Right to Association

The Association Law

Under Article 16(ii) of Jordan’s constitution, Jordanians have “the right to establish societies and political parties provided that their objectives are lawful, their methods peaceful, and that they have by-laws that are not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.”36 International law guarantees the right to freely associate with others. Any restrictions on this right must be “necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”37

Jordanian law imposes myriad restrictive conditions on non-governmental organizations that are in violation of its international obligations. The only discernable purpose of these restrictions is to guarantee governmental control over the activities of these organizations. These restrictions have been part of Jordanian law for over forty years, but the government has tightened restrictions over the past seven years which have witnessed heightened political tension following increased hostilities between Israel and armed groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2000 and the US-led war against Iraq in 2003 and the ensuing insurgency and widespread generalized violence there. The US has significantly increased its assistance to Jordan over that period, using some funding to support Jordanian NGOs critical of the government’s human rights practices to uphold freedom of expression and an independent judiciary, among other areas. A survey of NGO laws in ten Arab states described Jordan’s law as “very restrictive” and “one of the oldest and most arbitrary.”38 Since 2004, the government has proposed several draft laws to replace the current Law No. 33 of 1966 on Social Societies and Institutions, each one more repressive than the next. The cabinet on October 9, 2007 proposed a new NGO law that would further stifle the independence from government of such organizations and effectively makes them an appendage to the government.39

The following analysis draws on a comparison of the 1966 law and the 2007 draft law, with occasional reference to a 2006 draft law produced by Jordanian NGOs, but which the government has so far given little consideration.40

Registration, Temporary Administration, Dissolution

Current Jordanian law criminalizes any association that is not licensed with the Ministry of Social Development.41 Informal association may lead to criminal prosecution. In October 2007, the State Security Court convicted Ahmad Oweidi al-`Abbadi for belonging to an unlawful group, because he had not obtained registration for his Jordanian National Movement, a group of apparently few like-minded persons who discussed political, economic and human rights issues among themselves and published their opinion in articles on a publicly accessible website.42 The Jordanian penal code, specifically articles 159 to 163, make membership in an unlicensed group a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison.43

The proposed NGO Law of 2007 excludes details regulating the process of licensing an NGO, relegating the matter instead to a ministerial order to-be-written. The Ministry of Social Development could thus at any moment change the licensing process without cabinet or parliamentary approval. Under the current law, registration with the ministry can take up to three months. At first, the aspiring association has to submit to the ministerial district manager a substantial file containing information about the founders (minimum of seven persons), the objectives of the association, and its bylaws, including conditions for membership, holding meetings of the general assembly of members, the election of a management board, and the dissolution of the association.

The review process involves the Ministry’s district manager, the director for NGO affairs in the Ministry of Social Development, and the governor, who reports to the Ministry of Interior, the minister of social development must make a decision within three months of the application being submitted.44 If the government does not reply in time, the association, while not considered licensed, can start its operations. However, the Ministry can hold up procedures by requesting any kind of further information.45 Furthermore, the minister can issue or deny a license “as he deems appropriate” without having to give cause.46 The law does not explicitly provide for appeals, judicial or administrative, against the minister’s decision, but in at least one case, the minister’s refusal to license an NGO has been unsuccessfully challenged in court (see below).

In a departure from the current law, the draft law bans the establishment by associations of any branches, thus preventing potentially powerful NGOs with a national network from emerging.47 The proposed law foresees different types of NGOs. It explicitly discriminates, without any apparent reason, against the admission of groups such as the Women’s Society, whose members are exclusively women.48 The draft provides for both administrative appeals to the minister and judicial appeals to court.49

By contrast, the NGO Draft Law of 2006 proposed by Jordanian NGOs replaces licensing with mere notification of a new NGO Registry, whose board would include government officials among NGO, private sector and other representatives. The Registry’s secretary-general may request further information within ten days, but with or without a reply, the association is to be considered legally registered within 30 days of submitting its notification. The secretary-general must justify any rejected registration, and the association can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Justice.50

In a May 1998 decision, the Supreme Court of Justice upheld a ministerial decision to deny an NGO a license because other human rights NGOs pursuing the same goals already existed, citing the minister’s right to take any decision he deems appropriate.51 Most recently, in 2004, the government denied Fawzi al-Samhouri, a human rights activist, a license to establish the Organization for Human Rights.52

The stringent conditions of the law have acted as a deterrent on those wishing to set up NGOs. Recent NGOs have opted to incorporate as non-profit companies under the more lenient Companies Law (see below).

