Jordan Courts System

Jordan Court System

Jordan has three main types of courts: Civil courts, military courts, and religious courts.

Civil Court System

Civil courts pass on judicially all civil and criminal cases which are not specifically reserved for other courts. Four levels of courts make up the civil court system:

Magistrate’s Courts

have authority in criminal matters for misdemeanors and minor crimes where the sentence is two years or less. They also hear civil actions where the amount involved does not exceed JD 750. Finally, they hear all eviction cases and lawsuits charging trespass on land. There are 14 magistrates in Amman. Most Jordanian cites have two or three magistrates. Both civil and criminal cases before the Magistrate’s Court are heard by a single judge.

Courts of First Instance

have authority in criminal matters which fall outside the authority of the Magistrate’s Court, and which are not specifically covered by other special courts. They also hear all civil cases not heard in the magistrate’s courts, including all matters where alleged damages exceed JD 750. The Courts of First Instance also hear appeals for all criminal cases where a sentence of one week or less (or a fine not exceeding JD 10) is assessed. Two judges hear criminal matters, one judge passes on judicially civil matters. Branches are in Amman and several other major cities.

Major Felonies Court

has first instance authority over a specific set of serious criminal offenses (defined as crimes with a sentence greater than three years) which are not heard in the military court/state security court (see below). Crimes tried in this court include manslaughter/murder cases and rape and other sexual offenses. There is only one major felonies court in Jordan, located in Amman Three judges hear each case. Appeals from a major felonies court judgment are made directly to the Court of Cassation.

Courts of Appeal

hear all cases of appeal from judgments of the Courts of First Instance and all cases of appeal from the magistrate’s court, which are not heard by courts of First Instance. The court of appeals may reconsider determinations of facts as well as law; they may therefore decide to rehear a case decided below. A three-judge panel considers all matters raised in the Courts of Appeal.

Courts of Cassation

(Or Supreme Court) considers appeals of felonies in criminal cases and all judgments exceeding JD 500 in civil cases. Other cases may be accepted for appeal by a special leave granted by the President of the Court. The Court also considers habeas corpus petitions (seeking the release of a detainee based on unlawful imprisonment) in its role as a “High Court of Justice”. Furthermore, in another role as a “Private Tribunal”, it determines which court has authority over a case where there is a jurisdictional dispute. The Court of Cassation is made up of a maximum of 15 judges. Five judges hear each case.

State Security courts

Although martial law was lifted in 1991, certain crimes considered to touch on national security are still tried in State Security courts administered by the Jordanian military. These crimes include espionage, bribery of public officials, trafficking in narcotics or weapons, black marketing, and “security offenses”. Military judges pass on judicially cases. Defendants may be represented by a lawyer and are accorded other protections such as the right to cross-examine witnesses. The decision of a military court cannot be appealed but must be ratified by the Prime Minister in his capacity as martial law governor. He may increase, reduce, or annul the sentence.

military court

The military court also prosecutes military personnel for all categories of offenses. In these cases, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces must approve the sentence.

Religious Court System

Religious courts have authority over all matters of “personal status”. This includes most family law matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption or guardianship. Consequently, there is no civil marriage or divorce in Jordan.

Sharia (Muslim religious law) applies to Muslims in these areas and a Sharia court system exists to pass on judicially disputes. Various Christian religious “Councils” within the main Christian Sects (including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Catholic) handle similar cases involving members of their church communities. The civil courts administer cases of other religious groups, including Protestants, usually applying the religious law of the closest religious community.

Religious courts also handle all inheritance matters. Under Jordanian law, however, Sharia law must be applied by all the courts about inheritance. Thus, if the deceased is Greek Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox court will administer the inheritance but will apply Sharia law which requires, among other things, the distribution of twice as many shares of property to each son as compared to each daughter.

Jordan’s constitution guarantees the independence of the judicial branch, clearly stating that judges are “subject to no authority but that of the law.” While the king must approve the appointment and dismissal of judges, in practice these are supervised by the Higher Judicial Council, which forms independent decisions regarding the periodic recommendations submitted to it by the Ministry of Justice.

Jordan military courts

when a military judge convicts a service member and imposes punishment … he is not meting out extrajudicial discipline. He is acting as a judge, in strict compliance with legal rules and principles—rather than as an arm of military command.

brief outline of the legal system which underlies the discipline of the Jordan  Armed Forces as well as key contact details and links to important documents.

The material on this page is intended to be an informal guide to the Service Justice System and is not authoritative as to the law.

The strictly military courts of the martial law period have been abolished and replaced with a State Security Court, which is composed of both military and civilian judges. The court tries both military and civilians and its authority includes offenses against the external and internal security of the state as well as drug-related and other offenses. The findings of this court are subject to appeal before the High Court.

Both Article 102 of the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure mandate the right of an accused person to a lawyer of his or her own choice during the investigation and trial period. Article 22 of the Code of Criminal Procedure also provides that a lawyer has the right to attend the interrogation unless the investigation is confidential or urgent. Article 28 of the Code of Criminal Procedure declares that detainees should be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest, even in special security cases, giving them an opportunity to have full access to legal counsel.

