Monday, March 12, 2007

Black Site Closes

Applying pressure in the right places does work. It just takes a bit of time. It looks like one of the many black sites has closed its doors. Read this Reuters article by Suleiman al-Khalidi.

AMMAN, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah on Sunday ordered the closure of the country's most notorious prison, officials said, following mounting pressure on the kingdom to improve its human rights record.

The monarch ordered the move after he met with the board of the quasi-governmental National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) that monitors abuses in the country's overcrowded prisons, where over 6,000 common criminals and political prisoners are held.

"I have given my instructions to close Jafr prison," the monarch said, addressing the NCHR board members and top police officers.

Officials said the 190 inmates at Jafr, where some of the top dissidents have been held, would immediately be moved to other prisons.

Jafr prison, opened in 1953 and notorious for holding Jordan's leading political dissidents, is located in the desert nearly 256 km (159 miles) south of the capital Amman.

Human rights activists say Jafr has long been a symbol of "oppression" at the heart of allegations of abuse of political prisoners, including long periods of solitary confinement.

Three Islamist deputies arrested in June after they paid condolences to the family of slain Al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and charged with stirring national tensions were the last high profile inmates at the prison.

Prisons in Jordan have seen a number of protests and riots by top security inmates against poor conditions and complaints of ill treatment over the past two years.

Police chief Mohammad Itan said that authorities planned to spend more than $30 million to ease overcrowding in the country's ten penitentiaries.

International human rights watchdogs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have recently stepped up accusations of torture and beatings inside Jordan's prisons.

They argue that holding inmates for long periods without outside contact, trials or charges paves the way to abuses. Jordan says there are no systematic abuses.

The NCHR caused an outcry with its first report on the state of Jordanian prisons two years ago when it reported widespread prisoner abuses and said wardens had beaten an Islamist inmate to death.

NCHR's chief Ahmad Obeidat, a former intelligence chief, told Reuters that although there was a drop in prisoner accusations of "inhumane behaviour and torture" there was a need for an overhaul of prisons administration to end abuses.

Since Jordan says there are no systematic abuses, I wonder why they would suddenly want to close the place. One down, many more to go.

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