In addition to the minister’s current unchecked power to license NGOs, the Ministry of Social Development under the proposed law retains its broad leeway to remove temporarily an NGO’s management board and to shut down an NGO.53 Few NGOs were willing to go on the record regarding government interference and harassment. One executive of a well-established Jordanian NGO told Human Rights Watch: “NGOs are afraid to talk to Human Rights Watch because there have been negative repercussions on them in the past.”54

Currently, there are two NGOs on whom the government has imposed a temporary management board, the Islamic Center Society and the General Union of Voluntary Societies. Their cases are discussed later in this report.

The minister’s powers to dissolve an NGO are broader than those to impose a temporary management board. Under the current law, reasons for dissolution additionally include refusal to allow Ministry officials to attend its meetings or access to the premises for inspection at any time.55 The proposed law of 2007 adds the conclusion of agreements with local or foreign societies without informing the Ministry and obtaining its approval the list of infractions making an NGO liable to dissolution.56 By contrast, the NGO Draft Law of 2006 does not foresee imposition of a temporary management in any circumstances, and involuntary closure of an NGO only for failing to conduct any activities or for a “fundamental violation” of its bylaws, which have not been corrected within three months of receiving a written warning.57

In 2002, the Ministry closed the Jordanian Society for Citizen’s Rights, also headed by Fawzi Samhouri, for failing to comply with financial reporting requirements and refusing access to Ministry officials. Samhouri denied the latter charges, and submitted outstanding financial reports about six weeks after the Ministry’s notification of impending closure.58 JSCR was the first civil society institution in Jordan to be closed since 1989. JSCR had, among other activities, reported on the electoral districting law which heavily favors rural areas with constituencies traditionally loyal to the government over urban areas where sympathies for opposition candidates run higher.

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law recommends that “The registration or supervisory organ or court should be allowed to involuntarily terminate a CSO’s (civil society organization) existence only for the most flagrant of violations, and then only after a requested correction of a legal or ethical violation has not occurred. To ensure that fundamental rights are not violated, all involuntary terminations should be subject to judicial supervision.”59


The Ministry of Social Development has the right to intervene directly in NGOs’ management and activities and to monitor their internal affairs. NGOs have to inform the Ministry in advance of their general assembly meetings, which officials can attend, and whose voting results they must approve. Decisions resulting from a meeting of the NGO’s general membership on matters of its bylaws or management board are null and void without a Ministry official in attendance.60 The minister must approve any changes to an NGO’s bylaws and has unlimited authority to refuse such changes.61 NGOs wishing to merge or form a coalition must obtain the minister’s written approval.62 The current 1966 law categorically prohibits local NGOs joining foreign NGOs.63 The Minister or anyone he or she so deputizes has the right to attend (the NGO’s) meetings, enter its premises or check its records or files.64 NGOs must submit an annual report, audited financial statement, and “any other information” requested to the Ministry.65

Compared to the current 1966 NGO Law, the proposed 2007 NGO Law goes further in restricting the activities of NGOs. It bans NGOs from engaging in “political, religious, or sectarian” activities.66 It strips them of the possibility of opening branches, increases the time period of advance notification to the Ministry of its meetings, gives the Ministry the power to extend temporary governmental management of an NGO, and includes budgets in the list of items requiring ministerial approval.67

The proposed 2007 NGO Law also increases the powers of ministerial interference. It provides that “The Minister may assign any of the concerned employees of the Ministry to supervise permanently the activities of any society or union in the administrative and financial fields as a supervisor or as a director.”68 For one specific type of NGO, the non-profit charitable domestic institution, whose aim is restricted to providing social services to citizens, a Ministry representative would automatically be a member of the board of trustees.69

The NGO Draft Law of 2006, on the other hand, gives the secretary-general of the NGO Registry the right to monitor NGOs and request to see financial records and projects of NGOs. He or she would be able to apply to the courts to deregister an NGO, which a court could do if it found the NGO had violated the NGO law or its bylaws and had not rectified its situation within 60 days of a written warning from the Registry’s secretary-general.70


Although many NGOs rely to some degree on government funding, their ability to raise their own funds is both a necessary element of their independence and a reflection of the preferences of society whose wishes these civil society organizations represent. The existing law makes no provisions on the sources of funding, but the new proposed 2007 NGO Law requires the founders of voluntary civil organizations, one type of NGO, to invest $150,000 of their personal funds.71 This measure of imposing high financial hurdles from the personal wealth of potential NGO founders would further narrow opportunities to create NGOs. It also establishes a tax-exempt “special fund” to support NGOs. This fund, but not NGOs, is able to receive donations, in addition to proceeds from the lottery, a charity tax, and foreign aid. Through this fund, the government can both exert control over foreign donors on how their funds are spent, advocating for higher contributions to government bodies as opposed to NGOs for example, and over Jordanian NGOs receiving those funds, many of which depend on foreign funding.

