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Sometimes People Fight Back: 
Amer Jubran Names His Torturers

When Amer Jubran reported that he had been tortured by Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (Jordan’s secret police or mukhabarat) while in detention in Jordan in 2014, no one was surprised. For years, human rights groups have cited the Jordanian government’s abysmal human rights record. Violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Jordan is a signatory, have continued with impunity at every level of what is supposed to be Jordan’s “justice system.”

Amer Jubran is a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent. He is an internationally known activist and speaker who has written about the rights of Palestinians and against unjust policies of the US and Israel in the Arab world. The Jordanian government violently arrested and detained Jubran in May, 2014 and he was later sentenced to ten years in prison in July, 2015. His verdict and sentence are currently being appealed in Jordan’s Court of Cassation. Amer Jubran’s experiences as a political prisoner highlight the human rights abuses for which Jordan is best known:

1) Arrest without a warrant;

2) Incommunicado detention for 2 months;

3) No access to legal counsel for at least 2 months while in detention;

4) Torture including forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings, 72 to 120 hour interrogation sessions, and threats to family members;

5) Forced confessions obtained through torture that the defendant was not even permitted to read before signing;

6) Charges that include “committing acts that threaten to harm relations with a foreign government” based on a law promulgated one month after his arrest and that effectively criminalizes speech or any expression of protest directed at a foreign government;

7) A trial in Jordan’s State Security Court, a military tribunal with no judicial independence (the UN  has called for its abolition since 1994); and

8) The State Security Court ruling on July 29, 2015 which states openly that the Court is “not obliged to discuss defense’s evidence presented by defense attorneys since accepting prosecution’s evidence automatically implies rejection of defense’s evidence” and relies solely on the forced confessions obtained through torture that Jubran and all his co-defendants recanted during trial.

What is disturbing is that Jubran’s case is not the exception, but rather the rule in Jordan’s State Security Court system.  Inès Osman, Legal Officer at Alkarama Foundation states, “The Jordanian special courts continue to rely heavily on confessions extracted under torture, which, added to their lack of independence, often leads to the arbitrary sentencing of people like Amer.”

But this is not just the story of Jordanian prisoners either. It is the story of the thousands of Arabs and Muslims who continue to be detained illegally by proxy governments of the US and Israel, for the US and Israel.

The involvement of foreign governments in Jubran’s detention is not mere speculation. Jubran was told by his GID interrogators that the outcome of his arrest and detention would be determined by the GID’s “American and Israeli friends.” During his interrogation, Jubran was questioned about his friends in the US, and when Jubran asked why, he was told that the information was for the GID and their “friends in the States.” Even the nature of the charges that Jubran finally received months after he was arrested points to an arrest at the behest of foreign governments. A review of Jubran’s activism and writing clearly show that his efforts were not directed at Jordan’s king or the Jordanian government and certainly involved no threat to the people of Jordan. Jubran’s charges involved alleged threats to only two entities: the US and Israel.  The charges included “planning attacks” on American soldiers in Jordan (although the Jordanian government had denied the presence of American soldiers in Jordan during the alleged period) and affiliation with Hizballah, an organization that poses no direct threat to Jordanian citizens or the royal family, but is the only organization that poses a threat to American and Israeli interests in the region. Though Jubran has expressed his respect for Hizballah, he denies any affiliation and has stated that all the charges against him are false.

What is compelling about Jubran’s case is that he knows the names of those who tortured him. And the reason Jubran knows those names underlines the absolute confidence that the Jordanian government has in the State Security Court to act as a rubber stamp for the government’s agenda. There is not even the need for the pretense of a fair system. Coerced confessions of different co-defendants carried identical phrasing and were literally edited several times throughout the course of the trial to serve the needs of the prosecution.  Jubran discovered the names of his torturers because they were the first five witnesses for the prosecution. In a recent statement by Jubran on October 10, 2015, he names two of the torturers: Colonel Habes Rizk (who threatened Jubran with being disappeared) and Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman (who threatened to assault Jubran’s wife to get Jubran to cooperate and also physically tortured Jubran). (See transcript of Jubran’s October 10th statement here).

Impunity for torturers is dependent on a system that permits those who torture to remain anonymous. Though it may benefit repressive regimes to advertise what can happen to you if you are criminalized, it certainly doesn’t benefit those regimes for the names of those doing the dirty work  to be common knowledge. Anonymity is the main source of protection for those who torture. It is what permits them to “dissolve into the mist of the system.” (Jeffrey St. Clair, When Torturers Walk, Counterpunch, March, 2015 ). But the Jordanian government’s hubris in the trial of Amer Jubran threw a wrench into their own plans. The government was so confident in its ability to intimidate that they saw no risk in having the torturers testify at the trial.  They didn’t calculate on Jubran naming them publicly.

Sometimes people fight back.

Jubran has taken great personal risks to expose Captain Adurrahman and Colonel Rizk, and Jubran has  already experienced retaliation within the prison for speaking out. It is our job as those not held captive by Jordan’s penal system, to demand and assure that Jubran at long last receives justice, and that the people responsible for his torture be held accountable for their crimes. As long as the torturers can still do their jobs with impunity, the Jordanian government will continue to play a central role in the US and Israel’s geopolitical agenda for the region– playing the henchman to oppress their own people.

More details about the case of Amer Jubran can be found at freeamer.wordpress.com .

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Lana Habash is a Palestinian physician living in Boston, MA. She can be reached at lanahabash2018@gmail.com.

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