Hatim al-`Abbadi causes the real harm to Jordan’s reputation by trying in vain to prove that Human Rights Watch has a hidden agenda against Jordan (“Human Rights Watch and the Premeditated Falsification of Facts,” August 13). Human Rights Watch’s work uncovering torture and abuse in Jordan’s prisons helps prevent future violations of Jordanian law and international human rights law.

Al-`Abbadi objects that Human Rights Watch mentioned allegations of past torture at the GID alongside the finding that none of the current detainees we interviewed there cited torture. There are four reasons why five visits over the course of two weeks are not enough to declare the GID torture-free. First, the GID has a long history of torture. Human Rights Watch has allegations of torture dating from 1994 to 2006. Second, Jordan to this day ignores the recommendations of Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to take practical, institutional and legal steps to prevent torture. Repeat, surprise visits to the GID by the National Center for Human Rights would be a welcome first step. Third, the GID knew well in advance that Human Rights Watch would visit the GID between August 15 and 30. Fourth, the minister of interior at the last minute denied Human Rights Watch access to Juwaida prison and uncorroborated claims cite possibly abused detainees being transferred from the GID to Juwaida shortly before August 15.

Human Rights Watch also visited five regular Jordanian prisons, where beatings by guards are rampant. On August 26 at Swaqa prison a visiting Human Rights Watch delegation witnessed the injuries a large number of inmates there had apparently inflicted upon themselves. They were protesting, with extreme measures, the collective beatings by guards and forced shaving of hair and beards four days earlier. Human Rights Watch documented beating marks on more than 10 prisoners and the forced shaving of the beards of more than 25 prisoners before cutting the visit short.

Al-`Abbadi suggests detainees will always lie about their treatment and that the Swaqa inmates pretended to Human Rights Watch that their injuries were from torture, a canard the government had previously tried to spin. It’s a tactic we hear used by defenders of abusive governments around the world. Our methodology of questioning and corroboration is designed to detect such attempts to deceive us.

Al-`Abbadi lambastes Human Rights Watch for not investigating the reasons for the detention of persons at the GID or other prisons. In fact we did investigate the reasons of detention of administrative detainees and those held at the GID and found numerous due process violations, as our August 30 statement says. That does not mean the detainees are innocent or guilty, but that government officials broke the law, by carrying out arrests without warrant, preventing detainees from seeing their lawyers, or holding detainees for longer than allowed before presenting them to the prosecution.

Al-`Abbadi made errors of fact, too: he claims the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, “commended the level” of Jordanian prisons. In fact, Nowak did the opposite, finding that torture was “widespread” in prisons, and “routine” in the GID. Nowak’s report, citing Human Rights Watch, stated that “it is well-documented that the practice of torture in Jordan has been alleged by various credible NGOs.” And he criticized al-Ra’i newspaper for “deliberately misrepresent[ing] the preliminary findings of the Special Rapporteur.”

Al-`Abbadi’s distorted facts and false allegations do great harm to efforts by more serious Jordanians to put an end to abuses in its detention centers. Without independent journalists monitoring those serious efforts and critically reporting on failures and successes, Jordan’s reputation will continue to suffer until officials take action to end widespread torture.

To view the Arabic article, "Human Rights Watch and the Premeditated Falsification of Facts," published August 13, 2007 in Arabic, please visit:
http://www.alrai.com/pages.php?news_id=173538&select=هيومن

To view a translation of the Al-Ra'i article, please see below:

Reports recently conducted by the organization Human Rights Watch on Correction and Rehabilitation and Detention Centers show that there was intent to cause harm by deliberately concealing facts and curtailing matters and amplifying them in order to serve hidden agendas under the cover of human rights.

The organization’s scheming intention to cause harm to Jordan becomes apparent, first in the headlines its reports adopt, despite the fact that Jordan, which embodies the royal desire to treat human rights issues with great transparency and to advance them, has opened the doors of its Correction and Rehabilitation Centers to civil society institutions and local and global human rights organizations so that the reality of what takes place there stands [in the open].

Secondly, the organization contradicts itself with information and purposeful conclusions contained in those reports; as it indicates in its report, none of the prisoners in the GID detention center who the organization’s delegation met—in private—mentioned beatings or torture, but the organization goes back to false accusations contained in the report of previous prisoners in the GID having been subjected to torture according to testimonies that go back to April of the past year.

The question is, why did the organization include in its report the results of its previous reports, despite the fact that the testimonies obtained during the latest visit point to the contrary; and why did its report not include the reasons for the detention of those arrested, if [the organization really] tried to generalize the situation by relying on information it obtained from persons who may want to harm [Jordan] by providing the organization with incorrect information.

If the organization had tried to investigate the truth, then why did it not ask those it met with in the GID about the reasons for their arrest …!

Linking the outcome of the visit by the organization’s delegation to the GID to the results of its visit last year, reflects a lack of objectivity and logic done on purpose. This indicates that the organization is captive to prejudices it tries to prove by all means in its reports which contain the opposite of what it has witnessed in reality and at the expense of truth and the goal that the organization claims to pursue.

On another matter, the organization omitted the important fact that a person who has the nerve to harm himself, also has the nerve to slander others wishing them harm. It would be more appropriate [for the organization] to study the curriculum vitae of each of them in order to get to the bottom of the truth and so that [the organization] were able to help these individuals to be sound members of the community and a part of it, and not pose a risk to [society], as long as organizations such as this pursue the methods of falsifying and ignoring the truth.

We remind Human Rights Watch to refer to the report of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Manfred Nowak, who is a specialist in this area, and who commended the level of Correctional and Rehabilitation Centers, which had already improved over the past period. [Nowak] also described the allegations of non-governmental organizations and other organizations as exaggerated.

When Nowak’s report criticized Jafr prison, describing it as isolated, Jordan already aware of that and closed Jafr prison and allocated budgets for the rehabilitation of prisons.

Such facts require the Human Rights Watch organization, and whoever follows its model, to be more credible in such issues through serious investigation and by not relying on unverified information, so as not to lose in the coming days its remaining credibility and objectives which doubts have begun to surround.

The future outlook for Jordan whose features His Majesty King Abdullah II identified since he assumed constitutional powers, has made it a country capable of feeling its pains and curing them. It is [the king] who began the process of comprehensively reviewing the Correction and Rehabilitation Centers so that Jordan would be capable to achieve [the Centers’] objective of correction and rehabilitation.

Translated from Arabic into English by Human Rights Watch