The Jordan Times
By Laila Azzeh
AMMAN - Building citizens’ trust and sense of belonging cannot be achieved without guaranteeing them the right to a fair trial, which is a fundamental aspect of the rule of law, legal experts underlined on Wednesday.
At a ceremony to commemorate the conclusion of a project titled “Enhancement of the Right to A Fair Trial in Jordan”, implemented by the Arab Women’s Legal Network (AWLN), experts highlighted that monitoring court proceedings is one of the most powerful tools that enables the public and civil society organisations to examine their countries’ respect for human rights.
HRH Princess Basma noted that the guarantee of a fair trial is one indicator of whether a state abides by international standards of human rights, and praised the two-year project, funded by the Netherlands, for its efforts to educate members of Jordan’s judiciary on the importance of this guarantee.
“An independent judiciary that is based on the principles of integrity, efficiency and independence is at the heart of applying these guarantees and respecting them in all procedures within the scope of the prosecution and trial of people,” Princess Basma said, voicing her appreciation for the AWLN and its efforts to empower women in the judiciary.
A report on the outcomes of monitoring State Security Court trials, issued as part of the project, showed a trend towards detaining defendants during trial without taking into account the presumption of innocence that should be afforded to the accused.
The report also established that there is no public access to some trials in which the law does not allow secrecy, while sometimes there is no thorough examination of whether a defendant was tortured while in detention.
“The reason we chose to monitor trials in the State Security Court is because it is responsible for a certain type of crimes that are extremely dangerous,” noted Khaled Khleifat, a member of the team that conducted the study.
He added that the report recommends amending legislation governing proceedings in the State Security Court in order to ensure sufficient protections for defendants and witnesses and that the power to detain suspects is not abused.
Fifty female judges and lawyers took part in the project, receiving intensive training on the international standards for fair trials.
Netherlands Ambassador to Jordan Piet de Klerk underlined that Jordan’s legal system scored “quite well” in the World Justice Index, which measures a variety of dimensions of the rule of law, including whether legal institutions protect fundamental rights and allow ordinary people access to justice.
Highlighting the gender dimension of the project, he noted that “the legal profession in Jordan is still by and large a man’s world”.
The ambassador noted that “87.5 per cent of the 859 judges [in the country] are men, hence 12.5 per cent (107) are women”, adding that this indicates remarkable progress from one year ago, when only 8.8 per cent of judges were female.
The diplomat voiced his country’s keenness to further support democracy and economic growth in the Kingdom and the Arab world.
During the ceremony, attended by Minister of Justice Salim Al Zoubi and Jordanian National Commission for Women Secretary General Asma Khader, AWLN President Judge Ihsan Barakat highlighted the achievements made by women working in the judiciary.
Princess Basma presented certificates and gifts to beneficiaries and legal experts who supervised the project.
Established in 2005, the AWLN seeks to improve the capabilities of Arab women working in the legal profession and increase awareness regarding women’s rights at all levels.