In 2000, His Majesty King Abdullah II requested the formation of a royal commission for human rights to assess the state of human rights in Jordan. The Royal Commission for Human Rights concluded its mission in 2002, with a recommendation to establish an independent national human rights body to enhance the safeguarding and protection of human rights in the country.
The National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) was subsequently established by law in 2002 and began working the next year. Its key objectives are to help build a society where justice, equality and the rule of law prevail, to safeguard the dignity of citizens and to protect public freedoms and the rights of citizens in an atmosphere of brotherhood, tolerance and solidarity among Jordanians.
In practical terms, the NCHR plays an active monitoring and public awareness-building role in Jordanian society. To fulfil its mission, the centre receives and investigates complaints of human rights violations; provides protection, consultation and legal advice to those whose rights it believes have been violated; sponsors and attends seminars; participates in international human rights bodies; engages in study and research; maintains a public voice through statements and regular publications; and compiles and publishes a comprehensive annual report on the condition of human rights in Jordan.
Although still in its first decade of operation, the NCHR can cite numerous achievements. It is the only independent local authority to monitor human rights in the Kingdom and its objectivity has earned it nationwide and international respect. Today it serves as a national reference for both the general public and state institutions.
Its recommendations on how best to safeguard public freedoms and human rights led to the NCHR playing a valuable monitoring role in Jordan's parliamentary elections in 2007 and the successful prosecution of those found to have violated the human rights of others. Perhaps most notably, its exhaustive investigation into prison conditions resulted in the closure of one of the country's most crowded and run-down prison facilities.Prison reform
Following publication of the NCHR prison report, King Abdullah visited the centre on 17 December 2006. He ordered the immediate closure of Al Jafr Prison and its transformation into a school and vocational training centre. The prison's twenty inmates were transferred to other facilities throughout the country. Built in a remote area of southern Jordan in 1953, Al Jafr Prison had more recently been reported to have poor services and sporadic incidents of prison brutality.
The closure of Al Jafr complements an ongoing JD24 million reform of Jordan's penal system that targets improvements in existing prison infrastructure, the construction of new facilities to ease overcrowding and the development of correctional and rehabilitation programmes for prisoners.