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Authorities urged to set independent inquiry in attacks on protesters

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, March 29, 2011 - Civil prosecutors should open an independent investigation into serious allegations of excessive use of force by security forces during protests on March 25, 2011, in Amman, Human Rights Watch said today. The investigation should include the security forces' failure to prevent violence by government supporters against protesters demanding reform.

Jordanian security forces have a dismal record of accountability and have shown themselves incapable of conducting a credible investigation into their own actions, Human Rights Watch said. Even when no political protests are involved, such as at a soccer match in December 2010 at which police beat fans, security forces are not held to account.

"If Jordan is serious about following King Abdullah's call for reform, it can start by holding its security services accountable," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Promises of political reform ring hollow while police beat demonstrators or stand by and watch pro-government factions carry out violent attacks."

Human Rights Watch spoke to six witnesses present at the protests on March 25 at Jamal Abd al-Nasir Place, also called Interior (Ministry) Circle, in Amman. Hundreds of government supporters calling themselves nida' al-watan (Patriotic Call) attacked an even larger number of pro-reform protesters gathering under the so-called "24 March Movement." The reform group gathered at the Interior Circle on March 24, intending to remain there to press for reform.

The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals, gave consistent accounts, describing police failure to stop the violence against pro-reform protesters on both March 24 and March 25, when the darak (gendarmerie) joined in with government supporters, attacking the reform group with rocks, sticks, and water cannons, dispersing them.

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To read the full press release, click here
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