Call to Reform Jordan’s Security Services
OE Watch Commentary: Jordan’s internal security is protected by four distinct, and at times rival, institutions. On paper, the Jordanian Armed Forces and the intelligence services report to the king, the Public Security Force (Jordan’s police) reports to the prime minister, and the gendarmerie (Jordan’s crack riot police) reports to the minister of interior. In practice, as the article excerpted here notes, the lines of command and control are more opaque.
On May 19, King Abdullah of Jordan accepted the resignation of his minister of interior, and dismissed the directors of Jordan’s Public Security Directorate and the gendarmerie. Protests in Jordan’s southern city of Ma’an and the reported torture and death of a member of an influential tribe at the hands of Jordan’s security forces were the catalysts for the dismissals. King Abdullah has repeatedly replaced top state officials when public criticism becomes too great, and this recent shuffle occurs following months of increasing restrictions on political opposition and activism in the Kingdom.
The King’s dismissal of three of Jordan’s top security officials was met with celebrations in Jordan’s southern city of Ma’an, in recent years a center of protests against the government. However, Fahd al-Khitan, one of Jordan’s most influential columnists and a leading critic of state security abuses, was more skeptical of the move. Writing for Al Ghad, Jordan’s leading independent daily newspaper, al-Khitan makes the case for structural reforms of Jordan’s security services. Al-Khitan advocates institutionalization of command and control, as well as accountability to Jordan’s elected politicians.
Internal stability and security have always been priorities of Jordan’s monarchy. Al-Khitan points out that the current regional situation increases this concern, as unrest and violence in Syria, Iraq, and the Sinai could threaten Jordan’s security. King Abdullah’s promises to promote reform and democratization, however, will seem increasingly empty if complaints about heavy-handed securitization continue. End OE Watch Commentary (Beeny)
Source: Al-Khitan, Fahd. Ayna yuqawadna al-taghrair fee al-muasasat al-aminiya? (Where will the change in security institutions lead us?” Al Ghad, 19 May 2015.
Where will the change in security institutions lead us?
For many years, civil state institutions have been party to conflicts and disputes: the court and the intelligence services; the government and the intelligence services; the court and the government; and—in earlier stages—the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The recent constitutional amendments, which directly linked the appointment of army commanders and the director of general intelligence to his majesty the king, left other security apparatuses, Public Security, the gendarmerie, and above them the minister of the interior, in the gray area. Public Security is linked to the prime minister; the gendarmerie is linked to the interior ministry. This was reported repeatedly, but in truth the relationship--and the limits of power and authority--remained opaque in practice. Even between Public Security and the gendarmerie there was an overlap in missions, requiring intervention from higher authorities to resolve clashes that occurred more than once in the field.
More recently, the issue exceeded its abstract institutional aspect and took on a purely personal character. According to reports, the interior minister’s personal relationship with the director of public security was nearly severed, and the latter entered into a conspiratorial alliance against the minister.
Thus, before the recent problem in Ma’an, it was already necessary to change the equation. The message from what occurred is that there is no leniency or tolerance for any shortcomings in the security sector, especially as we are in a regional circumstance unlikely to accept any margin of error.
However, changing the individuals alone is not enough. There is an urgent need to lay institutional foundations in the security services so that they do not become a hostage to the personal mood of the commander, to define the powers and authorities in order to prevent overlapping missions or competition in the field, and to grant the political level of the state the right to intervene and correct the imbalances.
As for the priority accorded to the subject of internal security in Jordan, which is described as the basis and essence of stability, it does not mean in any way that the security institutions—or their leaders—should override politics in decision making and become the first in credit and accountability.
That is the important message in the last royal step, and it should be translated into policy and a program of action. No one is above accountability.