Jordanians chant slogans during a demonstration near the Embassy of Israel in Amman on March 28, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP) (Photo by KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images)

Jordan: Stop cracking down on pro-Gaza protests and release those charged for exercising their freedoms of assembly and expression

The Jordanian authorities must immediately cease their crackdown on pro-Gaza protests and immediately release dozens of activists who have been illegally detained solely because of their peaceful criticism of the government’s policies towards Israel, Amnesty International said today.

Since 7 October 2023, the Jordanian authorities have arrested at least 1,500 people, including about 500 detained since March following huge protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Amman in March.

“The Jordanian government must immediately release all those who have been arbitrarily detained since October 2023 over their pro-Palestine activism. The government must ensure that protesters and activists have the freedom to peacefully criticize the government’s policies towards Israel without being attacked by security forces or violently arrested,” said Reina Wehbi, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Jordan.

Videos verified by Amnesty International show how Jordanian security forces outside the Israeli Embassy on 25, 26 and 27 March broke up demonstrations using tear gas, violently dispersed protesters using batons, and chased and beat others as they removed them from the streets.

At least 165 protesters were arrested between 24 and 27 March, while scores have been detained since, lawyers for the detainees told Amnesty international. Dozens remain in detention pending trial, while at least 21 individuals are being held in illegal administrative detention on orders of the Governor of Amman even though the public prosecutor permitted their release.

The Jordanian government must immediately release all those who have been arbitrarily detained since October 2023 over their pro-Palestine activism. The government must ensure that protesters and activists have the freedom to peacefully criticize the government’s policies towards Israel without being attacked by security forces or violently arrested.

Reina Wehbi, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Jordan

Lawyers and activists told Amnesty International that the Jordanian authorities also recently imposed new restrictions on pro-Palestine protests, including prohibitions on holding the Palestinian flag and banners with certain slogans, and banned the participation of children younger than 18 years old. They also prohibited the continuation of protests after midnight.

Dozens of protestors have also been charged under Jordan’s repressive Cybercrimes Law for social media posts in which they merely expressed pro-Palestinian sentiment, criticized the authorities’ peace deal with Israel, or called for peaceful protests and public strikes. Jordan’s overly broad Cybercrimes Law criminalizes any speech that may offend law enforcement officials.

‘They treated me like a criminal’

Amnesty International has reviewed the cases of six individuals who were detained on spurious charges related to their participation in pro-Palestine protests or social media posts. Amnesty International also interviewed four lawyers and others with knowledge of the cases and reviewed charge sheets, court documents and defendants’ social media posts.

In one case, the Public Security Directorate summoned journalist Khair Eddine al-Jabri on 25 March without disclosing the reason. Al-Jabri told Amnesty International that he was questioned without the presence of his lawyer and then transferred to the cybersecurity unit of the Criminal Investigations Department. Neither his lawyer nor his family were informed of his whereabouts. In the cybercrime unit, agents questioned him over his online activity and his coverage of pro-Palestinian protests, al-Jabri said. The next day, al-Jabri had to appear before the public prosecutor, who charged him with using social media platforms to “defame an official body” and “incite strife, sedition and hatred and threaten societal peace” under Articles 15 and 17 of the Cybercrimes Law and requested his detention for seven days in Marka prison in Amman. Al-Jabri was released on bail on 30 March but placed under a travel ban pending his trial before a criminal court.

“My case file from the cybercrimes unit stated that I should be placed under tight security and have my hands tied behind my back, which they did. They treated me like a criminal,” al-Jabri told Amnesty International.

Al-Jabri said that he was forced to share a cell with more than 50 other detainees who were being held in inhumane conditions. Unlike the other detainees, he said that he was not allowed to receive items like clothing or soap from his family.

My case file from the cybercrimes unit stated that I should be placed under tight security and have my hands tied behind my back, which they did. They treated me like a criminal,” al-Jabri told Amnesty International.

Journalist Khair Eddine al-Jabri

In another case, security officers in civilian clothes arrested activist Ibrahim Shdeifat while he was on his way to the pro-Palestine protests outside the Israeli embassy in Amman on 26 March. When Ibrahim’s brother, Siraj Eddine, and a cousin asked a security officer about his whereabouts, they were both arrested. His cousin was released hours later but Siraj Eddine and Ibrahim remain in detention as they refused to allow security forces to access their mobile phones.

According to their family, both Siraj Eddine and Ibrahim were placed in administrative detention in Marka prison after they had later refused to sign pledges saying they would not organize or participate in future protests. Under Jordan’s 1954 Crime Prevention Law, local governors are allowed to detain people by administrative order with limited judicial review, circumventing the criminal justice system.

On 1 April, their lawyer found out that Ibrahim had been moved to Al-Muwaqqar prison, while Siraj Eddine had been transferred to Rumaymin prison, both of which are located more than 30 kilometres outside Amman, making it harder for their lawyer and family to visit them.

“When we visited them, they told us they were treated like criminals. During their transfer, their hands were tied behind their backs and their feet were tied. This is all exaggerated punitive treatment”, Ibrahim and Siraj Eddine’s family told Amnesty International. A coalition of the families of detainees, including Ibrahim and Siraj Eddine’s family, lodged a lawsuit against the Governor of Amman challenging their loved ones’ administrative detention. However, the public prosecutor refused to register the complaint and postponed its processing under after the Eid holidays.

When we visited them, they told us they were treated like criminals. During their transfer, their hands were tied behind their backs and their feet were tied. This is all exaggerated punitive treatment.

Family of detainees Ibrahim and Siraj Eddine Shdeifat

In a third case, Ayman Sanduka was arrested on 21 December 2024 after writing a Facebook post, addressed to Jordan’s King, criticizing Jordan’s relationship with Israel. On 12 February, the State Security Court prosecutor charged him with “incitement to oppose the political regime” under article 149 of the Penal Code. Security forces also transferred him to Attafilah prison, over 128 km outside of Amman, and subjected him during the transfer to verbal humiliation and tied his feet and his hands behind his back, his lawyer told Amnesty International. Sanduka remains in detention and is facing trial before the State Security Court, a special military court that does not meet international standards of independence and impartiality.

Additionally in April, a criminal court sentenced a Jordanian woman to a suspended three-month prison term under the Cybercrime Law and placed her under a travel ban in relation to posts on X (formerly Twitter) in which she criticized the security forces and shared calls for protests.

Lawyers told Amnesty International that several other activists continue to be detained by the intelligence forces and barred from accessing their lawyers or families.

“These cases reveal the severity of the Jordanian authorities’ crackdown on pro-Palestine protesters and expose flagrant violations of fair trial rights, mistreatment of detainees, and an unmistakable pattern of abuse and denial of justice. The crackdown must end now. Those unlawfully detained should be celebrating the Eid holidays with their families rather than behind bars,” said Reina Wehbi.