Legal Aid in Jordan

The Jordanian Constitution prescribes that “the courts shall be open to all”, enshrining the universally recognised human rights principle of access to justice.  Despite this recognition at the highest legislative level, in practice many obstacles prevent Jordan from achieving equal access to justice.

Jordanian laws do not guarantee the right to legal counsel or representation for the majority of legal matters.  Those who cannot afford to pay for a private lawyer are not granted legal aid by the government except in criminal cases where the crime is punishable by execution or life imprisonment.  These limitations are compounded by procedural regulations restricting applicants from lodging a case or appeal without legal representation for cases of a certain monetary value or specific case type.  At the same time, the power of the President of the Jordanian Bar Association to assign a pro bono case to one of its member lawyers is limited in scope and therefore rarely used.  As a result, the provision of legal aid in Jordan is in practice predominantly provided by dedicated non-governmental legal aid organisations like JCLA.

In 2010, JCLA worked with the Department of Statistics to conduct a national household survey on access to justice issues in Jordan.  The survey found that 19.4% of families in Jordan have had at least one member exposed to at least one legal issue in the past five years.  On an annual basis, this means that about 17,000 persons face a legal issue, and thus may require legal assistance.  However, the majority of those 17,000 do not access any type of legal assistance.  The national survey found that 69% of family members exposed to legal issues were from a very low income group, and that a lack of financial means was a significant barrier to them seeking legal advice or legal representation.  A closed criminal case study conducted by JCLA in 2012 found that 83% of defendants were unrepresented during the investigation and pre-trial stage, and 68% of defendants were unrepresented in court.

Many poor and vulnerable people in Jordan are also unaware of their legal rights or their ability to access non-governmental legal aid services.  The national survey revealed that in 2010 only approximately 1.5% of people living in Jordan had heard about legal aid.

JCLA has designed its activities and service provision to address the legal aid needs it has been able to identify, including through the information obtained in the 2010 national survey. In particular:

  • Each month, JCLA reaches approximately 3,600 vulnerable people through its legal awareness sessions.  During these sessions, JCLA provides information about rights and obligations under Jordanian law, and about how to access JCLA’s legal aid services.  In addition, JCLA raises awareness on its social media accounts, in national news media, and during TV & radio appearances.
  • Across its 24 legal clinics located in all governorates of Jordan, JCLA assists approximately 375 beneficiaries per month through legal consultations, and provides legal representation to approximately 150 beneficiaries per month across 200 cases.
  • Through collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders and the public, JCLA is fostering a culture of legal aid in Jordan. For example, JCLA has established a graduate traineeship program (recruitment and training of law graduates), and is engaging with law students and the Bar Association in Jordan about legal aid. JCLA has also organised the first ever Legal Aid Conference in Jordan, bringing together key stakeholders to work on identifying an efficient and effective model for providing legal aid to the poor. Further, JCLA is working with key government departments towards institutionalising legal aid in Jordan.