His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein
Royal Hashemite Court
2 August, 2023
We are a group of regional and international human rights organizations and members of civil society. We are writing to you to express our deep concern regarding the proposed draft of the Cybercrime Law of 2023, which has recently been passed in the Jordanian Parliament. The draft law, in its current form, undermines the freedoms of citizens. It has been issued hastily, and without sufficient examination of its legal aspects, social implications, and its impact on human rights. We urge Your Majesty to intervene to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms in Jordan.
The law imposes penalties of imprisonment and hefty fines for vague and unspecified crimes such as ‘character assassination,’ ‘spreading false news,’ and ‘blasphemy.’ This contradicts the interpretation provided by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “a norm, to be characterized as a ‘law’, must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable an individual to regulate his or her conduct accordingly and it must be made accessible to the public. A law may not confer unfettered discretion for the restriction of freedom of expression on those charged with its execution.”
We believe that many provisions of the law allow for unjust or unnecessary pre-trial detention, and provide no guarantees for the rights of the affected individuals. This constitutes a violation of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”
The draft law grants unrestricted authority to the public prosecutor and the executive authority to block social media platforms and issue orders to control their content without the need for a judicial decision, thus limiting access to specific platforms in Jordan. Additionally, the law imposes restrictions on encryption and anonymity in digital communications, preventing individuals from safeguarding their right to freedom of opinion and expression and their right to privacy.
As a law intended to regulate digital spaces and ensure they are safe from crimes that could threaten the wellbeing of individuals and society at large, the law in its current form—with its loosely-defined and open to interpretation terminology—will inevitably become a tool for prosecuting innocent individuals for their online speech.
We also note the prominent participation of Your Majesty in the Christchurch Call to Eradicate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online. The Call includes commitments for signatories to “respect and promote “human rights and a free, open, secure internet.” This participation is important because no other countries from our region are active, but passing this law will be in direct opposition to the Call, and risks harming the positive perception of Jordan that has been engendered through this participation.
We believe that enacting this law contradicts the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Jordan has ratified. We also believe that it will negatively impact individual rights, the reputation of Jordan, and its international standing in politics, law, and economy. It is not in line with Jordan’s constitution and legislation and does not align with other existing penalties.
Based on the above, we kindly request Your Majesty to reject the 2023 Cybercrime Law until there is sufficient consultation on its provisions with individuals, civil society, and political parties to ensure its compliance with human rights and address the existing shortcomings.
Human Rights Watch
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Fair Vote UK
INSM Foundation for Digital Rights
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
LaLibre.net Tecnologías Comunitarias