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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on January 8, 1952. Executive authority is vested in the king and his council of ministers. The king signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name. The council of ministers, led by a prime minister, is appointed by the king, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request. The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.

Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The 80-member Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term, is subject to dissolution by the king. Of the 80 seats, 71 must go to Muslims and nine to Christians. The 40-member Senate is appointed by the king for an 8-year term.

Administratively, Jordan is divided into eight governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the king. They are the sole authorities for all government departments and development projects in their respective areas.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Jordanian judicial system consists of several types of courts. Most criminal cases are tried in civilian courts, which include the appeals courts, the Court of Cassation, and the Supreme Court. Cases involving sedition, armed insurrection, financial crimes, drug trafficking, and offenses against the royal family are tried in the State Security Court. Defendants in the State Security Court have the right to appeal their sentences to the Court of Cassation, which is authorized to review issues of both fact and law.

Shari'a (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce among Muslims and inheritance cases involving both Muslims and non-Muslims. Christian courts have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce cases among Christians, but apply Shari'a law in inheritance cases. Shari'a as applied in the country regards the testimony of one man as equal to that of two women in proving matters of fact. This provision technically applies only in religious courts; however, in the past it has been imposed in civil courts as well, regardless of religion.

The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary, however, the judiciary remains subject to pressure and interference from the executive branch. A judge's appointment to, advancement within, and dismissal from the judiciary are determined by the Higher Judiciary Council, a committee whose members are appointed by the King.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Jordanian Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas in 2001; however, there were significant problems in other areas. There are significant restrictions on citizens' right to change their Government. Citizens may participate in the political system through their elected representatives in Parliament; however, the King has discretionary authority to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and upper house of Parliament, to dissolve Parliament, and to establish public policy. Other human rights problems included police abuse and mistreatment of detainees; allegations of torture; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of transparent investigations and accountability within the security services; prolonged detention without charge; denial of due process of law stemming from the expanded authority of the State Security Court and interference in the judicial process; infringements on citizens' privacy rights; harassment of members of opposition political parties; and significant restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. A law enacted by the Government in October gave the Government broad powers to restrict and prosecute journalists and close publications. This law effectively superseded the 1999 amendments to the Press and Publications Law, which had reduced somewhat the restrictions in previous laws regarding the ability of journalists and publications to function and report freely; however, significant restrictions continued to be in effect. The Government limits academic freedom. The Government imposes some limits on freedom of religion, and there is official and societal discrimination against adherents of unrecognized religions. The evangelical Christian community reported fewer incidents of governmental harassment during the year. There are some restrictions on freedom of movement. Violence against women, restrictions on women's rights, and societal discrimination against women are problems. The law still allows for reduced punishments for violent "honor crimes" against women for alleged immoral acts. Child abuse remains a problem, and discrimination against Palestinians persists. Abuse of foreign domestic servants is a problem, and child labor occurs.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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