The NGO Draft Law of 2006, on the other hand, would allow NGOs to fundraise and receive domestic and foreign funding. The only restriction on sources of funding it foresees is that funding be without specific conditions. The only accepted conditions are those that oblige the NGO to spend the funds solely on the realization of the goals stipulated in its bylaws.72

Foreign NGOs and foreign aid

The current law allows the minister to license foreign NGOs and impose any additional conditions or restrictions on them.73 Under the proposed 2007 NGO Law, the minister retains unchecked authority over decisions to allow foreign NGOs to open offices in Jordan. Unlike the current law, which makes no restrictions on the types of foreign organizations, the proposed law allows only foreign NGOs that provide activities “directed toward satisfying the developmental needs of the Jordanian society according to the perspectives of the ministry within its strategic plans and programmes.”74 As an additional condition, only development NGOs whose annual budget for programs in Jordan exceeds $375,000 may be granted permission to operate.75 In June 2007, one foreign NGO representative told Human Rights Watch that officials in the Ministry of Social Development had already imposed this condition on the organization’s operations in Jordan, despite the draft status of the law at the time.76

The proposed 2007 NGO law also permits local organizations to receive foreign funding only with prior written approval by the minister.77 A number of NGOs working in the field of general human rights, journalism, women’s rights and children’s rights rely on foreign funding for their programs, and the new law will thus make their continued operations contingent on the approval of the ministry. In addition, the only NGOs providing some assistance to Iraqi refugees in Jordan are currently foreign NGOs, and might have to withdraw if they cannot meet the new requirements. A Jordanian intelligence official and a USAID representative in Jordan speculated that such curbs on foreign funding are intended to cut off terrorist funding.78 The available evidence suggests, however, that the real targets of curbs on foreign funding are human rights NGOs which have been the most publicly critical of government policy.

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law recommends that NGOs “should generally be allowed to receive [funding] from aid agencies … or an institutional or individual donor located in another country, as long as all generally applicable foreign exchange and customs laws are satisfied.”79 The discretion Jordanian law gives the government to approve funding effectively restricts NGO activities to government-endorsed programs.

The Law of Non-profit Companies

Because of the stringent conditions contained in the NGO law, the trend in Jordan has been for aspiring NGOs to register as a non-profit company in accordance with Article 7(d) of the Companies Law of 1997 and to bypass entirely the NGO law. Registration of such companies with the Ministry of Trade and Industry is straightforward, and the Ministry’s controller may only reject an application if “there is evidence in the [General] Partnership agreement or in the [articles of association] of a violation of this Law, public order or the provisions of all legislations in force.”80 Article 59 on Limited Liability Companies provides for nearly identical wording. Companies may litigate against a decision denying registration in court. In effect, several NGOs, such as Mizan (Lawyers Group for Human Rights), the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, and the Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies, have registered as non-profit companies and not as NGOs in order to avoid the restrictions of the NGO law.

However, the government in recent years began working on a special regulation for non-profit companies under the 1997 Companies Law to impose stricter measures of control over them. In February 2006 the controller-general of companies announced in the semi-official al-Ra’i newspaper that the regulation was necessary because “these [non-profit] companies ha[ve] become a Trojan horse for spotlighting criticism and for insulting national and official institutions … on the pretext of promoting human rights [through] written reports sent to [foreign] donors pretending to show … that they are a watchful eye on what is going on with the issue of freedoms [and] rights.”81 He went on to say that the government needed to monitor these companies’ “workshops and conferences inside and outside the kingdom and publication or sending of any report or research related to national security or the peaceful coexistence of Jordanian society.”82

The government did not pass the new regulation until April 24, 2007, and those affected by it did not know it had come into effect until its publication in al-Ra’i on June 13, 2007.83 They said they had not been consulted. The government had begun consultation with NGOs on this regulation in 2006, but abruptly stopped in 2007.84 The regulation restricts the freedoms from government control that non-profit companies had hitherto enjoyed compared to their counterpart NGOs registered under the NGO law.

