Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
24 November 2017
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined eighteenth to twentieth periodic report of Jordan on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Saja Majali, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the 2016 parliamentary elections had been conducted under the new electoral law which included a system of quotas for ethnic and religious minorities, and for women. Jordan had the largest refugee population per capita in the world: 29 per cent of the population were refugees, and Jordan had received one in five of all Syrians fleeing the war. The refugees had been welcomed with an open heart, but such a large number of people was taking its toll: the direct cost amounted to five per cent of the gross domestic product or two billion dollars annually. The question of Palestinian refugees was a priority, and Jordan continued to provide them with support and services for a decent life in dignity. In 2014, a decision had been adopted to regulate the rights – including to nationality – of children of Jordanian women married to foreigners. Ms. Majali stressed that everyone living in Jordan was protected from discrimination and had the right to address complaints of racial discrimination to courts. Acts of violence or provocation against a person or any group of persons were a crime, and propaganda based on racial discrimination, including in the media, as well as the incitement to terrorism, racial or religious hatred or violence was prohibited by the law.
Committee Experts recognized that the conflicts in the region and related population movements placed an undue burden on such a small country like Jordan and hoped that the international community would provide adequate support. They welcomed the measures taken to improve the situation of children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanian men but remarked that they fell short of the Committee’s previous recommendation to grant those children full nationality. Further on nationality, Experts asked about the situation of Jews and Bedouins, birth registration of children of stateless persons or those without identity documents, the definition of “Arab” in the nationality law, and why the rules governing the acquiring nationality through marriage discriminated against non-Arab women. The delegation was asked about the border closure for Palestinian refugees wishing to enter Jordan from Syria, the withdrawal of identity cards and nationality from Palestinian refugees under the pretext of maintaining Palestinian identity, and the application of the principle of non-refoulement in the return of Syrian and other refugees. Experts also asked about the effectiveness of the legal protection from racial discrimination for ethnic and ethno-religious minorities; measures to identify, protect and support victims of trafficking in human beings; and the system in place to ensure the protection of domestic workers who were still being largely employed through the kafala or sponsorship system.
In concluding remarks, Alexei Avtonomov, Committee Rapporteur for Jordan, said that the concluding observations would recognize the positive aspects, and would also stress that the rights under the Convention should be extended to all the people living in the country, regardless of their nationality and citizenship.
Ms. Majali said the rights of non-citizens were respected in Jordan and any limitation of their rights was within the limits of international instruments, adding that in Jordan, diversity was a strength and its unity was the future.
The delegation of Jordan included representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ministry of Labour, and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will reconvene in public on Monday, 27 November, at 10 a.m. to hold an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations on the reports of Australia, Slovakia and Belarus, which will be reviewed during the week.
The Committee has before it the combined eighteenth to twentieth periodic report of Jordan (CERD/C/JOR/18-20).
Presentation of the Report
SAJA MAJALI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that despite the wars, conflicts and other unfolding challenges in the Middle East, Jordan was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. The parliamentary elections in September 2016 had been conducted under the new electoral law which guaranteed fair representation of political and social forces in the parliament through a system of quotas for ethnic and religious minorities and women. A package of legislative amendments had been adopted to strengthen the political life and ensure the participation of political parties from all walks of life. The sixth discussion paper on the rule of law as a basis of civil state had been issued in 2016 and had culminated in the setting up of a Royal Commission to promote the judicial system. A unit for human rights had been set up in the Office of the Prime Minister to monitor the implementation of legislation and propose necessary amendments, while the National Human Rights Plan 2016-2025 aimed to strengthen the protection of vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Jordan had the largest refugee population per capita in the world, with 29 per cent of the population being refugees. Since the beginning of the war in Syria, Jordan had received over 1.3 million Syrian refugees, or one in five people who had fled this country; of those, only 10 per cent resided in refugee camps and the rest were in communities. The refugees had been welcomed with an open heart, but the arrival of such a large number of people was taking its toll in a number of areas, including employment and access to services. The education system had seen a surge in the number of Syrian pupils who now represented 12 per cent of the student population and, despite efforts to increase the capacity, 47 per cent of the schools remained overcrowded. The direct cost of this refugee crisis amounted to two billion dollars per year, or five per cent of the gross domestic product, said Ms. Majali, and urged the international community to honour the commitments and pledges to provide resources and support for the refugees. Although it had already surpassed its absorption capacity, Jordan was committed to continue to fulfil its humanitarian obligations and commitments. Free of charge health care was being provided to women victims of gender-based violence, including refugee women. A shelter for victims of violence in the northern part of the country had been opened last year, and all refugees enjoyed access to justice.
