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Jordan: Constitutional Law Court Newly Established in Jordan

(Dec. 3, 2012) King Abdullah II of <?Jordan issued a royal decree on October 6, 2012, appointing a president and eight members of a newly established Constitutional Court. The creation of this judicial body is part of the King's recent reform initiatives. (New Constitutional Court Head, Members Named, JORDAN NEWS AGENCY (Oct. 6, 2012).)

The new Court, established in 2012 by the Constitutional Court Law,is financially and administratively independent and entrusted with overseeing the constitutionality of laws and by-laws. (Press Release, King Abdullah II, Jordan Enacts New Political Parties, Constitutional Court Laws (June 6, 2012).)

The Court replaces the Higher Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution, which was abolished once the new law creating the Constitutional Court went into effect. Establishment of the Court is widely seen as decreasing the King’s authority, reinforcing the separation of powers, and bolstering civil rights. (Jordan Mulls Constitutional Reform to Weaken King, Boost Protections, CNN World (Aug. 14, 2011).)

The Constitutional Court will monitor the constitutionality of laws and regulations in force, interpret provisions of the Constitution when requested, and issue its judgments in the name of the King. The Court will carry out these tasks when requested, either by a decision of the Council of Ministers or by a resolution taken by the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies, passed by an absolute majority.(Jordanian Lower House Begins Debate on Draft Constitutional Court Law, THE JORDAN TIMES (May 13, 2012).)

The Court is chaired by Taher Hekmat, a legal expert who heads the board of directors of the National Centre for Human Rights and who previously served as a minister and a senator. Hekmat and other members of the new Court were sworn in in a ceremony attended by high government and royal court officials. (Jordan’s King Abdullah Sets Up Constitutional Court, AFP (Oct. 7, 2012).)

In a letter addressed to members of the Court, the King stressed the need for an independent, transparent specialized court to assess the constitutionality of the law, and he called the establishment of the court “a major step and milestone in the process of reform and democratic renewal we envisage.” He also emphasized that, as an institution, the Court offers a means of “cementing respect for the Constitution and separation of power and balance between the branches of government” and “will safeguard citizens’ rights and basic freedoms on the one hand, and enhance their confidence in the state, on the other.” (King Says Court to Guarantee Separation of Powers, JORDAN TIMES (Oct. 6, 2012) [official translation of the King’s letter].)

Hekmat said the formation of the Court “meets the demands of many Jordanians,” a statement that reportedly referred to the Islamist opposition. (Jordan’s King Abdullah Sets Up Constitutional Court, supra.)

The establishment of the Court comes a few days after the dissolution of the Parliament by the King, who also called for early elections. These changes are viewed as part of long-awaited reforms in Jordan, a process that since January 2011 has been accompanied by a series of protests calling for political and economic change and demands for an end to corruption. (“Rescue the Nation”: Thousands Hit Jordan Streets Despite Parliament Dissolution, RT.COM (Oct. 5, 2012); see also Constitutional Court a Milestone in Reform Process, Democratic Renewal — King, THE JORDAN TIMES (Oct. 6, 2012;Muddather Abu-Karaki, Raed S. A Faqir, & Majed Ahmad K. Marashdah, Democracy & Judicial Controlling in Jordan: A Constitutional Study, 4:2 J. POL. & L. (2011).)

Prepared by Luna Barakat, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Issam Saliba, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.