Jordan Criminal Code
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
The criminal code adopted in 1956, which had been amended many times, contained the bulk of the country's criminal law. In addition, certain codified civil statutes also prescribed penalties for acts such as libel, adultery, and publication of material endangering the security of the kingdom. Individuals could not be punished except for acts made criminal by virtue of penalties prescribed by law. Other than where specified, a person also could not be punished for committing a criminal act in the absence of criminal responsibility or intent, both of which were defined by the code. As a safeguard of personal liberty, the government had the burden of proving both the defendant's commission of the act and the admissible intent of the defendant before guilt could be established.
The criminal code, in traditional French form, divided criminal offenses into three categories according to the severity of the applicable punishments. In English common law these categories equated roughly to felonies, misdemeanors, and minor violations. Punishments for felonies ranged from death by hanging to imprisonment for periods ranging from three years to life. Punishments for misdemeanors included imprisonment for periods ranging from three weeks to three years and a variety of fines. Minor violations could be punished by imprisonment for less than three weeks, small fines, or reprimands by the court. In cases involving misdemeanors or minor violations, a judge also could invoke preventive measures including detention for psychiatric examination, forfeiture of material goods, or closure of a place of business. The criminal code provided for minimum penalties for all major infractions rather than relying on the discretion of the courts.
The death penalty was authorized for murder, arson of an inhabited building, assassination of the king (or attempts on his life), and a broad range of serious crimes defined as threats to the security of the state. These latter offenses included acts such as treason, espionage on behalf of an unfriendly foreign power, and armed insurrection. The act of selling land in the West Bank to occupying Israeli authorities was considered high treason and therefore a capital offense. Some Palestinians had been sentenced in absentia to death under this decree but as of 1989 these sentences had never been carried out. Executions were rare and politically sensitive in Jordan. Three death sentences for murder were carried out in 1985, none in 1986, and only one in 1987. In the 1987 case, the assassin of a PLO Executive Committee member in the West Bank was put to death.
Imprisonment for life was imposed for such felonies as lesser crimes against national security, homicide during commission of a misdemeanor or that resulted from torture, and the more serious forms of theft. Shorter imprisonment was prescribed for these same offenses if mitigating circumstances warranted. Such punishment also was authorized for terrorist activity, membership in subversive organizations, counterfeiting, forgery of official documents, and abduction.
Misdemeanors included such offenses as gambling in public places, bribery, perjury, simple forgery, slander, embezzlement, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace. The influence of sharia was still evident in the imposition of prison sentences for desertion of a child, abortion, marrying a girl under the age of sixteen, openly ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, and breaking the fast of Ramadan. Sharia also was important in the criteria for justifiable homicide. No penalty was imposed for the immediate killing of someone who defiled a person's or a family's honor.
Minor violations covered by the code included traffic violations, seeking redress for a crime without recourse to civil authorities, public drunkenness, and violations of administrative regulations such as licensing and safe housing requirements. These infractions were punishable with or without proven intent. Most minor violations resulted in fines being assessed against the offender.
Data as of December 1989
NOTE: The information regarding Jordan on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Jordan Criminal Code information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Jordan Criminal Code should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.