The question of Palestinian refugees was a priority for Jordan, said Ms. Majali, stressing the need to a just and lasting solution to the issue of Palestine in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Jordan continued to provide support and services to the Palestinian people in Jordan to enable them to live decently and in dignity. The budget for Palestinian refugees in Jordan was 10 times that of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The Palestinian refugees in Syria were the responsibility of that State and the international community, stressed Ms. Majali, noting their right to return to their homeland in line with international law. Jordan had adopted in 2014 a decision on the rights of children of Jordanian women married to foreigners, ensuring their free access to health and education, access to profession of their choice and a position in the public administration. Over 70,000 identity documents had been issued to such children, and they had access to 150 university seats. They had access to the citizenship in accordance with the law. All individuals living in Jordan were protected from discrimination and had the right to address complaints of racial discrimination to courts. Acts of violence or provocation against a person or any group of persons were a crime; propaganda based on racial discrimination, including in the media, as well as the incitement to terrorism, racial or religious hatred or violence were prohibited in the law.
Questions from the Country Rapporteur
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for Jordan, noted that Jordan’s core document dated back to 1994 and needed to be updated with fresh information. Jordan had taken a number of positive steps since its last review, including the adoption of the National Human Rights Plan 2016-2025 and the appointment of the Coordinator for Human Rights in 2014 – what was the role and the mandate of this position in relation to racial discrimination?
Jordan was a party to a number of international and regional human rights instruments, including the Cairo Declaration of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arabic Charter of Human Rights – could the delegation describe the cooperation of Jordan with the Independent Commission for Human Rights of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation? Were statistics and disaggregated data available on discrimination cases, including in the field of education in connection with the Chechens and Circassians?
The majority of the population were Muslims, while two-thirds of Christians were Orthodox Christians; there were also Greeks and Catholics, and some ethno-religious groups such as Armenians or Yazidis. Was there legislation in place which allowed persons without a religion, or persons belonging to non-monotheistic religions such as Hinduism, to keep their personal status, which in Jordan was linked to a religion?
Turning to the situation of Palestinian refugees, the Rapporteur noted that there were 158,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and 600,000 from the West Bank, and raised the issue of inadequate conditions in camps, and the lack of travel documents.
What were the measures in place to identify and protect victims of human trafficking, how many prosecutions had been undertaken and what sentences had been awarded? Raising concern about the vulnerability of refugee children to trafficking in persons, the Rapporteur asked about the sentences prescribed for trafficking a child for purposes of sexual and labour exploitation?
Questions from the Committee Experts
An Expert asked about the laws and measures that protected the rights of domestic workers and also protected them from abusive practices, and the steps to safeguard their fundamental rights. Was there an office which registered domestic workers and regularly monitored their working conditions?
With regard to the situation of refugees, could the delegation provide information on the closure of borders and the application of the principle of non-refoulement, and whether there were any obstacles to arrival to Jordan of Palestinian refugees from Syria?
What training programmes were in place for civil servants, law enforcement officers, judiciary and other State institutions to combat racial discrimination? How effective was the legal protection from racial discrimination for ethnic and ethno-religious minorities?
GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, recalled that Jordan had not submitted its follow-up report on the three issues that the Committee had identified during the previous review, which included the availability of ethnically disaggregated data, the amendment of the nationality law to allow Jordanian women married to non-Jordanian men to transmit the nationality to their children, and the signing of the declaration on article 14 of the Convention.
Another Expert took up the issue of nationality and remarked that it was still accorded to now-Jewish Palestinian refugees who resided in Jordan during the 1949 to 1954 period. How many Jews lived in Jordan at the moment and what was the situation concerning the Bedouins? Any Arab having their main residence in Jordan for at least 15 years and who had renounced the nationality at birth qualified for Jordanian nationality – what was the definition of “Arab” in this context? Nationality through marriage was a stumbling block: a woman could acquire nationality through marriage in three years if she was an Arab and in five years if she was a non-Arab. What was the process in place to enable children of all Jordanian mothers to acquire the nationality more easily?
