Refugees at the Cyber City refugee camp near Ramtha, Jordan, July 21, 2012. Jordan has prevented Palestinians from Syria from entering Jordan since 2012, and is holding 190 Palestinians at the closed Cyber City refugee camp, where they have the unenviable choice of remaining in the camp indefinitely or returning to Syria.

(Amman) – Jordanian reform initiatives in 2014 failed to end long-term abuses, and authorities continued to detain and prosecute peaceful critics, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015.

A three-year deadline for lawmakers to bring domestic legislation into compliance with basic freedoms guaranteed by Jordan’s 2011 constitution passed in October 2014 without essential reforms to penal code articles that the authorities use to limit freedoms of expression and assembly.

“As Jordan trumpets its reform initiatives, prosecutors are arresting activists and opposition figures for free speech-related offenses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Constitutional guarantees amount to no more than ink on paper if the authorities don’t get rid of penal code articles that are used to undermine them.”

In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price.

In June, Jordan issued amendments to its 2006 Anti-Terrorism Law that broaden the definition of terrorism and included acts such as “disturbing [Jordan’s] relations with a foreign state,” a crime defined under the penal code that is frequently used to punish peaceful criticism of foreign countries or their rulers. Authorities arrested and charged a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, Zaki Bani Irsheid, under this provision in November 2014 after he criticized the United Arab Emirates in a Facebook post.

In January, the government amended the State Security Court law to restrict the court’s jurisdiction to terrorism, espionage, treason, money counterfeiting, and drug offenses. However, as the penal code classifies vaguely worded offenses as terrorism, the court will still be able to try peaceful protesters and others on such charges.

Article 9 of Jordan’s nationality law does not allow Jordanian women married to foreign-born spouses to pass on their nationality to their spouse and children. In November, the cabinet said it would direct government ministries to grant special “privileges” to non-citizen children of Jordanian women, including free education and access to health services in government institutions. The “privileges,” however, do not apply to children whose mothers have not resided in Jordan for a minimum of five years, and do not guarantee residency permits.

Jordan hosted over 618,000 Syrian refugees in 2014, but between late September and December authorities effectively closed its last informal entry points for Syrians, stranding thousands of would-be refugees in remote northeastern desert border areas without regular access to humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian workers and Syrian refugees confirmed that deportations of Syrians and Palestinians back to Syria increased during the year.

Jordan blocks Palestinians from Syria from entering the country. Jordanian authorities detain and deport back to Syria Palestinians who enter at unofficial border crossings using forged Syrian identity documents, or those who enter illegally via smuggling networks.