Martial Law Courts
A state of martial law, in effect since 1967, gave the
government authority to detain individuals without charge and to
adjudicate specified crimes in the martial law courts. These courts
consisted of a panel of three military officers trained in the law.
Designated martial law crimes included espionage, bribery of public
officials, trafficking in narcotics or weapons, black marketing,
and security offenses. Security detainees could be held without
charge or brought before the martial law courts for trial.
Detainees did not have the right to communicate with their family
or legal counsel.
Although the martial law courts were not bound to observe
normal rules of evidence or procedures, in practice these military
courts observed the law of criminal procedure and defendants were
given most of the rights they were entitled to in civilian courts.
Trials were held in public; defendants were represented by counsel
and could cross-examine witnesses. It was not customary to grant
bail, however, and there was no provision for habeas corpus. Normal
avenues of appeal were not open from decisions of the military
courts, but such court actions were subject to ratification by the
prime minister in his capacity as military governor. The prime
minister had the authority to increase, reduce, or annul sentences.
Before acting, the prime minister received recommendations on the
fairness of a sentence by a legal adviser or the minister of
In its annual report for 1988, Amnesty International asserted
that some proceedings in the martial law courts failed to meet
international standards for fair trials. It noted that in some
cases it appeared that confessions allegedly extracted under
torture or ill treatment were accepted as evidence. The United
States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 1986 observed that the very quick trials and
subsequent sentencing of the Communist Party of Jordan leadership
suggested that there were politically motivated exceptions to the
norms of criminal procedures and rights in the martial law courts.
Military courts also adjudicated all crimes committed by
military personnel, applying military regulations promulgated by
the Ministry of Defense pursuant to relevant laws. In these cases,
the commanding officer of the armed forces was required to ratify
Data as of December 1989