The message behind Jordan’s mass executions
London - Jordan’s execution of 15 prisoners in one day sparked condemnation from international human rights groups but activists at home were divided over the decision to carry out the death sentences.
Jordanian Information Minister Mahmud al-Momani said ten of the prisoners hanged on March 4th had been convicted of terrorism and the other five were found guilty of committing “heinous” crimes.
The aim, said Ziad al-Dmour, attorney general for Amman district, was to send “a clear message to anyone who tries to undermine the security of the country”. Executions are “the fate of all those who carry out criminal offences”, he warned.
The executions marked the largest number carried on a single day in Jordan’s recent history. Ninety-four people are on death row in Jordan, most of them convicted of murder or rape.
King Abdullah II promised in 2005 to halt carrying out the death penalty and Jordan observed a moratorium on executions from 2006- 14, despite the courts continuing to hand down death sentences.
Following a reported rise in crime, Jordan hanged 11 men convicted of murder in December 2014.
After Jordanian pilot Muath al- Kasasbeh was videotaped being burned alive by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in February 2015, Jordan hanged two people convicted of terrorism offences in retaliation.
Jordan has faced a rising threat from ISIS, which has claimed several terror attacks inside the kingdom.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel’s ambassador to Jordan expressed concern over instability in the neighbouring kingdom, prompting Israeli officials to urge their country to assist Amman. Jordanian analysts have dismissed the Haaretz report, saying that it is business as usual in Jordan.
London-based Amnesty International expressed shock at the mass executions and warned the death penalty would not improve security. “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking,” said Samah Hadid, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.
“This is a major step backward for both Jordan and efforts to end the death penalty — a senseless and ineffective means of administering justice,” Hadid said.
“Jordan had for years been a leading example in a region where recourse to the death penalty is all too frequent… Hanging people will not improve public security,” she said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch joined the condemnation.
“Jordan may think this projects an image of strength but the death penalty will never deter terror attacks and murder or make Jordan safer,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“Rather than model itself on Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, regional leaders in capital punishment, Jordan should lead by example on rights and protection and renew its moratorium on the death penalty,” she said.
In a column in the Jordan Times, Daoud Kuttab stressed that capital punishment has not proved to be an effective deterrent.
“Not publishing the names of five of the convicted… reflects a political decision that aims at protecting people from possible tribal attacks, a decision that shows how little this punishment works as a real deterrent,” he wrote.
“Ending the life of a jihadist who aspires to martyrdom is hardly an effective way to deal with the scourge of terrorism. Much more serious political, social and economic reform is needed to lower the rates of crime and terror.”
Journalist Ghada al-Sheikh interviewed several Jordanian rights activists and noted on the website RightsCable.com that opinion was divided among them over the death penalty.