Criminal Law Procedure

Persons arrested by the police are brought before a magistrate and charged with a crime within 48 hours after the arrest. However, public prosecutors may order suspects kept in custody indefinitely in connection with a pending investigation. Such detentions may be challenged by the defense, in which case some showing of cause for continuing confinement must be shown by the prosecutor.

Persons charged with a crime are not compelled to say anything to the authorities. They are usually warned before testimony is taken that what they say may be used against them and that they have the right to see a lawyer. Defendants may have a lawyer represent them (although this is rare in the Magistrate’s court). The court will appoint a lawyer for defendants charged with a potential sentence of death or life imprisonment if they cannot afford one.

Defendants have the right to cross-examine witnesses and to present their own witnesses. All cases are heard by judges as there is no jury trial in Jordan. Cases may be appealed by either the defendant or the prosecution.

A defendant’s charges of mistreatment are considered by the court in passing on judicially a case or determining a sentence. Confessions have at times been disregarded when a court determined it may have been given under duress. When mistreatment is alleged, a prisoner is examined by a doctor and his report is considered by the court.

The case against a person is always presented by one of the public prosecutors, except at the magistrate’s court where a police officer presents the evidence against the accused. The Attorney General, who supervises all public prosecutors, handles the government’s case at the Court of Appeals. The Chief Attorney General who is the government’s top legal advocate, represents the government in the Court of Cassation.

Jordanian criminal law is based on the Ottoman Law of 1858, which in turn is based upon the French Penal Code of 1810. In 1960 Jordan issued Criminal Law no. 16. This law was strongly influenced by the Lebanese Criminal Law of 1943, which borrowed provisions from the French Penal Code regarding penalties for crimes committed against women (art 562).

After amendments were passed to article 98 of the penal code in 2017, perpetrators of honor crimes can no longer receive lenient sentences. However, a loophole still exists in article 340 that allows lenient sentences for the murder of a spouse found red-handedly committing adultery.

Civil Law Procedure

A person who wishes to file a lawsuit against someone must go to the appropriate court registry and submit a writ of summons together with a fee of 3% of the sued amount. (If the plaintiff wins his case, the defendant must pay this fee. The Court may also charge attorney’s fees to the loser).

The Court will send the summons to the defendant by means of process servers employed by the Court. If the defendant is not found, the summons may at times be left with relatives or at the defendant’s usual place of abode.

Jordan Constitutional law

 is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the parliament or legislature, and the judiciary; as well as the basic rights of citizens and, in federal countries such as the United States and Canada, the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments.

All constitutional questions are about the laws which identify the ruler, define the nature and extent of their power and set the conditions for its exercise.’

Jordan’s constitution guarantees the independence of the judicial branch, clearly stating that judges are “subject to no authority but that of the law.” While the king must approve the appointment and dismissal of judges, in practice these are supervised by the Higher Judicial Council, which forms independent decisions regarding the periodic recommendations submitted to it by the Ministry of Justice.

Article 99 of the Constitution divides the courts into three categories: civil, religious, and special courts. The civil courts exercise their authority in respect to civil and criminal matters in accordance with the law, and they have authority over all persons in all matters, civil and criminal, including cases brought against the government. The civil courts include Magistrate Courts, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, High Administrative Courts, and the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court). The Jordanian civil legal system has its foundations in the Code Napoléon, a French legal code implemented in Egypt in the early 19th century

The articles (97 to 102) in the Jordanian Constitution state:

Article (97):

Judges are independent and, in the exercise of their judicial functions, are subject to no authority other than that of the law.

Article (98):

1- Judges of the Civil and Sharia Courts shall be appointed and dismissed by a Royal Decree, in accordance with the provisions of the law.

2- A Judicial Council shall be established by law. It will be responsible for matters related to civil judges.

3- Subject to paragraph (1) of this article, the Judicial Council shall have the sole right to appoint civil judges, in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Article (99):

The courts shall be divided into three categories:

  1. Civil Courts
  2. Religious Courts

     iii.     Special Courts

Article (100):

The establishment of the various courts and their categories, divisions, authority, and administration shall be, by virtue of a special law, provided that such law allows the establishment of a High Court of Justice, whose law shall state that the administrative judiciary should be at two levels.

Article (101):

1- The courts shall be open to all and free from any interference in their affairs.

2- A civilian may not be tried in a criminal case before a court whose judges are not all civilians, except for crimes of high treason, espionage, terrorism, drug crimes and counterfeit currency.

3- Courts hearings shall be public, unless the court decides that they should be secret in the interest of public order or morals. In all cases, the verdict shall be pronounced during a public session.

4- The accused is innocent until proven guilty.

Article (102):

The Civil Courts in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan shall have authority over all persons in all matters, civil and criminal, including cases brought by or against the Government, except in matters which, by the provisions of the Constitution, or of any Law for the time being in force, fall within the authority of Religious Courts or Special Courts.

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