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Death Penalty Information

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Except from AI report on Jordan relating to the use of confessions extracted under torture
The report, "Your confessions are ready for you to sign" Detention and Torture of Political Suspects can be found at

4.3 The SSC and the death penalty
Eleven(27) people were executed in Jordan during 2005 and three further executions were carried out in the first five months of 2006. Some of those executed were convicted by ordinary courts, but at least four people convicted by the SSC have been executed since 2002, including two men who were executed in 2006 (see below). In 2006, up to the end of June, Jordanian courts imposed 25 death sentences, of which 22 were imposed by the SSC against defendants convicted of politically-motivated offences. At least seven of the 25 sentences have been commuted.
Amnesty International opposes and campaigns against the death penalty in all cases and wherever it is used, considering it a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. In doing so, the organization in no way condones violent crime or questions the responsibility of governments to ensure that those who commit such crimes are brought to justice, though in carrying out this responsibility governments must abide by relevant international law and standards including the prohibition of torture.
With regard to the SSC, Amnesty International is greatly concerned that the court has imposed the death penalty on individuals it has convicted on the basis of "confessions" which they refuted in court and alleged had been extracted from them under torture or other duress while they were held incommunicado in pre-trial detention. This is all the more disturbing when it is considered that scores of defendants who were previously held in similar conditions of pre-trial detention, where they did not have or could not have had contact with one another, have made similar allegations to the court. The SSC has failed adequately to investigate the allegations even in the face of such a pattern.
The problems inherent in the death penalty are compounded where defendants may be subjected to torture and furthermore may be denied the right to a fair trial. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in her report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2002, "[d]efendants facing the imposition of capital punishment must fully benefit from the right to adequate legal counsel at every stage of the proceedings, and should be presumed innocent until their guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. These safeguards must be implemented in all cases without exception or discrimination." (28)
5. CASESa) Six university studentsOn 9 April 2005, six university students of Palestinian origin were arrested by police officers when the supervisor of their hall of residence objected to one of the students, Firas al-Sheikh, from Nablus in the occupied West Bank, putting on his dormitory wall a picture of a Palestinian killed in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Two of the students, whose names are being withheld to protect their security, provided Amnesty International with the following account of what then occurred:
"We were arrested on arrival in the supervisor’s office by some police officers who were already waiting for us. They threatened that they would charge us with ‘participation in political activities against the state’ and then took us to the Public Security (Amn al-‘Am) centre in Wadi Sir, Amman. We were interrogated one-by-one about whether we had links to any political parties or ‘unauthorised organisations’, to which we all replied ‘no’. They said they would charge Firas with ‘membership of an unauthorised organisation’. None of us was beaten. Then they put us all in a cell with about 30 people. The cell wasn’t big enough to hold 10 and we could barely sit down. One of us got a tiny space next to the one squat toilet in the room, and spent the next eight hours there.
"Then we were all taken to the GID, where we spent the next 12 hours. They insulted us, beat us and kicked us all over our bodies, and put us under psychological pressure. Again we were interrogated, one at a time. Then they took us - handcuffed and blindfolded - back to Public Security, each one of us with an armed officer sitting directly behind.
"Shortly after, we were taken to the Governorate of the Capital [Muhafedha al-‘Asima] and transferred to Jweideh prison as administrative detainees.(29) Immediately on arrival we were forced to strip to our underwear, had our fingerprints taken and were then badly beaten by the guards. We were beaten for longer than other new detainees. We were hit with a wire cable, and then, for about three hours, subjected to further beatings and other physical punishment in the prison courtyard. For example, we had to stand a long time on one leg with both our hands in the air, and then had to stand on the other leg. Then we’d be forced to lie on the floor, or to crawl. All this time just wearing our underwear. Finally, at about 11pm, we were put into a shared cell, and some of the other prisoners gave us some clothes. At 2am the guards woke us up and made us do hard labour. We had to clean the prison kitchen, then the prison bakery and elsewhere, through until 6pm. For 18 hours, having barely slept. We were woken up two or three times each night by a military guard for a roll-call outside. We were kept with real criminals, not even political criminals, and suffered humiliations daily. We spent three nights, four days in Jweideh, and were released without charge. But we had to sign a guarantee of 10,000JD each [about $14,200] which we’ll have to pay if we get into trouble again. It’s worse for Firas, who was kicked out of the country and had his passport stamped with ‘forbidden from returning to Jordan’. This happened in his last semester at university. He won’t be able to study or work anywhere else outside the West Bank, because he would have to pass through Jordan."
The views expressed in these pages are those of individual AI campaigners or researchers, and do not necessarily reflect official AI policy.