The new regulation restricts the scope of operation of non-profit companies to the fields of social, humanitarian, health, environmental, educational, cultural, sports or similar services.85 It prohibits receiving “any assistance or donation or gift or funding from a non-Jordanian party without having obtained the approval of the cabinet,” and any “donation within the kingdom … without having obtained the approval of the minister … according to a written request comprising detailed evidence about the parties [involved], the justifications, and the source of these funds.”86

Article 11 of the new regulation allows the non-profit company to hold workshops and conferences and publish any research as long as it is “connected with its objectives according to the laws in force,” but it also gives the minister of trade and industry the “right to monitor the output of these workshops and conferences.”87

The final act of subjugating NGOs’ independence from government came in the regulation’s new provisions on closing a non-profit company. The minister can warn a company if it violates “the [companies] law [or] this regulation, or if it violates its articles of association or founding contract;” or if the company “carried out acts or efforts that are not within its objectives,” or if “a violation of public order or public morals resulted from any effort [the company] carried out.”88 If the company does not rectify the transgression within one month, the minister can put it into liquidation.89 Under the Companies Law, the controller-general may reject a company’s registration “if there is evidence in the Partnership agreement or in the [articles of association] of a violation of … public order,” but a public order violation is not among the reasons listed under Article 31 for dissolving a company.90 One NGO trying to register as a non-profit company in the summer of 2007 was forced to limit its objectives stated in its bylaws under pressure from the Ministry of Interior in order to be incorporated.91

Non-Profit organizations

In July and August 2006, in what appears to be politically motivated interference in NGOs that are government critics or political rivals, the government removed the management boards of the General Union of Voluntary Societies and the Islamic Center Society.

General Union of Voluntary Societies

In August 2006, the Ministry of Social Development formed a committee to investigate alleged financial wrongdoing at the General Union of Voluntary Societies (GUVS), an umbrella NGO regulated under the current NGO law.92 This was the first time in GUVS’ 49-year existence that it had come under investigation. Abdullah El-Khatib, the president of GUVS, told Human Rights Watch that he had dealt on a daily basis with government representatives within GUVS who never mentioned any wrongdoing.93 He viewed the government’s actions as a response to GUVS’ criticism of the government over its restrictions on NGOs, including by publishing and circulating a critique of the proposed NGO law to foreign NGOs in Jordan.

El-Khatib told Human Rights Watch that on August 18, 2006, the same day that GUVS received a letter announcing an investigation by the Ministry of Social Development, police and Ministry of Social Development officials arrived in eight armored cars at GUVS headquarters, prevented staff from entering the offices, and proceeded to confiscate the organization’s documents. Based on the report of the Ministry’s investigation committee, the Ministry decided on September 9, 2006 to refer the file to the office of the Prime Minister, which on September 12 referred GUVS for prosecution. On the same day, the prosecutor ordered the GUVS management, including El-Khatib, to be suspended from work according to Article 9.1.b of Law No. 11 of 1993 on Economic Crimes and charged some GUVS executives with fraud of monies entrusted to them under Article 175 of the penal code.

The report’s main finding was that the organization allegedly had made illegal donations. The Union of Amman Governorate Associations, a GUVS subsidiary union, had given $15,000 (JD10,000) to the Palestine General Union of Voluntary Services as a solidarity grant and $15,000 (JD10,000) to the government of Lebanon in July 2006 for displaced persons.94 The report further noted that a gun was found in El-Khatib’s office, which he told Human Rights Watch was a licensed firearm kept by guards in a safe three stories below his office to protect the organization’s cash.95 Other suspected violations included the purchase by the Union of Amman Governorate Associations of $750,000 (JD500,000) in shares in Arab Bank, an investment for which El-Khatib said he had sought and received express approval from the government, and GUVS fundraising through a raffle without government permission to do so. Lastly, the government claims that the Union of Amman Governorate Associations spent $13,500 in legal fees for El-Khatib in a case against Ministry of Social Development, which they argue was an inappropriate personal benefit; El-Khatib maintains that he acted with the approval of the Union’s legal adviser. El-Khatib had to apply to the Supreme Court of Justice to obtain a copy of the report.96

The government seems to have targeted El-Khatib personally in its investigation. Shortly after the arrival of the investigative committee, armed law enforcement officials raided his farm to investigate whether he had used GUVS as a front to obtain work permits for Egyptian farm hands, but found everything in order. However, on August 26, 2006, while departing Jordan to attend a conference, El-Khatib learned that the government had banned him from traveling abroad. The Ministry of Interior has not provided a reason for this travel ban, and the Supreme Court of Justice three times rejected his suit seeking relief. In June 2007 the government had still banned El-Khatib from traveling abroad, and he was unable to attend a conference in Brussels that month.

