention by Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the country’s most powerful intelligence agency. It also does not prevent local governors from ordering arbitrary administrative detention of up to a year under the Crime Prevention Law of 1954, which circumvents Jordan’s Criminal Procedure Law. The NCHR 2016 annual report said that 19,860 people were administratively detained in 2015, some for longer than a year. “The recommendations to improve Jordan’s justice sector could be a major step forward for human rights in Jordan, but authorities should move to annul other practices and legal provisions that allow for arbitrary detention,” Whitson said.

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