Jordan: Withdrawal by the Government of the Bill of Law on NGOs

Press release

Geneva-Paris, January 11, 2008. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, welcome the decision by the Jordan Government to withdraw from Parliament the Bill of Law on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which was seriously threatening freedom of association in Jordan.

On January 8, 2008, the Jordan Government decided to withdraw a controversial draft law on NGOs from the Lower House of Parliament. This Bill had been proposed on October 9, 2007 by the Ministry of Social Development, and was seriously threatening freedom of association in Jordan as it was endangering the independence of NGOs [1].

In particular, this Bill of law contained a number of provisions that would have given the Ministry of Social Development the power to refuse to license any NGO without having to give any reason. The Ministry of Social Development could also have dissolved any association for the following reasons: if “meetings were held without the presence of representatives from the Ministry”, if “the association got any agreement with any agency without prior approval of the Ministry” or “for having in a meeting less number than the minimum required in registration or having doubts on fines or giving inaccurate information”.

The draft law also contained provisions regarding the financing of NGOs which would have constituted further obstacles to their activity: contributions should only have been from founders’ money; a deposit of up to 150,000 US $ should have been made, which could have been confiscated if the NGOs were dissolved; a fund would have been established for all foreign donations and projects to be decided by the Ministry of Social Development as to which NGO might receive money or implement any project. Moreover, foreign agencies who work in Jordan upon a license would have had to spend not less than 375,000 US $ per year.

The Observatory welcomes the decision by the Jordan Government to withdraw the Bill of law on NGOs and wishes to thank all the persons, organisations, and institutions that intervened on that matter.

However, the Observatory calls upon the Jordan authorities, shall they decide to reintroduce this bill on NGOs, to consult at all steps with civil society organisations and all concerned parties, and to conform, in any circumstances, with the constitutional right to establish civil society organisations and international standards regarding freedom of association, in particular the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 20) and those of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which article 5(b) states that “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others at national and international levels, to form, join and participate in non-governmental organisations, associations or groups”.

For further information, please contact:
OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH : Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18

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