While judges and legal experts have called for the merger between the Child Rights Law which is currently under preparation and the Juvenile Law in force, others have been worried that this would delay the issuance of the law for at least another three years.
Discussions on this issue were raised during a specialized workshop organized by NCFA aimed at discussing the launch of the Child Rights Draft Law. The workshop attended by Minister of Social Development Hala Bseiso Lattouf witnessed widely varying views among experts. The judges were the strongest supporters of the merger taking stock of the loopholes in the Juvenile Law currently in force that render some of its articles unenforceable in addition to the overlapping issues between the two laws pertaining to the juvenile delinquents and those in need of care and protection.
Judges believe that “merging the two laws will provide a chance to address the gaps in the Juvenile Law and avoid confusion among judges with regard to judicial competence for handling juvenile delinquents cases.”
On the other side, others warned that the first draft of the law was passed in 1998 which means that the new law is long overdue. They fear that the merger will hinder the endorsement of the law if the legislative authority fails to cooperate on this issue as happened before when the first draft of the law remained on the shelves of the House of Deputies for four years.
The opposing party called for “amending the Juvenile Law separately to address the apparent gaps and then incorporating the items relevant to child protection from the Juvenile Law into the Child Rights draft law to avoid any overlap.”
During the workshop, Lattouf stressed the Ministry’s keenness to hear both sides, noting that “the purpose of holding this dialogue is to arrive at the best formula which feeds into the best interests of the child in Jordan.”
While Jordan is set to submit its report for the year 2019 to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which stressed in its recommendations to Jordan in 2014 the importance of passing a child rights law, Lattouf indicated that “our priority is to agree on a comprehensive and effective law that protects the child and not the hasty passing of a law based on a timetable.”
Law Formulation Consultant at NCFA Hanan Al-Thaher said that “the controversy surrounding the merger is twofold; firstly, the technical and legal aspect and secondly the legislative aspect. From the technical aspect, there are articles in the juvenile law that belong to the child rights law which are Articles (34-40), on the other hand, the current draft law addresses the gaps that exist in the juvenile law in Articles (64-70). When considering this particular point, the merger seems to offer a possible solution”.
“However, on the legislative aspect, there are no guarantees that the legislative authority will approve the proposed amendments and adopt a unified law”, added Al-Thaher, wondering about the time that it would take to achieve that.
The best solution, Al-Thaher concluded, is not to do the merger, but rather address the gaps that exist in the juvenile law, remove the items pertaining to the children in need of care and protection and incorporate them into the child rights law.
Judge Naser As-Salamat advocated for merger stating that “since its issuance, the juvenile law suffered from legislative deficits and lack of clarity which demands legislative intervention”, considering the merger an opportunity to fix these inconsistencies.
Agreeing with him, Judge Suhair At-Toubasi stressed the importance of merging the two laws as both focus on children’s interests.
Head of the MIZAN Law Group for Human Rights Eva Halaweh also favors the merger indicating that “the law has to be comprehensive and offer enforceable items to protect children on issue such as equal rights, right to lineage, care, nationality and so forth.”
However, on the opposite side, Supreme Judge Consultant Judge Ashraf Al-Omari warned that the merger of the two laws would make the resulting law too long and consequently would prolong its endorsement, saying that “the points of convergence between the two laws does not justify the merger as there are other laws that handle child-related issues including the Personal Status Law, the Education Law and others and merging them is not possible.”
On his part, NCFA’s Acting Secretary General Mohammad Miqdady also warned that the merger would take as long as 3 years which would make all the time and effort put in the preparation of this law go to waste.
Head of the Legislation Development Unit at NCFA Naela As-Sarayreh gave a briefing on the proposed draft law. Key pillars of the law, Sarayreh indicated, focus on civil rights including the right to registration, nationality and care; health-related rights including the right to recreational activities, sports and arts; the rights of children with disabilities; the right to protection against all forms of violence and abuse; the rights of children in emergency situations; and the rights of children in conflict with the law.
Sarayreh also explained that the legal grounds for the enactment of the law are the principles of equality and non-discrimination against the child; realization of the best interests of the child; and realization of the rights of the child to life, water, safety and welfare, enjoyment of preventive measures of a social, educational and health-related nature, social care and education.
UNICEF Representative in Jordan Robert Jenkins commented on this matter saying that “The International Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Jordan to enact a comprehensive national law for child rights”, noting that the draft law is the fruit of years of preparation to ensure the inclusion of all rights in a comprehensive law that protects children.
Jenkins added that “the endorsement of the bill will transform theoretical principles into a binding legal document”, underlining that the law will address imbalances in some of the laws that do not observe the best interests of the child and will also modify some negative social norms that affect children including disciplinary beating or marriage.