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Jordan: intended release of 116 detainees is 'too little, too late'

‘Unless this means there are wider human rights reforms planned then it really is too little, too late’ - Ann Harrison

Amnesty International has written to the Jordanian authorities urging them to drop all charges against individuals held solely for peacefully protesting since mid-November, and to ensure that all 116 people due to be released following a royal decree announced yesterday will be released without further delay.

Amnesty is concerned that most if not all of these were held as prisoners of conscience for days or weeks solely for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression.

Thirteen other detainees are reportedly excluded from the releases ordered by the royal decree and appear to be held because they are wanted in connection with former alleged offences. Amnesty is calling for them to be protected from torture or other ill-treatment while in detention, and to be tried promptly and fairly in accordance with international fair trial standards. Amnesty stressed that they should not be held as a punitive measure to penalise legitimate protests.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“This stifling of political dissent is entirely unacceptable and though we’re pleased 116 people are to be set free, unless this means there are wider human rights reforms planned then it really is too little, too late.

“There’s a danger King Abdullah’s announcement will be seen as nothing more than a PR exercise because the reality is that dozens of people in 2012 have been detained solely for peacefully calling for economic and political reforms.

“At the same time we urge the government to take all steps to ensure that following this announcement the 116 are released without delay particularly those like ‘Adnan al-Howeish who are in urgent need of specialised medical care.

“There are 13 individuals who are not being released under this royal decree. We’re seeking assurances that they are not being held to punish them for legitimate protest, not being subjected to ill treatment and given a fair hearing according to international standards.

“The Jordanian authorities also must stop prosecuting people before the State Security Court which is presided over by judges a majority of whom are from the armed forces, and where proceedings fall short of international standards for fair trials.”

Amnesty also called for prompt, thorough and independent investigations into claims that those held had been subject to beatings, denied adequate medical treatment and refused access to lawyers and family members.

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