Jordan Times – 2006-01-04 23:36:38
AMMAN (January 3, 2006) — The Legal Committee of the Lower House on Monday approved a controversial agreement that the Kingdom signed with the US, giving American citizens and personnel immunity against prosecution for war crimes, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
The draft law governing the agreement, which commits Jordan not to extradite any US citizen for trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), was voted down by an overwhelming majority of the Lower House during its extraordinary session this summer, but was later approved by the Senate.
According to procedure, the draft law went back to the deputies when the ordinary session opened. The Lower House turned it over to its Legal Committee for further examination.
MPs, who voted against the ratification in July, said that it would jeopardise the Kingdom’s sovereignty on its national soil and was in contradiction with Jordan’s signing of the ICC agreement.
But MP Ghaleb Zu’bi, who heads the Legal Committee, said yesterday that these arguments were baseless after committee members recently discussed the draft law with Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Ilah Khatib and Minister of Justice Abed Shakhanbeh. Zu’bi added that he and his colleagues agreed with senators’ comments on the constitutional soundness of the draft law.
“We further examined the provisions of the Jordan-US agreement and the ICC statute …and concluded that the agreement does not jeopardise Jordan’s sovereignty,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Officials have stated that the ratification of the immunity agreement with the US is of utmost importance to ensure the continued American economic and military assistance to the Kingdom.
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Suhair Al-Ali said in August that the ratification governs the continuity of Jordan’s receipt of US economic and military aid.
US politicians have suggested that additional aid be allocated, but on the condition that the countries receiving it should sign the immunity agreement.
Al-Ali indicated that the US Congress agreed to provide the Kingdom with the $250 million in economic assistance for 2006, and it pledged to consider providing the Kingdom with additional grants this year.
Meanwhile, international human rights watchdogs urged Parliament to discard the immunity deal.
According to reports in early December, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a joint statement calling on deputies to reject the agreement, which also guarantees immunity to non-US nationals working for the US government.
“Jordan’s Parliament should reject an agreement that would shield US citizens and personnel under Jordan jurisdiction from ICC prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide,” AI and HRW said.
“Deputies in the Lower House of Jordan’s Parliament should maintain their refusal to pass this bilateral agreement, and senators in the Upper House should reverse their previous approval of the agreement,” the statement said.
The exemption from prosecution at the ICC does not apply to US citizens of dual nationality, officials explained.
Meanwhile, Lower House Speaker Abdul Hadi Majali on Monday called on the Lower House to convene on Wednesday at 10:00am.
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