‘If the family gets redress and compensation it will be a victory for all of Jordan’

PUBLISHED 10.05.2017

The lawyer Haya Al Abbady represents the family of a deceased victim in a case of torture and ill-treatment under police custody. Haya is one of the lawyers DIGNITY’s local partner Mizan for Law has trained in handling torture cases.

By Maja Christine Wester

Haya sits leaned back, waiting. Her face and the way she sits express calm and strength. If I was in the unfortunate situation of needing a lawyer, I would be happy to have her by my side. She is part of the Noor Network under the organization Mizan for Law which consists of approximately 60 lawyers from all over Jordan. Mizan has held trainings for the lawyers on how to legally handle torture cases, international conventions etc. as part of the Karama programme, which is technically supported by DIGNITY.

Haya has had many difficult cases, she says. She was, as an example, involved in a case about a woman who wanted to submit a case on police violence committed during the apprehension of her son. She went to the public prosecutor to file the case. But he told her that she had to go to the police prosecutor instead:

“The public prosecutor did not know the rules for these kinds of cases, so I took the Ministry of Justice’s manual and showed him that it was actually under his jurisdiction,” says Haya.

The manual, Haya refers to, was developed by the Jordanian Ministry of Justice under the Karama programme and it specifies procedures for judges and prosecutors in cases of torture and other kinds of ill-treatment. In the development of the manual, DIGNITY contributed with technical input. Haya summarizes:

“Just to get the case submitted felt like a victory.”

They said he had fallen down a staircase
Another case has also been challenging. In this, the relatives to a now deceased man have submitted a case on the ill-treatment they say happened when he was in the police’s custody. The mother and her now grown-up son are sitting together with us. When the son came to Mizan to ask for help in filing the case, he was 12-years old. That was in 2009.

“My husband had a shop where he was selling furniture. He went to the police to pay a fine and then the police arrested him for three days. Then I received a phone call saying that he was in a coma,” says the woman.

He did wake from the coma, but he was not the same and the injuries had consequences:

“When he woke up again he could not remember anything and he had paralysis in different parts of his body. The hospital filled a case against him to make him pay for the stay at the hospital.”

And the police denied having a responsibility for what happened: “They said he had fallen down a staircase.”

However, that is not what the family thinks happened and what they are trying to prove in court:

“My husband had some kind of allergy and he took medicine for it. While detained, he suffered an attack because he did not get the medicine, and the police thought he was faking it and started beating him. Even though he had serious injuries, he was taken by an ordinary prison transport to the hospital.”

What happened to him when he was detained and afterwards had major consequences for the family:

“It has psychologically affected the children, for example one of my daughters sees a doctor because she sometimes faints. Economically, we also came into trouble because we had to close the shop and at the time the children were small.”

The case could make precedent
The case has now been underway for many years, but both the lawyer and the family hope that a judgment will be given in the next couple of months.

“We filled the case to get redress and compensation for what happened to my husband while being detained. The case is still pending, but hopefully we will get a positive ruling out and soon.”

The judgement is of course important for the family, but also nationally. A positive judgement in this case would make precedent: changing practice for similar cases in the future, Haya explains:

“If the family gets redress and compensation it will be a victory for all of Jordan. It will be the first time that compensation is given in a case like this.”

Mizan for Law is one of DIGNITY’s Jordanian partners in the anti-torture programme Karama. The programme is inspired by a co-responsibility approach where state institutions, semi state institutions and CSOs cooperate to achieve the common goal.

The Karama-programme is funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme (DAPP).