The Ministry of Social Development then made use of its powers under the NGO law to impose a temporary management board on GUVS after receiving the investigation committee’s report. The members of the new management board were the same as the members of the investigation committee, also appointed by the Ministry, and comprised officials from the Ministry and from the governmental Audit Office. Contrary to the current NGO law, however, the temporary management board has been in place beyond the 60 days of its legal tenure.

El-Khatib and three other members of the previous management board first challenged their suspension by the prosecutor after 60 days had lapsed, but the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the petition in October 2006 for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the Ministry’s decision to form an investigation committee did not constitute an administrative decision that they could appeal. The prosecutor, not the Ministry, had ordered the suspension, the court said. In March 2007, however, a panel of senior judges formed under the provisions of Article 9.1.b of the Economic Crimes Law investigating GUVS’ violation of law, annulled El-Khatib’s suspension, claiming such a suspension could not be indefinite. The prosecutor in April simply issued a new decision to suspend GUVS management, and the judicial panel did not annul that decision. By June 2007, the prosecutor had not yet acted to investigate the charges or deposited any witnesses.

In contrast to the swift suspension, the prosecutor took no action at all on a citizen’s action that El-Khatib and his colleagues filed in January 2007 against the members of the investigating committee, claiming they falsified their findings under articles 209, 210, 260 and 263 of the penal code.

On June 28, 2007, the prosecutor also moved to suspend the management of the Amman Governorate District Union of GUVS, and the Ministry of Social Development imposed a temporary management board on the district union.97 The temporary management board’s first decision was to announce an order indefinitely postponing the annual elections for the Amman District Union, due on July 7, 2007.98 El-Khatib, who is also a member of the Amman District Union’s management, claims the temporary management board took the decision for fear that members would return him as president of the Amman Union and that the aim of the government is to replace the leadership of GUVS elected from fellow NGOs with one more pliant to the Ministry’s desires. In October, the prosecutor detained GUVS members to interrogate them about the charges against them.99

Islamic Center Society

A similar scenario played out in the government’s intervention into the Islamic Center Society, one of Jordan’s largest NGOs. The Center, founded in 1963, is the charitable arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, a legal organization in Jordan whose political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is the largest opposition party in parliament. Muslim Brotherhood members have held ministerial positions in a number of Jordanian governments.

The Center works in the health, education, and social fields. It runs 14 health care centers and two large hospitals in Amman and Aqaba, 50 schools at all levels catering to 16,000 students, and 56 centers for 12,000 orphans, compared to the Ministry of Social Development’s responsibility for 3,000 orphans.100 Article 3 of its bylaws states that “The Society does not in any way seek or engage in the spheres of politics, religion, or sectarianism, and it offers its services to all citizens equally.”101

Abd al-Majid al-Dhunaibat, the former president of the Center, told Human Rights Watch that the Center used to send its program and financial reports to the Ministry of Social Development every three or four months, and the Ministry as well as the Accounting Office used to regularly inspect the Center’s files. Prior to 2006, there had never been a complaint; to the contrary, al-Dhunaibat said the Ministry had given the Center many letters of commendation.102

In July 2006, the Ministry decided to investigate the Center. This decision came at a period of strain between the Muslim Brotherhood, which has open sympathies for the Palestinian Hamas movement, and the Jordanian government. After Hamas won the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament), the US urged Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to follow its boycott of the Hamas government. Hamas’ foreign minister, Mahmud Zahar, was due to visit Amman in April, but the Jordanian government cancelled the visit after uncovering what it said were weapons Hamas had stored in Jordan in preparation for attacks there. Jordan’s handling of the affair has shed some doubt on the matter: Jordan announced the arrests and weapons finds before they had occurred. The government aired on national television the confessions of three of the nine Jordanians arrested and held in this alleged plot; it later released or pardoned all but two later.103 One former detainee spoke of coercion during his interrogation at the intelligence detention facility.104 Finally, after intelligence officers briefly detained Fahd al-Rimawi, editor of the weekly al-Majd newspaper, he wrote a retraction of a story in which he claimed the king himself had spoken to him about the fact that the weapons cache had been found long ago.105

Following an investigation lasting less than two weeks and comprising officials from the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Health, and the Accounting Office, the Ministry referred the case to the prime minister, who referred it to the prosecutor. The prosecutor, acting under article 9.b(1) of the Law on Economic Crimes, suspended nine members of the Center’s management board and charged some board members with crimes under the same law. The Ministry then installed a new temporary management board under its authority. The new management retained one member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whereas all previous board managers had been Muslim Brothers.106

