SIGI pledges to continue fight against death penalty

[27-04-2021 12:15 PM]

Ammon News - A local women’s organisation working on the fair trials for women on death row in Jordan has pledged to continue calling for the gradual abolishment of the death penalty in Jordan.

The pledge was made during a virtual event on Monday marking the conclusion of a three-year project that was implemented by the Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) titled "Rule of Law and Fair Trials from a Gender Perspective Project".

The project was supported by the European Union.

“The project revealed that many women who are on death row do not get the proper legal counselling because their families refrain from appointing a good lawyer to defend them,” SIGI’s Executive President Asma Khader said.

These findings were the result of constant visits to the women’s correctional and rehabilitation centres during the past three years to learn more about the women’s cases and how to help them, Khader told the gathering.

“It was clear to us that there is a connection between the cultural beliefs and traditions and the lack of family’s support for women who are incarcerated regardless of their crime,” Khader noted.

On the other hand, Khader maintained, families are willing to appoint the best lawyers for male convicts and visit them constantly while they are in prison.

“We believe that continuing the work to minimise the application of the death penalty until it is gradually abolished to ensure justice for individuals who are sentenced to death,” Khader stressed.

She noted that new evidence reported worldwide shows cases in which people who were sentenced to death or executed were later proven innocent.

“The current life sentence in prison is around 20 to 25 years. It would be best to cancel the death penalty and replace it with life sentence,” Khader said.

Also speaking during the event, EU Ambassador to Jordan Maria Hadjitheodosiou stressed the importance of protecting human lives and ending the death penalty in Jordan and globally.

“The EU believes that every human life matters … the state should never dispose of the life of a human being,” Hadjitheodosiou stressed during the event.

The EU continues voicing its strong opposition to the death penalty as a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, violating the right to life, while not deterring crime more effectively than imprisonment, the EU ambassador told the gathering.

“We believe that crime should be met with justice, not vengeance,” Hadjitheodosiou added.

There are 20 women awaiting execution in Jordan, according to legal adviser at SIGI lawyer Radeah Amairah.

“Eight of the nine married women who were sentenced to death got married under the age of 18, which is an indicator that their early marriage might have contributed to the reason they committed their murders,” Amairah said.

Meanwhile, 14 of the 20 women who were sentenced to death do not have a university degree because they got married at an early age, she said.

In addition, 15 of the 20 women who were sentenced to death were unemployed, Amairah added.

“All of the women who were sentenced to death informed us that they suffered from some form of violence either by their family members or individuals in their surrounding community,” according to Amairah.

Part of the project was forming a coalition named "Life" that strives to build a peaceful and secure society by conducting several activities from a gender perspective, to raise awareness about this important topic and work gradually to decrease the offences that are punishable by death, according to the group.

SIGI Programmes and Activities Director Inam Asha pointed out during the event that “most of the sentenced women have no idea of their legal rights and are not properly guided through court proceedings, which results in them being sentenced to death”.

Asha, who visited dozens of women in prison, stressed the need to continue to raise their awareness about their rights and to provide them with the necessary legal aid while they are incarcerated.

The last time a woman was executed in Jordan was in February 2015, when convict Sajida Rishawi, an Iraqi national, was executed.

Rishawi, 44, was convicted by the State Security Court in September 2006 of plotting terror attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which left 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

The first woman to receive the death sentence in a terror-related trial in Jordan, Rishawi was convicted of possessing explosives with illicit intent and plotting subversive acts that led to the death of individuals.

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