Geneva - The recent arrest of activist Khaled Al-Natour, one of the leaders of a popular movement supporting the Palestinian cause, was denounced by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor as further evidence of the Jordanian government’s policy of systematic abuse.

The measure also confirms the Jordanian authorities’ arbitrary use of the country’s notorious cybercrime law, which restricts basic freedoms, freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly, Euro-Med Monitor added.

Al-Natour was arrested last night, on Thursday 8 February, just before a public demonstration in favour of Palestinians and against a bridge that is reportedly transporting goods from Jordan to Israel. The demonstration was scheduled for Friday at the Sheikh Hussein (or Jordan River) crossing on the Jordanian-Israeli border.

According to Euro-Med Monitor, the Amman Public Prosecutor refused Al-Natour’s release on bail, thus detaining him under the cover of a number of charges related to his activity. This is in violation of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom and security of person” and “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention”.

Furthermore, reports have reached Euro-Med Monitor regarding Jordanian security forces barring scores of protestors from entering the area around the Sheikh Hussein crossing on Friday morning by blocking roads and erecting make-shift checkpoints. The protestors were stopped by the security services from getting to Al-Shouna Mosque near the Sheikh Hussein crossing, forcing them to perform Friday prayers at Al-Aghwar Complex traffic lights.

The Geneva-based rights organisation has been monitoring Jordanian authorities’ arrest campaigns and restrictions on activists participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations since the Israeli military began its genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023.

Euro-Med Monitor has documented systematic arrests of activists over social media comments and campaigns in accordance with the cybercrime law that was approved by the Jordanian Parliament last August. The amendments include the addition of significantly vague wording and expressions, which have been used by the government to criminalise critical voices and increase penalties against activists, seemingly with the aim of undermining freedom of expression and restricting activities that do not suit the authorities.

The Amman Penal Magistrate Court convicted activist Anas Al-Jamal over social media comments on 26 November 2023, sentencing him to three months in prison, plus a fine of 5,000 dinars (approximately $7,840 USD). Al-Jamal’s mother, Mervat Abu Ghosh, told Euro-Med Monitor that her son’s lawyers were not allowed to defend him, and were prevented from presenting any pleadings or petition.

The rights group also received testimonies and footage documenting the arrest of hundreds of people during separate demonstrations in Jordan over the past three months, which both local media and the Jordanian authorities have confirmed. According to Euro-Med Monitor, about 730 people were brought before the Amman Court on charges related to Jordan’s Penal Code, including “committing acts of violence” and “damaging public property” due to participation in demonstrations, or “incitement to sedition”. The majority of the aforementioned detainees were released on bail pending trial, while the court acquitted dozens of others.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reaffirmed that the systematic targeting of online activists in Jordan prevents them from exercising rights protected by the Jordanian Constitution and international conventions and constitutes violations of Jordan’s international obligations. The rights organisation called for the punishment of Jordanian authorities who have violated their constitutional and international obligations, and urged them to adhere to all obligations by maintaining a safe space for public freedoms and refraining from targeting activists both on and offline.