In the year since the investigation, the prosecution has deposed 23 persons as witnesses or suspects, but has not referred any of them to trial.107 The temporary president Salman Badur was unable to cite to Human Rights Watch any concrete allegations of violations of either the Center’s bylaws or the Economic Crimes law, but referred vaguely to an investigation in the Islamic Hospital in Amman and another investigation in Salt, a small city, while acknowledging that these investigations began after he assumed the temporary leadership.108

Badur, acknowledging that he was not a legal expert, said that while the prosecutor had filed charges for economic crimes and suspended the management under the Economic Crimes law, the Ministry had installed the temporary management he headed because the Center had violated Article 3 of its bylaws.109

There appears to be no time limit on the suspension order issued by the prosecutor, although the panel of three eminent judges ruled in the GUVS case that it could not be open-ended (see above). An appointment of temporary management under the current NGO law, however, carries a clear maximum of two months, which cannot be renewed.110 After two months at the latest, the NGO’s general assembly is to vote in a new management.

During the year-long tenure of the temporary board at the time of Human Rights Watch’s inquiries, the board has led a concerted effort to increase the membership of the Center’s general assembly. Badur said a diversification of membership away from overwhelming male, Muslim Brotherhood members was necessary to fulfill the Center’s objectives of providing services on a non-discriminatory basis. He did not explain how the provision of services to all on a non-discriminatory basis related to diversity of membership within the organization. He mentioned that in the past, the Center had rejected the applications for membership by Fayiz Rabi’ and Marwan Fa’uri, although membership is open. Badur said that between July 2006 and April 2007, 220 new members had joined the general assembly as new members, and between April and August 2007 another 147 new members, of whom 20 are women, had joined.111

For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood alleges that it has never rejected applications for membership in the Center and that the current, massive increase in membership and failure to hold new elections within two months came at the direction of the government and in a plan to weaken the influence of the Muslim Brothers. “New members obtain the right to vote after one year of membership, so the government is waiting until they have a majority [in the general assembly] before allowing new elections,” Dhunaibat told Human Rights Watch.112 Dhunaibat, who said 525 new members had joined, compared to Badur’s figure of 367, in addition to the 350 original members, also said he had evidence that at least 90 of the new members were from a competing Islamic political party, the Islamic Middle Way Party (Hizb al-Wasat al-Islami); he said these new members had received direct communications from either the temporary management board or government sources to apply to the Center for membership.113

In fact, Badur could not give Human Rights Watch an explanation for why his management team did not respond to a motion by 90 members of the general assembly, tabled in mid-June 2007, to hold new elections to form a management board. He confirmed that he did not respond to the motion, that it had been appealed to the Ministry of Social Development, which also did not respond, and that the general assembly members were currently appealing this failure to adhere to the NGO law and the Center’s bylaws to the Supreme Court of Justice, which had held initial hearings.114

Badur pointed out that under his stewardship, charitable disbursements had risen by 20 percent, from $15 million to $18 million in the current year.115 Dhunaibat did not dispute those figures, but pointed out that the financial strength of the Center relies on its association with the Muslim Brotherhood to attract donations, and that government interference and removing the Islamic image from the center would reduce trust of its Muslim donors and hurt the Center financially in the long run.116

36 Constitution, art.16(ii).

37 ICCPR, art. 22(2).

38 Kareem Elbayar, “NGO Laws in Selected Arab States,” International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, vol.7, no.4, September 2005, p.14.

39 As of October 30, 2007, the government had not posted its proposed law on the designated website for draft laws . Our discussion is based on a May 2007 draft of the law in question.

40 Human Rights Watch interview with Asem Rababa’a, Amman, June 17, 2007.

41 Law 33 (1966) on Public Gatherings, art. 5a. The government’s Draft Law on Voluntary Societies and Civil Society (2007) does not explicitly prohibit associations other than those regulated by law. It requires 25 persons to establish an association. Civil society’s Draft Law on Civil Society Organizations (2006) also does not mention unregistered, informal associations, but lists different types of associations with as few as three members.

42 Article 159 of Jordan’s Penal Code defines an unlawful group as “Any group of persons which the law requires to inform the government of its bylaws and that either failed to do that or continued to hold its meetings after being dissolved according to the law mentioned,” Penal Code, art. 159, and punishes membership or assistance to such a group with up to two years in prison (Penal Code, art. 160).

43 Law 16 (1960), Penal Code, arts 36, 150, 151, and 159-163.

44 Law 33 (1966) on Social Societies and Institutions, arts 6 and 7.

45 Law 33 (1966) on Social Societies and Institutions, art.12.

46 Law 33 (1966) on Social Societies and Institutions, art. 7.

47 Proposed 2007 Law, art.3.

48 Proposed 2007 Law, art. 2.

49 Proposed 2007 Law, art.26. Article 4 gives NGOs “nominal/titular” personality (اعتباري). It is unclear whether NGOs retain legal personality under the proposed law.

