Sunday, August 27, 2006

Terror prevention law approved

The parliament today approved the terror prevention law, despite some objections from Human rights groups and members of the opposition. Opponents charged that the law is unconstitutional and limits public freedoms.

Despite the opposition, I have seen little in the way of substantive deconstruction of the legislation. Al Ghad today has a report on a round table discussion on the issue. Journalist Oraib Rantawi criticized the bill because it does not contain a clear definition of terror. I think that he has read an old version of the bill, because this is clearly untrue. He also stated that the law punishes intentions and not real actions. This is not accurate either, as the law prohibits terror activity, as clearly defined in the same document, helping to finance or recruit terrorists or establishing or joining an organization for the purpose of committing terrorist acts. Conspiracy to commit criminal acts is a crime everywhere, as far as I know. According to Rantawi’s argument, conspiracy should be decriminalized, since it punishes for intentions rather than actions.

In the same roundtable, deputy Raed Qaqish stressed the importance of careful study of the definition of terror to avoid punishing people who should not be included. I am not sure what he meant exactly. IAF deputy Nidal Abbadi argued that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with freedom of practicing religion. I find this argument amusing, but I will leave the astute reader a chance to draw his or her own conclusions.

In an ideal world, there would be no reason to enact a law that allows the public prosecutor to put people under surveillance with retroactive judicial oversight. A judge should be the person who decides whether there is enough evidence to trigger the provisions of the law, and not the public prosecutor. However, the mechanism that has been approved clearly aims for an ability to act when time is a factor.

This law is much better than other legislation that could be used for similar purposes, without any form of judicial oversight. For example, the 1954 crime prevention law gives the regional administrators (governors and subgovernors) the right to require written promises (with financial penalties) from anybody suspected of planning a crime, who has a history of criminal activity or anybody deemed to be a threat to society. Anybody who cannot issue such a promise can be jailed at the discretion of the regional administrator. Activists are calling for the repeal of this law, although governors are quick to defend this legal anomaly.

In legal terms, the prime prevention law of 1954 can be used to jail terror suspects just as it can be used for purse snatchers. The passing of the terror prevention law may actually open the door towards repealing the antiquated crime prevention law. Regional administrators and the state prosecutor should not be allowed to usurp the role of the courts. The terror prevention law is probably useful for the conditions we live in today, but should be subject to review in the future to ensure that it will not be used in an abusive fashion.


At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The definition of a "terror act" was good I believe, but I still think it's a shame that this law passed the way it is without addressing the point that you just stressed about giving the prosecutor those powers which according to the text of the law can also be extended due to the sole discretion of the prosecutor himself.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I think I spoke too soon. It seems that MP's did actually make ammendments that removed the extensions in 4.B:

التعديلان الرئيسيان اللذان أدخلهم النواب على قرار اللجنة القانونية في شأن قانون ''منع الإرهاب'' كانا على المادة الرابعة. فقد نجح النائب عبد الكريم الدغمي في شطب مطلع الفقرة (أ) وانتزع موافقة المجلس على مقترحه القائل '' إذا ورد للمدعى العام معلومة ذات أساس بأن أحد الأشخاص أو مجموعة أشخاص لهم علاقة بنشاط إرهابي فيجوز للمدعى العام أن يصدر أي من القرارات التالية (..)''.
بينما كان النص الذي شطب يقول ''إذا وقع اشتباه مبرر بأن لأحد الأشخاص علاقة بنشاط إرهابي فيجوز للمدعى العام أن يصدر أي من القرارات التالية (..)''. وتتراوح القرارات التي يمكن للمدعى العام أن يتخذها ما بين منعه من السفر إلى الحجز على أمواله، غيرها.
أما التعديل الثاني فكان على ذات المادة الرابعة الفقرة (ب) ، حيث قال التعديل الذي أقره المجلس ''يكون القرار الصادر بمقتضى أحكام الفقرة (أ) من هذه المادة ساري المفعول لمدة شهر فقط''، بينما قرار اللجنة القانونية الذي غض عنه الطرف كان يعطي محكمة أمن الدولة تمديد مدة الشهر لمدة مماثلة .

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: Limiting the period for arrest to one month only is a very good modification. If there is real evidence of involvement in terror activities, one month should be enough to uncover it and to send the file to the courts.

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say it's better than what was already suggested, but not really that good. In theory I think it should be a judge doing it, because a judge has to determine the validity of the "ma3looma that asaas" which the prosecutor wishes to use as reason to hold someone in detention or spy on him/her.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: I said the modification was very good, not that the law was.

Don't forget that I raised the idea that judges should trigger the law, and not the public prosecuter.


At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no of course, I fully acknowledge the fact that you were the one who pointed that out Khalaf.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what consequences this law is going to have for Jordanians.

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...



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