NCFA Secretary General confirms commitment to bring forth a comprehensive law on childhood; Family Protection Draft Law imposes fines for failure to report violence cases


While stressing the need for reviewing the National Framework of Family Protection against Violence, NCFA secretary General Fadel Al-Hmoud indicated that "the fact finding committee formed to investigate the circumstances of the crime involving the murder of three children at the hands of their mother last year has finalized its executive plan which focuses on strengthening the response of institutions working in the field of protection against violence.
Al-Hmoud pointed out that the plan will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for review, and that it will be circulated to relevant entities for implementation after its endorsement according to procedures, noting that the plan includes five pillars.
According to Al-Hmoud, the first pillar focuses on securing sufficient human resources to provide services to family violence cases at the relevant entities; the second pillar deals with raising the efficiency of personnel in institutions that provide services to such cases, the fourth pillar concentrates on enhancing the system of case, data and file referrals among partner institutions handling violence cases, and the fifth pillar focuses on raising public awareness on the concept of family violence and its impact on the individual, family and community and provision of safe family environments.
During an interview with Al-Ghad Newspaper, the Secretary General stated that "there is full consensus among stakeholders on the importance of coming up with an integrated law for childhood, and to that end, NCFA has recently been working to develop its main pillars", expressing his hopes that the Council will soon start drafting the law after securing funding for the project.
With regard to the major highlights of the new "Protection against Family Violence Law", Al-Hmoud added that the previous law required that "in order for the crime to be considered as such, the family should be living in the same house of residence, whereas the new law does not require same house residency, but rather involves third degree relatives and second degree in-laws without the condition of same house residency". Other features of the new law also include imposing fines on service providers if they fail to report on cases, providing protection to reporters of abuse, and allowing the court to sit on weekends, national holidays and evenings if the interests of the family so requires.
With regard to the piled up case files at the social service offices in the Family Protection Department, Al-Hmoud pointed out that there were 14800 pending cases due to the severe shortage of social workers at the offices, noting that as of last year 9 thousand cases were reviewed and 7500 closed under a partnership agreement with the Ministry of Social Development, Family Protection Department and Jordan River Foundation.
Following is the full interview:
*Over the past year, there have been several family crimes involving family members, you must recall last year's tragedy when a mother murdered her three children in Tabarbour, and this year we've heard of a man who burnt his entire family. In light of all of this, do you think there is something wrong with the system of protection, especially in light of the fact that both families were known to the national protection system?
- During work, human errors can occur revealing certain gaps that need to be addressed. Immediately after the first Tabarbour murder, the National Team for Family Protection formed an independent fact finding mission with the intention of identifying any existing gaps and not for the sake of finger-pointing. The assigned committee came out with a set of recommendations and they were introduced during a meeting with the Minister of Interior, Minister of Social Development and relevant entities. The main outcome of the meeting was an agreement to set a three-year national action plan for response to family violence. Indeed, during last year, an ad hoc committee of governmental and nongovernmental agencies worked on a plan that addresses the gaps that were identified in the management of violence cases. NCFA has reviewed and approved the plan, making sure that it has incorporated the outputs emerging from the review of the National framework for Family Protection. The gaps that have been found include severe shortage of human resources, poor training on how to deal with family violence cases, unavailability of a procedures manual at some relevant entities, lack of social, psychological, health and rehabilitation support services, shortage in the number of educational counselors working in the Ministry of Educations. To address these gaps, the plan calls for the provision of adequate number of qualified and fully-trained personnel at the service-providing institutions. Moreover, since the committee has noticed a lack of procedures manuals in some institutions involved with violence case management, the plan states that the required manuals should be developed along with a survey of all services available in all governorates. We've also witnessed a shortage in the social, psychological, health and rehabilitation support services, hence, the plan included a recommendation to provide the Family Protection Department with additional psychiatrists and forensic physician. The plan also underlined the importance of developing a system to institutionalize social work at the national level, increasing the number of educational counselors at the Ministry of Education and enhancing the role of the preachers. As for "Al-Ghabawi" crime, it is in fact a heinous crime which is alien to our society. A fact finding committee was also formed following the incident to look into the procedures that preceded the crime to identify the loopholes in the system and consequently submit a report to that effect within a month so as to prevent the reoccurrence of such crimes. In fact, the more we pinpoint and acknowledge weaknesses and gaps the more we move forward in strengthening our protection system and we are currently waiting for the findings of that committee.
* You are currently working on reviewing the National Framework for Family Protection against Violence, how is it coming?
The National Framework was developed in 2006 and was one of the outcomes of the National Project for Family Protection which was implemented between the years (2000-2005). The framework served as a reference point for all institutions, defining their roles and responsibilities and outlining the way governmental and nongovernmental institutions handle family violence cases. It was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers and was rolled out to all relevant institutions for implementation. Ten years after its preparation, and following-up on the directives of HM Queen Rania AL-Abdullah, Chairperson of NCFA Board of Trustees, it became clear that the framework needed a review to assess its effectiveness and identify gaps and shortcomings on the ground. The update project commenced thereof in cooperation with national governmental and nongovernmental partner institutions and UN organizations. During the review, several loopholes were identified and needed to be addressed, including the lack of a supervisory body that oversees the implementation of the framework and the fact that family violence was a non- priority issue at some institutions. Gaps also included lack of case documentation, conflicting figures among family violence partner institutions and inefficiency and lack of training of some service-providers. Also evident was the lack and variance in the level of services offered across governorates, in addition to the slow pace of adopting certain legislative amendments such as the Family Protection draft law, Article 158 of the Code of Criminal Procedures and paragraph C of Article 62 of the Penal Code related to the medical guardianship of the mother over her children. The findings of the review were submitted to NCFA Board of Trustees in June and as a result, a set of decisions were made in this respect. The findings were presented by the Vice Chairman in a meeting chaired by HM Queen Rania.