A Committee Expert remarked that the situation of Jordan had never been easy as it found itself in a region in which conflicts and movements of populations placed an undue burden on such a small country, and hoped that the international community would provide Jordan with adequate support. Turning to the legislative and institutional framework, the Expert stressed the need to ensure the domestication of the provisions of international treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in order to ensure their applicability in practice. Jordan was very progressive in the matter of rights of women, therefore it was surprising that the children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanian men could not transmit their nationality to their children.
Could the delegation explain the birth registration of children of stateless persons, children of refugees and children of refugees not registered as such?
Other Experts noted that the recent constitutional amendment had ensured the separation of powers in the State and asked whether this had not been the case prior to the amendment.
There were instances in which identity cards and nationality were being withdrawn from Palestinian refugees under the justification of the need to maintain the Palestinian identity – could the delegation explain?
What role did the Constitutional Court play in the protection of human rights and in particular protection from racial discrimination? How many complaints of racial discrimination in one form or another had been lodged in courts and what were their outcomes?
What was the legal and ethical value of the Jordanian National Charter which declared equal rights for women and men, particularly in the context of the Constitutional provision which granted equality before the law on the grounds of ethnicity, language or religion but not on the grounds of sex?
In the context of the law on nationality, were the Palestinians considered to be “foreigners”?
International conventions had supremacy and precedence over all the laws in Jordan except the Constitution, which opened a question on how the conflicts or contradictions between articles of the Constitution and international treaties were resolved? Was there a possibility to invoke articles of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Jordanian courts?
Domestic work was regulated by the kafala or the sponsorship system – what protection was provided to domestic workers by the Labour Code or other instruments, and how could domestic workers enjoy their basic work rights such as to paid leave?
There were reports of Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria being stopped at the border - what was the justification for excluding this group from international protection which Jordan granted to all other refugees?
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for Jordan, raised a question on the situation of the Dom people, or the Jordanian Roma.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation took the floor to answer the questions asked by the Committee Experts, and stressed that Jordan was proud of the progress it had made in the field of human rights, despite the challenges in the region. Jordan had adopted the National Human Rights Plan of Action and 30 per cent of the items it contained had already been implemented, for example, it had amended article 308 of the Criminal Code and had developed the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure.
With regard to the Coordinator for Human Rights, it was an initiative that had been recently launched, and it was proof of the level of commitment to human rights by the executive branch. The mandate included the coordination of efforts by governmental institutions and dealing with non-governmental organizations active in the area of human rights. Since the establishment of this post, a working group had been set up made up of 120 liaison officers from all public institutions; the group monitored the activities and progress in the field of human rights and produced quarterly reports with their recommendations. The Coordinator for Human Rights and the liaison officers were in charge of preparing measures for the implementation by the National Human Rights Centre.
As for the possible discrepancies between the Constitution and international conventions, the delegation reiterated the supremacy of the Constitution in the domestic legislation. Jordan had not identified any explicit or tacit contradictions between the Constitution and the international conventions that it was a party to.
The Ministry of Labour had issued guidelines on the employment of domestic workers, and it monitored recruitment offices and agencies which could be closed down for failure to follow the guidelines; to date, nine offices had had their licences suspended and had been closed down. A shelter was in place where domestic workers could go to if they experienced problems at work, and efforts were ongoing to reduce the number of working hours from 10 to eight. An office was in place where domestic workers could submit complaints against abuse or violation of rights by the employer; the office had the capacity to receive complaints in six languages.
A department had been established within the Ministry of Interior to address trafficking in human beings. In 2016, there had been 324 complaints which had been referred to the public prosecutor, and a total of 27 cases had been opened. There were regular training and information activities for the border guards, while the Federation of Jordanian Women was active in providing services and support to victims of trafficking and it had supported 375 victims by 2017.