50 2006 NGO Draft Law, art. 8.

51 Asma Khadr, “Legal Frameworks and Internal Regulations Related to the Work of Local Societies in Jordan,” NGO Center for Excellence, Research and Studies Series, No.1, June 2002, p.6 (accessed September 25, 2007).

52 Freedom in the World, Jordan 2005, Freedom House, (accessed September 28, 2007).

53 1966 NGO Law, arts 16 and 18, Proposed 2007 NGO Law, arts 20, 21, and 22; 2006 NGO Draft Law, art. 30. Under current as well as the proposed 2007 law, the minister can appoint a temporary management board if the current management is unable to meet for lack of a quorum, if the ministry suspects violations of the NGO law, or the NGO’s bylaws, such as failure to convene a general assembly of members and hold elections, or failure to allow new members to join. The minister can appoint temporary management provided the NGO has not rectified the suspected violation within one month of receiving of the ministry’s written warning (Proposed 2007 NGO law, art.21.a). The temporary management has 60 days to operate the NGO and hold elections for a new management board (Proposed 2007 NGO law, art.21.b. 1966 NGO law, art. 18). The proposed NGO Law of 2007, however, would allow the minister to extend the temporary management’s tenure by another 60 days, or to appoint a new temporary management board. There are no apparent limits on the appointment of new temporary boards (Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 21). The proposed 2007 law also broadens the basis for ministerial intervention by including the submission of incorrect information to a government body and the refusal to permit a Ministry official access to the NGO’s premises to search any files or other items in the list of violations leading to closure (Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 20.4 and 20.5).

54 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO executive, Amman, October 25, 2007.

55 1966 NGO Law, art. 16, which also includes submission of incorrect information, misappropriation of funds, and failure to pursue its objectives as reasons for closure.

56 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 20 and 22.

57 2006 NGO Draft Law, art. 30.

58 “Jordan: Right to Freedom of Expression and Association Denied,” Amnesty International press release, November 11, 2002, (accessed September 28, 2007).

59 “Checklist for CSO Laws,” International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, 2006

60 1966 NGO Law, art. 17. Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 8.

61 1966 NGO Law, art. 15.2. Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 7.

62 1966 NGO Law, arts 5 and 9.Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 9.

63 1966 NGO Law, art. 9.

64 1966 NGO Law, art. 14 states that the Ministry may “visit the premises of any [NGO] and to examine its records and files to confirm that its funds are being disbursed for their specified purposes and to ensure that it is generally carrying out its work in accordance with the stipulations of this law and in line with its stated objectives.” Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 20.

65 The current NGO law extends these obligations separately on any branch offices. 1966 NGO Law, art. 19. Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 7. 1966 NGO Law, art. 15.

66 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 25.

67 Dr. Abdullah Elkhatib, “The Draft NGO Law, Submitted by the Ministry of Social Development. Highlights of Major Concerns,” May 2007.

68 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 25.

69 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art. 10.

70 2006 NGO Draft Law, art. 7.

71 2006 NGO Draft Law, art.10.

72 2006 NGO Draft Law, arts 13 and 28.

73 1966 NGO Law, art. 19.

74 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art.13.

75 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art.13. A newspaper article highlighting the proposed law spoke of $525,000 (350,000 Jordanian Dinar) as the minimum program outlay for foreign NGOs. Mahmud al-Tarawneh, “The Government Passes the Proposal of a Law that Subjects the Funding of Charities to Monitoring by the Accounting Council [الحكومة تقر مشروع قانون تخضع أموال الجمعيات لرقابة ديوان المحاسبة],” al-Ghad Newspaper, October 27, 2007.

76 Human Rights Watch interview with a representative of a foreign NGO, Amman, June 2007.

77 Proposed 2007 NGO Law, art.16.

78 Human Rights Watch conversation with Jordanian intelligence official, Amman, June 25, 2007, and interview with USAID official, Amman, October 25, 2007.

79 “Checklist for CSO Laws,” International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, 2006

80 Companies Law of 1997, art.11.b.

81 “The Legal Reality for Non-profit Companies – Penned by Dr. Mahmud ‘Ababina,” al-Ra’i newspaper, February 12, 2006 (accessed October 1, 2007).

82 “The Legal Reality for Non-profit Companies – Penned by Dr. Mahmud ‘Ababina,” al-Ra’i newspaper, February 12, 2006 ( accessed October 1, 2007). Hilmi al-Asmar a columnist for al-Dustur newspaper wrote a critical reply which was not published: (accessed October 1, 2007).

