Man of the Law Breaks the Law

Stories of Rule of Law in Jordan
Opinion26.09.2018Marina Nicola
Stories of rule of law in Jordan
Lady statue representing justice in the Greek MythologyPixabay @WilliamCho

A woman, considered by the public to be of the lower class, was sexually assaulted by an upper class man from a rival family. Jordanian law on the matter is clear; the rapist is to be punished fittingly. However, when the victim pressed charges, the oppressor curried favor with a government official to annul the charges. The government official had no interest in money or status. He quite frankly was interested in the well-being of the public. He consulted his colleagues, and the majority voted for annulling charges.

The logic here is that the oppressor is well respected in his community and if he is accused by a rival family of sexual assault, then there will be much chaos— shootings and burnings will ensue. What the government official did is choosing the lesser evil to prevent a greater one. Where do you stand on this issue?
Most of us are good, law abiding citizens, but have you ever wondered why laws are the way they are, or where they came from? More importantly, who writes the law, and in whose hands does its power lie? Obviously, laws are set in order to help us live together. They insure that we don’t hurt one another, and that one is content in his or her community.

In feudal systems of the past, the monarch legislated and executed law. The power of absolute rule was put in the hands of a single person. It is often said that a king makes laws for others to follow, but does not follow them himself. The problem with a monarch holding the power of law is that it puts the monarch above the law, which defeats the purpose of law (insuring that everybody is treated fairly and justly without exception). The exception in a feudal system is of course the monarch.

In the 13th century A.D, citizens of England rebelled against the cruelty of King John III which led to the establishment of the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is a charter that promised the protection of church rights, protection from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on tax payments to the king. This in turn removed power from the hands of the king and placed it in the hands of the parliament, which is also known as positivism.

The ‘Rule of Law’ is constitutional law that requires a judicial system. This is often associated with Republican rule which emphasizes the constitution and judiciary. This form of government is even praised against democratic governments. In the story above, the government official was democratic in consulting his colleagues on his decision. Suppose the vote was 60 to 40 per cent, only 10% short of a tie. The problem with democracy is that it does not so much serve justice that it does the ‘majority.’

A reporter rummaged through the facts and discovered what the government official had done, and decided that it shall be his next story to shed light on corruption and the negligence towards the law. Knowing that Jordan is under the rule of the law, the official pulled a few strings and shut down the reporter. He knew what he did does not fly in Jordan, and although he pardoned a rapist for what he believed is the greater good, he has now fallen into a cycle of overriding the law to cover for his own crime. Had he stuck to the law, none of this would’ve happened.

This story demonstrates that that the law should be placed above everyone in a fair society.

What started as service to the greater good ended up as a crime against a rape victim and a reporter. Under the rule of law, all reporters and all media outlets have the right to freedom of expression. When someone overrides the law or when absolute power is placed in the hands of a single person, nobody is safe from bias and corruption. Ergo, complete freedom of expression and media can be practiced even if such expression and media threaten the power of authorities over the people. Under the rule of law, the right to freedom of expression is protected as long as it does not constitute hate-speech. The right to freedom of expression is protected because the law recognizes that any government can turn tyrannical; thus, the people need to expose tyranny through the media in order to overthrow the current government and replace it with a better one (a more judicial one, hopefully).

It must be noted that businesses thrive under the rule of law. Some might think that the law hinders the development of businesses by placing too many rules and regulations. Quite the contrary, business development is only impeded when the law is in the hands of the government, which can be biased toward certain businesses and give others a hard time. Under the rule of law, every business is promised protection from bias, protection from monopolies, and the right to free trade as long as it does not defy the constitution.

A judicial system under the rule of law is the best way to avoid tyranny and corruption. Placing the law above everyone protects everyone from injustice. Constitutional law set in accordance to natural morality means that no flawed human being can override the law to suit their desires. Although the constitution is written by people who have the potential to be corrupt, and some laws might have been set without the interest of the public in mind; the constitution can be amended by the demand of the public, and that happens only in judicial systems.

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The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - Amman Office. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this article lies entirely with the author.