Child labour could be undertaken in specific areas and in specific professions. Jordan was free from all domestic work for children, although there were cases of labour by Syrian children. To date 76,000 such cases had been identified through inspections of establishments that employed children. Awareness raising campaigns had been conducted and no child could be employed without prior consent by the inspection.
Jordan was finalizing a package of laws and the national strategy to combat trafficking in human beings, and was also developing a data collection system on the phenomenon. A unit had been set up at the Directorate for General Security to address this crime. The strategy was based on three pillars: prevention, protection and partnerships. In terms of prevention, there were training and awareness activities for the professionals and the general public; in the area of protection of victims, a booklet had been produced with a list of available services such as free legal aid; a hot line to receive complaints of crimes, including the crime of trafficking in persons, had been set up; and a shelter for victims had been opened. In terms of partnerships, Jordan was actively working with its neighbours and the international community on strengthening the capacity and raising awareness about the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings.
Jordan had been hosting Palestinian refugees since 1949 and according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, there were 2.2 million Palestinian refugees in 2017. More than 440,000 lived in 13 camps across the country, and over 90 per cent were holders of a Jordanian national identification number which enabled them to access all services on a par with Jordanian citizens. Essential services to Palestinian refugees inside and outside of the camps were supposed to be provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, but given its limited resources, it only provided services to about three per cent, and the shortfall was being made up by the Jordanian State. The management of the Palestinian refugee camps was the responsibility of the Office of Palestinian Affairs in cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Refugees who were holders of a Jordanian national identification number were Jordanian citizens, and those without such a number were issued with a temporary passport to facilitate their freedom of movement. Jordan imposed no obstacles on issuing of such passports, particularly to Palestinians who lived in the West Bank and were Jordanian citizens.
Further concerning the situation of refugees, Jordan was not responsible for respecting the Convention rights of refugees not on its territory or under its jurisdiction, namely Palestinian refugees in Syria. This group was the responsibility of the Syrian Government. Israel, as the occupying power, was under the obligation to allow any person wishing to return to Palestine to return.
Jordan fully respected the principle of non-refoulement, including in return of Syrian refugees; Jordan always undertook return on an individual basis and following an assessment of the situation in the returning areas in accordance with the law. Asylum seekers in Jordan and under Jordanian jurisdiction were treated in accordance with national and international law and were provided with the necessary protection.
With regard to the Rukban refugee camp, Jordan had already exceeded its absorption capacity for refugees but it would continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support with the clear need to ensure its national security and interests. Jordan would not accept any attempt to make the Rukban camp a Jordanian responsibility; the camp was in Syria and was therefore under the responsibility of the Syrian Government.
The Syrian refugee crisis continued to have a profound impact on the state of the public education system in Jordan, with 170,000 Syrian children enrolled in school in 2016/17. Thousands of Syrian children still remained outside the school system, and Jordan was actively taking measures to increase the capacity of the education system; through the introduction of a double-shift system in 2016, an additional 24,000 Syrian refugee children were able to attend school.
The Constitution guaranteed the protection of family, women and children, and there were laws which protected domestic workers. Syrian refugees who were victims of gender-based violence could access services on an equal footing with Jordanian women. There was a family protection unit in each camp and investigations of violence against women were conducted and perpetrators were being brought to justice.
Questions from the Experts
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for Jordan, explained that the concern of the Committee for the situation of domestic workers was due to their vulnerability to racial discrimination in general. What was Jordan’s intention concerning the ratification of the amendment to article 8 of the Convention on the financing of the work of the Committee? How was Jordan participating in the International Decade of People of African Descent?
Another Expert asked the delegation about the system in place to bring perpetrators of abuse of domestic workers to justice, whether migrant workers could join a trade union, and the number of complaints of racial discrimination lodged with the authorities. What was the legal implication of the Jordanian National Charter and its relationship with the Constitution?
An Expert noted that social media was being used for hate speech and asked about the measures that Jordan had adopted to deal with this issue.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that workers above the age of 50 had the right to form a trade union. A tripartite commission was in place and it identified professions in which trade unions could be established. Migrant workers could form a union with the prior approval of the Ministry of Labour.
