Document - Jordan: ‘Investigation’ into attacks on demonstrators in Jordan must be transparent
AI Index: MDE 16/001/2011
1 April 2011
‘Investigation’ into attacks on demonstrators in Jordan must be transparent
Amnesty International has today called upon the Jordanian authorities to address concerns relating to reports of the involvement of the security forces in violent attacks on pro-reform demonstrators in Amman last week.
In a letter sent today to the Jordanian Prime Minister, Marouf Bakhit, Amnesty International requested details of the investigation reportedly being carried out into the violence which occurred in the capital on 24 and 25 March. One person died in suspicious circumstances and scores of others were injured.
The organization is concerned at the lack of details made public regarding the nature and scope of the investigation. Given the reports that Amnesty International has received from credible sources that the Jordanian security forces not only failed to intervene while demonstrators supporting the government attacked the protesters advocating reform, but also may have facilitated and been involved in such attacks themselves, there is a clear need for a thorough, prompt, independent and impartial investigation.
According to these reports, on the evening of 24 March supporters of the government threw stones at pro-reform protesters gathered at Gamal Abdul Naser Square while security forces watched and did not intervene. More disturbing violence occurred the following afternoon when pro-government individuals and members of the security forces attacked the pro-reform protesters with stones, sticks and batons.
One eyewitness, who preferred not to be named publicly for fear of reprisals from the security forces, told Amnesty International:
“The police did nothing to prevent the violence against demonstrators. Those committing the violence were thugs brought in for that purpose, along with police conscripts. The police beat people with batons and fired water cannons at them. Anyone who ran away from the Square was caught and beaten by the thugs. My injuries were minimal compared to others; a policeman punched me on the nose and hit my leg with a stick… The [pro-reform] protesters were peaceful and in return were treated violently. They were always chanting ‘selmiyeh, selmiyeh [peaceful, peaceful]’. They collected the stones and drew a map of Jordan. Many of the stones were covered in blood.”
Another eyewitness and long-term contact of Amnesty International who also preferred to remain nameless said:
“..around 50 people were injured [by stones] the first night… On the second day, thugs armed with sticks and knives were seen coming out of police cars. Then the police together with the Gendarmerie [darak] closed in on the protesters from the front and the thugs from behind and all were beating us. Then they opened a small space for people to run away and continued to chase and beat them… The thugs then burnt the protesters’ tents and destroyed a car that had been used as a stage.”
A third eyewitness and long-term contact of Amnesty International who similarly wished to remain anonymous told the organization that around 5pm on 25 March:
“…the Gendarmerie arrived, blocked the area and enclosed the protesters completely, and, with the thugs throwing stones, they pushed them in a small area under the bridge waiting for orders. When the orders came, the doors of hell opened and a violent, brutish attack started. The protesters, including women and children, were assaulted by different security forces - Gendarmerie, public security officers, preventative security, plain-clothed officers and others. The Gendarmerie dispersed the protesters with excessive use of force, using water cannons and batons; the other security officers and thugs used sticks, kicking, punching, hitting them on all parts of the body, especially on the head.”
The protester who died on 25 March was Khayri Sa’id Jamil, who was in his mid-50s. According to media reports, the head of the forensic team who did the autopsy said there was no evidence of brutality or beating but rather that he died of heart failure. However, two individuals who saw the body of Khayri Sa’id Jamil have both told Amnesty International that there were clear signs that Khayri Sa’id Jamil had been badly beaten. One said: “There were bruises and wounds on the head, both ears, legs and private parts and his teeth were broken.” The official autopsy, according to the same media report, said there were no such injuries.
Such reports cast doubt over the veracity of the official version of the events and the fatality in particular and underline the necessity for any investigation to be thoroughly independent. Amnesty International has requested information indicating by whom the investigation is being carried out, what its terms of reference and powers are and when and to whom it will report its findings. In addition, the organization urges that the investigating authority be given the power to oblige officials and others allegedly involved in unlawful acts to appear before them and testify, and to make public their findings. Anyone identified as having committed, ordered or failed reasonably to prevent any human rights violations must be brought to justice.