AMMAN - Disabled children in Jordan are believed to have been beaten and even held in cages, a government-commissioned investigator said on Tuesday, as 22 people face questioning about alleged abuse. “A two-week probe has found that some public and private homes for children with physical and mental disabilities had wooden and iron cages as well as sticks that we believe were used for punishment,” Muhideen Touq told reporters. Touq said his committee of legal experts, human rights activists and state coroners has found evidence of mistreatment in 12 out of 56 homes for challenged children that were investigated.

“One of these centres was shut down, while the committee has recommended the closure of another. We have filed complaints against 22 people and they have been referred to the courts,” he said at a news conference.

“At one centre, for example, five girls and a female employee used to leave for unknown places on weekends and public holidays. Also, two separate centres housed six girls who did not suffer from disabilities.”

In mid-May, King Abdullah II instructed the government to probe reports of abuse, after paying “surprise visits” to some of Amman’s homes for challenged children.

“Families could not visit those children without prior appointment. Obviously institutions in charge of monitoring and supervising such centres were not doing their job,” Touq said.

Social Development Minister Wajih Azaizeh, who also attended the news conference, apologised “to the families of those who were abused.”

“We may also have similar problems in places like orphanages and homes for seniors,” he added without elaborating.