Jordan likes to portray itself as one of the more moderate Muslim states in the Middle East, despite horrific human rights abuses, including the execution this weekend of 11 men who were in prison for murder.
The brutal executions mark an end to an eight-year moratorium which was in place for the death penalty.
The executions took place at a prison 45 miles from Jordan’s capital, Amman, as confirmed by interior ministry spokesman Ziyad Zoobi. The men who were executed were all in their 40s and were convicted of murder, although they had no known ties to political extremism.
As the Guardian reports, the last time Jordan carried out the death penalty was back in 2006, even though 122 people have officially been sentenced to death since that date.
The Jordanian authorities offered no solid reason for ending the eight-year moratorium with the killing of the 11 men and Interior Minister Hussein Majali had recently hinted that the death penalty could return.
A BBC News report notes that according to Majali, the Jordanian public thinks that crime has gotten worse since the moratorium, and that “the public believes that the rise in crime has been the result of the non-application’ of executions.”
Nevertheless, numerous human rights groups condemned the executions, saying they would have no effect on the rise in crime in Jordan.
As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director Human Rights Watch, said, “With these executions, Jordan loses its standing as a rare progressive voice on the death penalty in the region. Reviving this inherently cruel form of punishment is another way Jordan is backsliding on human rights.”
At the same time, Taghreed Jaber, regional director for Penal Reform International, said, “We are surprised by this decision, which is a step back for Jordan.”
Oraib Rantawi, head of Amman’s Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, said, “The authorities have been confronted in recent years with a wave of violence, criminality and murders and want to meet the challenge by opting for deterrence and the renewed application of the death penalty.”