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Jordan Sets up Honor Killing Tribunal

Jordan is establishing a tribunal that will focus exclusively on suspected perpetrators of honor crimes in an effort to speed up the legal process and bring killers to justice.

The tribunal is set to begin this Saturday.

The head of Jordan’s Criminal Court, Judge Nayif A-Samarat, said the department would look into cases throughout the kingdom, whereas beforehand these cases were taken care of by various departments thoughout the court.

With the new tribunal, trials could be over within two months, whereas before they could drag on for 18 months.

“I welcome anything that can make changes regarding honor killings to save women and to make the perpetrators face justice,” Diana Nammi, founder and director of the International Campaign Against Honor Killings, told The Media Line.

“In Jordan and many other countries in the Middle East and Asia there are very lenient charges for perpetrators, or none at all,” she said.

According to Nammi, proposals for stricter legislation against perpetrators of honor killings in Jordan were rejected by Jordanian MPs, who were reluctant to accept “progressive demands.”
An honor crime is a term that describes cases in which a woman is killed, usually by a family member, for doing something that supposedly taints the family reputation.

Honor crimes are common in the Middle East and governments throughout the region are trying to stop them by passing stronger legislation against perpetrators and launching awareness campaigns.

An amendment in Syria last month, for example, abolished an article of the Penal Code which waived punishment for men who kill a female relatives engaged in “illegitimate sex acts.”

Actions that warrant honor crimes can include extra-marital affairs, sex outside of wedlock, being seen with an unrelated man in public, or being a victim of rape.

“Most of the cases known as honor crimes are in fact far from being honorable in any way,” A-Samarat said this week. “The motive for the killings, in most of the cases, is based on doubts and erroneous impressions which are soon dissipated once the crime has been committed.”

Nine documented cases of honor killings have occurred in Jordan since the beginning of the year but the true numbers could be much higher. .

Nammi said while the tribunal was a positive step forward, it should be accompanied by stronger legislation that will not allow the killers to walk free or be excused with a small fine.

Following parliamentary opposition the government neglected to amend a clause in the Penal Code that allows for a mitigated punishment for honor crimes.

Article 340 of the Penal Code says that if a man who discovers his wife or a female relative committing adultery with another man then kills or wounds one or both of them, he is exempt from penalty. 

Nammi said that there was a need to address the fact that in many countries where honor killings are common, the perpetrators are treated as champions.

“In many of these countries they are considered a hero in the community and they will gain more respect because, ridiculously, they defended their honor rather than the life of a female in their community,” Nammi said.

“Every single person, even very young children, is able to kill a woman for the family’s honor and there are no charges. By law, honor killing is not a crime, the family has to do it and they will be rewarded,” she said. “It’s a huge problem.”