In anticipation of Senator Barack Obama's visit to Jordan tomorrow, Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, sent him a letter. Although he omitted any mention of dishonor killings and the oppressive personal status laws, he does point out the U.S.'s complicitness in these human rights abuses by continuing to fund--to a very rich extent--governments that repeatedly thumb their noses at basic standards of decency. I am for linking a significant portion of our generous aid to the region to sustained, measurable, monitored improvements in basic human rights and for targeting aid funds to specific projects (e.g., legal reform, women's shelters) that have a good chance of improving conditions on the ground. Right now, we aren't doing that. We are just pouring money into a bottomless pit. Some of it is producing modest results, but most of it is really tough to account for.
As you read along, note the huge sums of aid money we are providing to Jordan, a nation of less than six million people. And for those who may not be aware, Jordanian law is the applicable law in the West Bank. This is because the West Bank used to be part of Jordan, before it was lost in the Six-Day War on King Hussein's watch.
Interesting excerpts include:
Your upcoming visit to Israel and Jordan is an opportunity to reaffirm America’s commitment to basic principles of human rights and freedom while promoting security and extending a helping hand of friendship to the Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian people.
Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan are each responsible for significant human rights abuses.
In the West Bank, the United States is the leading donor of a $220 million program aimed at strengthening Palestinian security forces and the judicial system. Human Rights Watch investigations have found that forces under the control of Palestinian Authority have committed serious abuses against criminal suspects and prisoners, including hanging detainees by their feet and putting them in “stress” positions for hours at a time. There is currently insufficient legal and judicial oversight of these structures. In addition to paying for training and development of these institutions US aid to Palestinian should insist that adequate mechanisms are put in place to ensure sufficient oversight so that further abuses are not committed. Once again, to avoid financial complicity, the US government should make clear that any aid will be cut to institutions that continue to breach international human rights law.
Jordan continues to have a problematic human rights record. In 2007 and 2008, Human Rights Watch visited seven of Jordan’s 10 prisons and found torture to be widespread and routine. Prison guards torture with impunity, in part because allegations of abuse are investigated and prosecuted by a special Police Court beholden to the police authorities. Jordan’s intelligence service has a notorious record for its torture of prisoners. The United States has been directly implicated in serious human rights abuses when the CIA secretly rendered terrorism suspects to Jordan’s intelligence service for interrogation and likely torture between 2001 and 2004.
Recently, Jordan qualified for initial consideration by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, despite the fact that it gave the government low marks on civil and political rights. Initial MCC assistance since 2007 has not improved this situation to date. In June, Jordan’s cabinet referred to parliament draft laws severely restricting the rights to peaceful public assembly and to freedom of association and expression of non-governmental organizations.
The United States has invested a great deal in Jordan. Jordan is among the highest per capita recipients of US aid worldwide. The enactment last week of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008, makes an additional $450 million available for Jordan until September 2009, on top of the more than $600 million already allotted for military and economic assistance for 2008. US aid has greatly helped Jordan address economic and security challenges, but more needs to be done to ensure that this generous assistance is used to promote the human rights of all people in Jordan. Assistance to Jordan’s intelligence service should be conditioned on its compliance with human rights law, respect for due process, and an end to torture and other inhumane treatment, and parts of US aid in the “cash transfer” facility and MCC funding of the Jordanian government should be conditioned on respect for freedom of association and expression and peaceful assembly in law and practice, and on the effective prevention of torture and inhumane treatment in regular prisons, as well as civilian prosecution of perpetrators.
Lastly, the Supplemental Appropriations Act makes $175 million available to Jordan for assistance to Iraqi refugees there. This is a welcome step to alleviate a financial and social burden that Iraq’s neighbors have shouldered disproportionately so far. In its treatment of Iraqi refugees, however, Jordan does not comply with international refugee law. It deports asylum seekers to possible persecution to Iraq, closes its borders to Iraqis fleeing persecution, and, by not recognizing Iraqis as refugees, denies them the right to work in Jordan. The additional US aid to Jordan should be accompanied by greater attention to these issues of concern.
In Jordan, we urge you to raise the issues of torture, the rights to free assembly and association, and concerns regarding Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
The abuses of human rights described above undermine extensive efforts by the United States to promote stability and respect for the rule of law in the region. As by far the largest financial donor to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, the United States is in a unique position to ensure all three administrations fulfill their obligations under international law. As a candidate for the presidency of the United States we would urge you to press them to comply with international human rights law.
The entire letter can be found here:
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