Since 2011, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute has worked with judicial institutes and high judicial councils in the Middle East and North Africa. The aim of RWI’s regional programme is to further the application of international human rights standards in the national judicial systems in the region.
As part of the programme, the institutes and councils studied whether the national laws comply with the international human rights conventions their countries ratified. These studies provided a basis for human rights training workshops for future judges in the different countries.
Recently, RWI extended the collaboration for another three years during a two-days meeting in Amman, Jordan. We sat down with Judge Dr. Nasser Salamat from the State Security Court in Jordan to discuss the cooperation with RWI and the results we achieved so far.
Dr. Salamat says that the cooperation with RWI has played an important part in harmonising international human rights conventions and Jordanian national laws.
“The issuing of this national study [part of RWI’s regional programme, ed.] and the ongoing cooperation with RWI has had important impact and direct influence in convincing committees established to draft and amend laws, that the international treaties which Jordan has ratified, need to be harmonized with national laws,” he says, adding:
We played an important role in adding legal articles that fulfil human rights principles in these laws.
International Perspective in the Middle East
Dr. Salamat is one of the judges who did a study of his country’s compliance with international human rights standards. Together with a colleague, he compared Jordan’s Code of Criminal Procedure to the standards in the international conventions Jordan ratified or signed. He has also worked for various committees to amend legislation on, for instance, anti-trafficking and protection from domestic violence.
He hopes that his study and the following workshops will encourage current and future Jordanian judges to apply international law in their rulings. Jordanian judges and law students have already participated in workshops and courses on how to apply international human rights standards in national judgements. However, Dr. Salamat says, there is still work to do:
In Jordan, there are currently about 1,100 judges and only about 100 of them have been trained so far. We need to train a large number of judges so they have the courage to interact with international agreements that have become part of national legislation or are in the legislative process.
The Jordanian constitution does not mention the status of international agreements and whether they have precedence over Jordanian national law. But Dr. Salamat stresses that there is no excuse for a judge to base decisions on national law alone when international standards have become part of the legislative process.
“He or she needs to apply international standards in court judgements when international standards are included in the legislative process. This is especially important in cases where there is non-harmonization with international human rights standards, or cases of ambiguity. All these need to be taken into account in the court judgements,” he says.
He hopes that the renewed agreement between RWI and the national judicial institutes from the Middle East and North Africa region will lead to more Jordanian judges relying on international standards to protect human rights in the country.