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Jordan Table of Contents


Martial Law Courts

A state of martial law, in effect since 1967, gave the government authority to detain individuals without charge and to adjudicate specified crimes in the martial law courts. These courts consisted of a panel of three military officers trained in the law. Designated martial law crimes included espionage, bribery of public officials, trafficking in narcotics or weapons, black marketing, and security offenses. Security detainees could be held without charge or brought before the martial law courts for trial. Detainees did not have the right to communicate with their family or legal counsel.

Although the martial law courts were not bound to observe normal rules of evidence or procedures, in practice these military courts observed the law of criminal procedure and defendants were given most of the rights they were entitled to in civilian courts. Trials were held in public; defendants were represented by counsel and could cross-examine witnesses. It was not customary to grant bail, however, and there was no provision for habeas corpus. Normal avenues of appeal were not open from decisions of the military courts, but such court actions were subject to ratification by the prime minister in his capacity as military governor. The prime minister had the authority to increase, reduce, or annul sentences. Before acting, the prime minister received recommendations on the fairness of a sentence by a legal adviser or the minister of justice.

In its annual report for 1988, Amnesty International asserted that some proceedings in the martial law courts failed to meet international standards for fair trials. It noted that in some cases it appeared that confessions allegedly extracted under torture or ill treatment were accepted as evidence. The United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1986 observed that the very quick trials and subsequent sentencing of the Communist Party of Jordan leadership suggested that there were politically motivated exceptions to the norms of criminal procedures and rights in the martial law courts.

Military courts also adjudicated all crimes committed by military personnel, applying military regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Defense pursuant to relevant laws. In these cases, the commanding officer of the armed forces was required to ratify the sentence.

Data as of December 1989