Speaking of the "Protection against Family Violence Law", how is that coming along and will it be adopted any time soon?
- The current Protection against Family Violence Law was passed in 2008, and upon implementation, several loopholes were observed during field work. Hence, an ad hoc NCFA committee started to prepare a new draft law to fill the gaps in the old one, and it is currently being studied by the Legislation and Opinion Bureau and will be put before the Cabinet of Ministers to view prior to referral to National Assembly for endorsement.
The most salient amendment to the law is that the previous law requiresd that "in order for the crime to be considered as such the family should be living in the same house of residence, whereas the new law does not require same house residency, but rather involves third degree relatives and second degree in-laws without the condition related to the same house residents".
The other major amendment to the law is related to the fact that while the law in force requires service providers from all governmental and nongovernmental sectors to report violence cases, it does not impose any penalty for not reporting. The new draft law on the other hand imposes a fine on service providers in the event of not reporting. It has also offered protection to the reporter. The scope of application in the current law is limited to criminal actions that fall under the jurisdiction of Magistrate's Courts (misdemeanors) and not under the jurisdiction of Supreme Court. But, under the new draft law such cases are now included. Moreover, the old law has neglected the role of the Attorney General in terms of the rule of the law in following up on cases, gathering evidence and conducting investigations, and has also neglected to make the procedures carried out by the Family Protection Department judicially enforceable. These points have been addressed by the new law.
In addition, the new draft law has given a definition for "family members" to include third degree relatives and second degree in-laws, without requiring them to be living in the same house of residence. This condition is only limited to fourth degree relatives and third degree in-laws.
The new draft law is also mindful that the Judicial Council may form a specialized juvenile judiciary that tries family violence cases, which will expedite rulings in these matters and will provide specialized and qualified judges to handle them. And, on a related note, the draft allows the court to sit on weekends, official holidays, and evenings if the interest of the family so requires. The draft law has introduced a mechanism for resolving family conflicts based on certain terms and conditions.
*Aside from the Family Protection Law, NCFA has also amended several other law articles that ensure the safety of the family and its members; can you tell us some of the main articles?

- Last year, we organized a workshop to discuss protection of child witnesses and victims, and we came up with a recommendation to amend Article 158 of the Code of Criminal Procedures so that the law necessitates the presence of a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) during hearings of child victims, particularly victims of sexual abuse.
The paragraph currently reads" the Public Prosecutor or the court may, if deemed necessary and by a reasoned decision, use new technology to protect witnesses who have not yet completed 18 years of age while giving their testimonies, provided that such technology allows the opponent to cross-examine the witness during trial; this testimony is deemed admissible in court".
The proposed amendment suggests that the use of such technology be changed from permissible to mandatory. The proposed amendment was submitted to the relevant authorities and we hope that it will be approved soon. Another amendment has to do with the last paragraph of Article 62 of the Penal Code related to medical guardianship over minor children. NCFA has suggested an amendment to the Ministry of Justice to include both parents instead of being limited to the legal guardian only. The suggested amendment adds "or any of the parents (father or mother)" to the paragraph. The proposed paragraph was submitted to proper authorities after consulting with the Supreme Justice Department and Legislation and Opinions Bureau.
The Article in force stipulates that "Surgical operations and medical professional treatments when carried out with the consent of the patient or his legal representative or in cases of emergency", the proposed amendment adds the phrase "or his legal representative or one of the parents".
* With regard to the automation of procedures for handling family violence cases, what has been achieved in this area?
- The project aims to institutionalize immediate response procedures for cases of family violence; provide necessary services through an electronic system; and link all relevant institutions together to facilitate follow-up and referral of cases among them. The project allows for the identification of any flaws that might occur during delivery of service related to police, medical or social procedure. Other project objectives include: unifying statistics among the relevant institutions, ensuring prompt response from national institutions to family violence cases based on a participatory approach, and building a national database for such cases, since many national institutions take part in this project including: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health -represented by the National Center for Forensic Medicine and the National Center for Mental Health- Ministry of Social Development, Public Security Directorate- represented by Family Protection Department- and Jordan River Foundation. We confronted several challenges during the automation process but we were able to overcome most obstacles, and we hope that the official launch will be soon.
 Last year, you launched a project collaborating with the Ministry of Social Development, Family Protection Department and Jordan River Foundation to review the files piled up at the Social Service offices in the Family Protection Department, can you elaborate on the progress achieved so far?
- Due to the shortage in the numbers of social workers at the Social Service offices, the number of pending cases reached around 14800 cases. Upon signing the agreement with the Ministry of Social Development, we sought to train social workers to review the cases and give an update on what to close and what cases to follow-up on, during last year. We managed to review 9 thousand cases and close 7500, and now we are following-up on 1500 more cases. The remaining number is around 5800.
 Coming up with a child law is a fundamental demand for human rights activists, can we expect one any time soon, particularly that there have been unsuccessful previous attempts in this regard?
- In February last year, we held a workshop on the situation of childhood in Jordan with the participation of civil society institutions the main recommendation of which was the need to develop a child rights law. Consequently, a committee was formed to set the pillars of the law, but there were some problems related to funding which we are working to solve to commence with the drafting of the law