For the past few months, I have been lucky enough to be the intern for the Accountability Unit at ARDD. As an intern, I established a better understanding of the Jordanian legal system, legal code and the work that citizens, government officials and NGOs do to provide access to justice and basic human rights to individuals throughout Jordan. A large part of the Accountability Unit’s work consists of conducting research in local communities, determining areas for improvement and connecting local citizens to powerful stakeholders. All of this is apart of the essential process of social accountability.
According to ARDD, “the culture of accountability is an essential component of granting access to justice for all citizens.” I have come to firmly believe in not only the cause of social accountability but the importance of strategic dissemination of public and legal knowledge. There are two essential steps to community development, each as important as the other. First, policies must be created that uphold the basic human rights of citizens (access to legal aid, proper education, gender equality, etc.). Second, there must be universal awareness among citizens of the rights they are endowed. NGOs like ARDD play an important role in this process as they can establish and uphold direct lines of communication between citizens and policy-changers. I have seen the success of this system first-hand at ARDD.
Though my time with the Accountability Unit was brief, as I move onto other work in the NGO field, I will carry with me the knowledge I gained on how to navigate the Jordanian legal system, the importance of establishing concrete ways to monitor and evaluate projects and the essential role of accountability not only between the government and its citizens but also within NGOs themselves to ensure that promised services are legitimately provided and prioritize the wellbeing and safety of all recipients.
Article 308 - Legislative change alone does not translate into change in community traditions
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The Jordanian organization Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) highly welcomes the long awaited move by the Cabinet on Sunday to remove Article 308 of the Penal Code. In its current form, Article 308 of the Penal Code states that rapists are spared from punishment or legal prosecution if they marry their victims and stay with them for five years. The removal of Article 308 from cases of rape means that such crimes can undergo proper investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, which is a great step forward.
However, ARDD believes that legislative change alone does not translate into change in community traditions and customs, especially those which are deeply rooted. Unless legislation is accompanied by coordinated sensitization campaigns that focus on addressing the root causes of (sexual) violence against women, the community will continue to seek collective justice to restore the “honor” and “public ethics,” and disregard the rights of survivors. To this end, the Jordanian legislative perspective has to acknowledge the individual survivor as the primary subject whom holds the right to justice, safety and support. Jordan is obligated to adopt this perspective in order to live up to International Standards regarding survivors’ rights.
Furthermore, it is crucial that Jordanian legislation aligns its definition of rape to the internationally recognized definition of rape as « sexual intercourse without consent with coercion irrespective of marital status, and recognized as a severe violation of the individual survivor’s bodily integrity and sexual autonomy » (World Health Organization). In the case of Jordan this would also entail recognizing that consensual sexual intercourse out of marriage and adultery do not amount to rape, and that marital status, public ethics, honor, adultery, seduction or deception are irrelevant categories/circumstances when defining rape.
ARDD highly encourages the Jordanian Penal Code to go further than just scraping Article 308 and ensure protection and support for survivors of sexual violence. Therefore, ARDD pleads for the initiation of institutionalized gender-sensitive training programmes and capacity-building programmes on violence against women and on the new legislation for police and judicial officials. Secondly, a specialized prosecutor’s unit and specialized police unit on violence against women should be established. Survivors must have the option of communicating with female police officers or prosecutors.
Although a long advocate against Article 308, ARDD believes that its removal specifically creates issues for survivors of rape who bear a child. By Law, a child born out of wedlock cannot be registered, is not recognized by the state, and the government can forcibly remove the child from the mother. This may create a situation where women who have been raped, or had a child out of wedlock, will marry the man simply to ensure that their child can be registered, gain nationality and other associated rights, to avoid that her child becomes ‘illegitimate.’
To amend this discrimination and to ensure that in practice mothers are not forced to marry their rapists to give their children rights, the Jordanian government must remove provisions contained in the Personal Status Law and the Laws to ensure women, regardless of marital status, have equal rights as men that can be passed on to their children. The government should also make sure that no provisions in the Jordanian Constitution or the Personal Status Law shall discourage a survivor, irrespective of marital status, to report a crime of rape.
ARDD Legal Aid sees the necessity to demand legal and legislative alternatives that handle problems related to sexual abuse and to ensure survivors of sexual abuse can access their human rights. For more information on ARDD’s position regarding article 308, click here:
His Excellency Mr. Jabra Khoury: How to rethink the term 'Renaissance'
Sunday, April 16, 2017
His Excellency Mr. Jabra Khoury wrote an article (in Arabic) on the Western morphology of the word "Renaissance", which translates into "birth again". In his article he invites readers to rethink the way societies can come up with a ‘new birth’ on many cultural, educational, economic, living, intellectual and social issues. Find the article here.
