Geneva - The hostility and isolation experienced by vulnerable children held in juvenile detention centres (JDCs) in Jordan has proven to have a lasting negative impact on both their psychosocial and educational development, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. It is therefore crucial to provide Jordanian youths in JDCs with a safe and rehabilitative environment that will help facilitate their reintegration into society and mitigate violent or otherwise aggressive behaviour.
In recent years, Jordan has seen an increase in delinquent behaviours among juveniles. According to the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), the average number of juveniles detained and sentenced was 270 in 2020, a year Jordan witnessed a 31 percent rise in its juvenile suicide rate.
An assessment of the country’s juvenile justice system conducted by Euro-Med Monitor found that it does not fully align with international standards, and most prominently with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by Jordan in 1991.
“The most recent reforms made to Jordan’s Juvenile Law No. 32 of 2014 engender violations at all three stages—the trial as well as the pre- and post-trial stages—violations that are a widespread occurrence”, said Carma Estetieh, a legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor.
Estetieh explained that the law stipulates that, upon apprehension and arrest, all child cases must be handled by the Juvenile Police Department, with the exception of cases involving drugs, which are to be handled by the Jordanian national police, or Public Security Directorate (PSD). In reality, however, the vast majority of youth cases are handled by the PSD. Adults and children are consequently are transported in the same police vehicles, and kept in the same waiting rooms and cells during the first 24 hours of being held.
“This clear violation of Article 5(a) of the law poses a huge threat to the safety of these children”, Estetieh added.
International standards on juvenile justice require pre-trial detention to be an exceptional measure reserved for very serious offences. The decision must be made by a competent and impartial judicial body, and be subject to regular review.
In Jordan, pre-trial detention is quite common, and accused children are not made aware of their length of stay, nor are their cases reviewed regularly. Most significantly, detained juveniles are not separated from those who are convicted, as most JDCs are joint correctional and rehabilitation centres.
Although the judicial proceedings appear to be conducted in accordance with Juvenile Law No. 32 and relevant international standards, the social inquiry reports prepared by probation officers that inform judges on the backgrounds of children being tried are of poor quality.
Moreover, the majority of convicted children placed in JDCs see their education disrupted, and are surrounded and influenced by delinquent behaviours that make them more likely to reoffend. Although the law does require juveniles to be separated according to the gravity of crimes, this is not the case in practice.
The assessment concluded that alternative detention methods serve the same purpose as incarceration does, while shielding children from exposure to more serious delinquent tendencies by allowing them to maintain positive ties with their families and other community members and protecting them from the stigma of institutionalisation.
Therefore, it is in the best interest of children and in accordance with the law to strengthen and fund alternative post-trial detention implementation mechanisms, with the aim of building psychosocial skills and equipping youth with necessary tools to reintegrate into their communities.