Domestic workers could file complaints to the Ministry of Labour or through a hotline which operated in six languages. There was a standard employment contract agreed between the domestic worker and the employer, which defined salary, leave and other points, thus the domestic worker knew in advance the conditions of employment. According to the law, a worker was anyone who carried a professional activity in exchange for a salary, thus domestic workers came under this category.
Everyone in Jordan had the right to freedom of association and to carry out their cultural activities, which were supported by the State. As for the political activities of ethnic and religious minorities, Jordan had in place a quota system to guarantee their political representation, and their members had a full right to stand for elections. Ethnic and religious minorities enjoyed their cultural rights fully, had the right to citizenship and could compete for any position in the public sector – many actually held high-ranking positions in the Government. All the components of the Jordanian society were equal under the Constitution. The Chechens, Circassians and Armenians had the right to establish schools in their own languages.
All children born to refugees were registered at birth and had the same rights as Jordanian children, including access to education and health services. Jordan had opened civil status offices inside refugee camps which provided legal information and services to the refugee population, including registration of birth.
On the separation of power, the delegation said that it was flexible and there had to be coordination between the executive, legislative and judicial powers. This relationship was governed by the Constitution, which had also clearly set out the position of the King in this regard; the King and the Constitution guaranteed the separation of power. The Constitutional Court had been set up and it had the jurisdiction to examine all complaints against the laws passed in the country and ensure their constitutionality.
The Constitution had made it sure that people had free access to social media networks; hate speech and incitement to violence or to racial discrimination were prohibited by the law enacted five years ago, which criminalized all manifestations of hatred or sectarianism, including in the social media and networks.
The Law on Citizenship conformed to international law and it gave Jordan the right to confer citizenship to anyone it chose; in this, there was no discrimination on ethnic, racial, religious or any other grounds. The 2014 Cabinet decision amended the law to address the question of children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians, which had seen the setting up of an inter-ministerial commission to address the complaints of Jordanian women whose children did not have access to a national identity card. Jordan had adopted a humanitarian position on the citizenship of a child born to a Jordanian mother of an unknown father.
In 2011, the Cabinet had requested that a stop be put on the withdrawal of identity cards from Palestinians. It was important to note that those people had been given nationality for five years; they were not Jordanians and there was no political relationship between this group and the State. The delegate said that the decision on withdrawing identity cards or nationality was not arbitrary, and it had been in line with the Disengagement Decision of 1988 which aimed to preserve the identity of the Palestinians, until a final solution for the Palestinian question was found.
Further Questions and Answers
In the final round of questions, an Expert noted that football was one way to overcome differences, particularly racial differences which were very visible, but there was concern about instances of violence and racism in football – what measures had been adopted to deal with this phenomenon? What was the proportion of minorities among the prison population?
Every time the discussion addressed the issue of nationality, Jordan answered by pointing to the right to a driving licence, for example in connection with children born to Jordanian women married to foreigners. For the majority of countries, a driving licence was a measure of the aptitude and driving skills, but in Jordan they were seen as a right; was this document then not being used as a substitute for an identity card, or maybe it went even further than that?
Responding, the delegation said on access to work for refugees that following the London Conference, Jordan had established a system to facilitate the entry into the labour market of Syrian refugees. To date 74,000 work permits had been issued to Syrian refugees, including over 20,000 to women, and 25 associations had been established to issue work permits in the agricultural field.
A driving licence could be used as a form of an identity document; it could be issued only if the requirements, including the security clearance, were met. Following the 2014 Cabinet decision, the right to a driving licence had been accorded to children born to Jordanian women married to foreigners, which had not been the case before.
Data on minorities among the prison population was not available.
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for Jordan, said that the concluding observations would recognize the positive aspects in Jordan, particularly in the legislative and institutional domain. They would also stress that the rights under the Convention should be extended to all the people living in the country, regardless of their nationality and citizenship, in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendations.
SAJA MAJALI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Jordan was heartened by the praise for its efforts in the area of racial discrimination and refugees, and reiterated that it was respectful of the duty of the Committee to keep pressing on some issues. The rights of non-citizens were respected in Jordan and any limitation of their rights was within the limits of international instruments, reassured Ms. Majali and stressed that in Jordan, diversity was a strength and its unity was the future.
ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished Jordan well in its path towards tolerance, peace and freedom.
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