83 Rim al-Rawashda, “The Regulation for Non-profit Companies Ties Foreign Funding to Government Approval,” al-Ra’i Newspaper, June 13, 2007 (accessed October 1, 2007).

84 Human Rights Watch interviews with two presidents of non-profit companies in Jordan, Amman, June 13, 2007. Dr. Mahmud ‘Ababina, in an article responding to criticism about his earlier article in al-Ra’i, wrote that he had consulted with four civil society leaders about the regulation. Mahmud ‘Ababina, “Response of the Controller-general of Companies to Wardam (رد مراقب الشركات على وردم),” Ammon News (online), February 18, 2007 (accessed October 1, 2007).

85 Regulation No. 60 of 2007 for Non-profit Companies, issued in accordance with Paragraph d) of Article 7 of the Law No. 22 of 1997 of Companies, art. 5.

86 Regulation No. 60 of 2007 for Non-profit Companies, issued in accordance with Paragraph d) of Article 7 of the Law No. 22 of 1997 of Companies, art. 9.

87 Regulation No. 60 of 2007 for Non-profit Companies, issued in accordance with Paragraph d) of Article 7 of the Law No. 22 of 1997 of Companies, art. 11.

88 Regulation No. 60 of 2007 for Non-profit Companies, issued in accordance with Paragraph d) of Article 7 of the Law No. 22 of 1997 of Companies, art. 15.

89 Regulation No. 60 of 2007 for Non-profit Companies, issued in accordance with Paragraph d) of Article 7 of the Law No. 22 of 1997 of Companies, art. 15.

90 Law No. 22 of 1997 on Companies, arts 11 and 31.

91 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO representative of the non-profit company, names withheld on request, Amman, October 25, 2007.

92 GUVS comprises 1200 local Jordanian organizations. It has 12 committees, that elect a central committee, composed of 19 members in an executive council, one from each governorate plus six representatives from Amman.

93 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Abdullah El-Khatib, suspended President of GUVS, Amman, June 28, 2007. El-Khatib claims that the investigation was in retaliation for an article he published one week earlier regarding the intended reform of the NGO law.

94 The government has not yet responded to a Human Rights Watch enquiry to the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson, H.E. Nasser Judeh, on November 21, 2007, regarding the precise nature of the alleged criminal acts.

95 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Abdullah El-Khatib, suspended president of GUVS, Amman, June 28, 2007.

96 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Abdullah El-Khatib, suspended president of GUVS, Amman, June 28, 2007.

97 In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on June 25, 2007, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit said he had consulted with his “best lawyers” before referring the GUVS file to the prosecutor. He did not elaborate on the specific violations attributed to GUVS employees. Human Rights Watch meeting with Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, Amman, June 25, 2007.

98 Muhammad Jamal al-Salih, President of the Temporary Management Board, “Letter No. [removed by Human Rights Watch],” July 2007.

99 Email from a GUVS member sent to Human Rights Watch on November 4, 2007.

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007, and telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

101 “Bylaw,” Charitable Islamic Center Society Amman, April 1, 1963, art. 3.

102 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

103 Human Rights Watch interview with one of those arrested, name withheld on request, Amman, June 18, 2007.

104 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with one of those arrested, name withheld on request, Amman, May 18, 2007.

105 Fahd Rimawi, “Mish’al Denies Categorically and Sharply Smuggling Weapons into Jordan (مشعل ينفي بشكل قطعي وحاسم تهريب اسلحة للاردن),” al-Majd newspaper, May 8, 2006, and Fahd Rimawi, “Letter to the President and Members of Higher Media Council,” May 9, 2007, and Human Rights Watch conversation with government spokesperson Nasser Judeh, Amman, June 25, 2006.

106 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007, and telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

107 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007, and telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007. Human Rights Watch interview with Badi’ Rafayi’a, head of the Committee Against Normalization [with Israel], Amman, June 16, 2007. At the time, he referred to 21 witnesses or suspects.

108 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007. Badur also said that buses belonging to the Center’s schools had been used in the 2003 elections to carry campaign placards for members of the Islamic Action Front.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007.

110 As described above, the 2007 Law allows for extensions and the appointment of new temporary boards.

111 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007.

112 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

113 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

114 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007, and telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.

115 Human Rights Watch interview with Salman al-Badur, president of the temporary management board, Amman, August 28, 2007.

116 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abd al-Majid Dhunaibat, former president of the management board, Amman, September 10, 2007.