GENEVA (19 August 2020) – UN human rights experts* today called on Jordan to reverse its decision to close a teachers’ union, free its board members from detention and lift gag orders that have prohibited any public discussion of the case.
“The actions of the Jordanian government against the Teachers Syndicate are a serious violation of the rights to freedom of association and expression,” the experts said. “Civil society groups and labour unions should be able to organise and express criticism of government actions.”
The government closed the labour union in July in an act of retaliation because the Teachers Syndicate criticised it for not honouring a 2019 pledge for better pay and conditions that its 140,000 members won after a four-week strike in September 2019.
“The closure of an association is one of the most severe types of restrictions to freedom of association, and can only be justified in the most exceptional cases,” the experts said. “It must be prescribed by law, have a legitimate aim and be proportional and necessary in a democratic society. This decision does not pursue a legitimate State interest.”
Closure of the union on 25 July and detention of the 13 board members “deprives teachers of a major tool to raise their voice and concerns, and will ultimately affect Jordan’s system of education.”
The experts called on Jordan to release the board members who are in detention and are refusing food as a protest. “They all need medical care, and at least three are in particularly bad health.”
“No one should be detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights. In the present case, we are particularly concerned about the health of those on hunger strike, and urge their immediate release to seek medical attention,” the experts said.
The experts also criticised government and judicial orders that prohibit any reporting on the Teachers Syndicate case and that have resulted in the arrest of some journalists. Reporters have also been instructed not to report on the issue by Jordan’s intelligence agency, while others have stated that for the first time they are being monitored in Jordan while carrying out their work.
“Orders by the Jordanian government and judiciary prohibiting the publication of information on this case are alarming violations of freedom of expression,” the experts said. “Civil society and journalists should be free to report and comment on any issues, as well as to criticize and call for action by the government.”
The experts also called on the government to stop using excessive force and detaining peaceful protestors and journalists during public demonstrations in support of the Teachers Syndicate.
“We call on the government of Jordan to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression, to release the Teacher Syndicate board members from detention, reinstate the board, and to negotiate with the labour union in good faith,” they said.
* The UN experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association
Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the
promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, Members of the
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:
Ms. Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur),
Ms. Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair),
Mr. José Guevara Bermúdez,
Mr. Seong-Phil Hong,
Mr. Sètondji Adjovi;
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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