An unsung hero, silently lost in Za’atari Refugee Camp
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Amid the refugee crises sweeping through the region, and specially the Syrian refugees flow Jordan has witnessed on the onset of the armed conflict in Syria. Jordan and Jordanians have made substantial sacrifices for the sake of making their country a haven for everyone. Today, and with heavy hearts, we tell the story of one of our own, an unsung hero who retained no effort trying to lift the burden of asylum off Syrian refugees; for the sake of making Za’tari Syrian Refugees Camp a safe shelter for them and their families for today and the future. Today, we tell the story of the beloved friend and dear colleague the late Judge Dr. Abdul hakim alshbool, the head of the Sharia Court of Law in Za’tari Syrian Refugee Camp, who passed away on Thursday, February 16th, 2017.
The late judge Dr. Abdul Hakim alshbool obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sharia from The University of Baghdad and a PhD in Sharia Law from the University of Jordan in 2007. He was the Chair of Notary of Al-Ramtha Sharia Court before a Royal Decree named him an Honourable Sharia Judge in January 10th, 2013 and held this position for four years until he passed away in office as the head of Al-Mafraq’s Sharia Court – Authentication and The Head of Sharia Court of Law in Za’tari Refugees Camp.
Ever since the establishment of the Za’tari Syrian Refugees Camp, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) has worked side by side with the Jordanian Government and the UNHCR to cater to the needs of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. In Za’tari Camp, ARDD’s lawyers worked closely with the late Dr. Abdul Hakim for two and a half years where they illustrated a fine example of the synergy between judge and lawyers, coming up with effective solutions to issues of legal protection facing the Syrian refugees in the Za’tari camp. During his time in service, the long-lost but unforgotten friend was best known for a smile that rarely leaves his pleasant face as well as his great devotion in serving Syrian refugees as his work has left a permanent impact on the lives of those he helped protecting and the families he prevented their disintegration through affixing marriage contracts which largely contributed to the provision of legal protection to Syrian children by authenticating their descent, thus actively preventing the existence of an entire generation of stateless children.
As today we say our saddest goodbyes to our dear friend may his soul rest in ultimate peace; we would also like to welcome the new chair of Al-Za’tari Sharia Court of law Mr. Fadi Al-Mhaidat, who is following the same steps toward providing legal protection to the Syrian refugee brothers. ARDD is looking forward to having more cooperation between all governmental sectors and civil society institutions for what is best for humanity.
Between the US travel ban and the UK's halting of implementation of the “Dubs Amendment”
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – ARDD is alarmed by recent developments worldwide jeopardizing the rights of most vulnerable refugees. Specifically, we are alarmed by political decisions such as the January 27th executive order by President of the United States banning access to migrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority countries, along with UK’s decision to stop implementing the “Dubs Amendment” to the immigration Act 2016 (as of Feb 8, 2017) by which a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children currently under very strenous circumstances could have been brought to safe to the UK. These decisions not only disregard commitments and responsibilities vis-à-vis international humanitarian law, but also seriously threaten the most vulnerable refugees who are fleeing war and conflict, and who may be torn apart further or prevented from being reunited.
Over the years, our organization has worked with refugees from different nationalities in Jordan. Despite difference in size, capacity and wealth, the country currently hosts nearly 72 times more Syrian refugees than the United States, and nearly 260 times more than the UK. While ARDD understands the challenges that come with the influx of refugees into host countries, we are deeply concerned by the risks posed by illegal migration. In February 2015 ARDD launched its protection campaign “Don’t Go: Protect, Inform, Act!” with the purpose to inform refugees and migrants of their rights and dangers to life and well-being of illegal migration bears, while urging the international community to find solutions to the crises leading to mass displacement that affects the Middle East and North Africa.
ARDD urges the international community to strongly oppose this concerning trend of political decisions and to step up to adequately respond to the consequences of war and displacement by abiding to international commitments and humanitarian values, while maintaining, and if possible, increasing their support to UNHCR and its partners. While criticism of the US travel ban and its temporary halt by the American judiciary are important steps in the right direction, they are unfortunately not enough. Political decisions such as those of the UK and USA, further pose a direct threat to the fragile stability in countries of first refuge, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, while at the same time spreading of more hostility against refugees worldwide
Finally, as a legal aid organisation ARDD is deeply inspired by the brave response of the many lawyers, judges, law firms and volunteers who took to the airports in the US to support the stranded passengers and refugees and used their legal skills to help those who are most vulnerable, as well as the civil society and legal organizations and volunteers working to protect refugee children stranded in France and elsewhere in Europe. We congratulate them in solidarity for their courage and unwavering commitment to human rights and the rule of law which are paramount for maintaining justice.