Regional Information

Oman: General Human Rights Situation

Information from Annual survey 2013


Generally speaking, when compared with neighbouring states, Oman has had a good human rights record over recent years. However, human rights groups continue to report problems and call for reform and improvements in a number of areas of human rights.

 

In November 2009 a National Commission for Human Rights was established by royal decree. The government stressed that this reflected Oman’s commitment to maintaining human rights, freedom and dignity. In January 2013 the commission sent a delegation to a regional conference on strengthening indigenous human rights institutions held in Doha.

 

Justice system

Warrants for arrest must either be issued in advance or permission obtained from a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Suspects may be detained for 14 days provided authorisation is obtained from a court. Extensions are permitted. In practice, the authorities do not always follow the law, and there are occasions when the family, or in the case of expatriates, the relevant embassy, is not promptly notified of arrests and charges.

 

Prisons generally meet international standards, and local human rights groups are allowed to visit. Mistreatment of those in detention is illegal under the constitution and judges can order investigations into such allegations. There was at least one report of abuse occurring during 2013 (see below), with detained political activists being at risk of mistreatment and/or denial of access to lawyers and families.

 

Freedom of expression

Freedom of the press is allowed in theory but restricted in practice. Criticism of the monarchy is not permitted. Restrictions on criticism of officials or ministries was ostensibly relaxed during 2011 as part of the response to protests (see below). All imported materials are subject to censorship. Public events, such as plays, must be approved in advance. In practice, most groups avoid controversial subjects for concerts, plays, etc. for fear of having their events cancelled at the last minute.

 

However, there were serious violations of freedom of expression during 2012. On 31st May a number of activists were arrested, with further arrests during June. This led to trials on charges relating to their criticism of the government. 29 were convicted in separated trials on 26th June and 16th September on charges relating to criticism of the government and unlawful assembly. 28 received jail sentences of six months to a year, and the 29th a suspended jail sentence. On 5th and 12th December the convictions were upheld by an appeals court. At the end of 2012, a number of others were awaiting trials or the outcome of appeals.[1] In March 2013 the Sultan pardoned them. In contrast, others were arrested and charged during 2013. On 24th January 2013 Saeed Jaddad, a human rights activist and blogger, was arrested and charged with “undermining the status and prestige of the state.”

 

On 29th July Sultan al-Saadi was detained and questioned about his calls on Twitter. He was released without charge on 20th August. He reported that he had been ill-treated and not allowed access to his lawyer or family.

 

In September 2013 the government closed down an English-language paper after it published an article on homosexuality. There was a storm of protest about the article on social media in Oman, and was denounced by the Oman’s journalists’ association. The paper, The Week, which had the largest circulation of any English-language newspaper, printed a full page apology. However, it was still closed down.

 

In October 2005 licences were issued for the first four private radio and TV stations in the country. Privately owned newspapers have operated for several years in Arabic and English. All practise self-censorship, and mass media does not publish material critical of officials.

 

Academic freedom is similarly restricted, with no publication or discussion of local politics allowed. University professors can be dismissed if they violate government guidelines.

 

The government blocks access to pornographic or politically sensitive websites. Skype is one online service that is blocked. There have not been reports of religious sites being blocked.

 

Freedom of assembly and association

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly. However, in practice all public events require prior approval. Likewise, the establishment of any organisation, including its by-laws, must be approved by the Ministry of Social Development. Similarly, NGOs may exist to provide services to women, children and the elderly.

 

Freedom of movement

There are a few restrictions on freedom of movement, notably for women who need the permission of their husband or male relative to obtain a passport. They may however travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council states using Identity Cards only, though again the permission of a male guardian is required to obtain such a document.

 

Freedom of religion or belief

The Basic Law of Oman issued by Royal decree in 1996 provides for some degree of religious freedom, whilst establishing Islam as the state religion and Shari’a law as the basis for legislation. Of note is that Article 17 contains provisions for non-discrimination, including on grounds of religion, and Article 28 protects the right to practise recognised religious rites.

 

In practice restrictions apply, including the prevention of evangelism of Muslims. Religious materials, other than Islamic ones, cannot be published in the country, though may be imported.

 

The government monitors mosques to ensure that only approved messages are given, and that Imams and other religious leaders do not promote intolerance or incitement to religious hatred. Sermons must follow standardised texts issued monthly by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs.

 

The minority Shi’a community claims that it faces discrimination, particularly in the area of employment. There are Shi’ites in senior positions, both in private industry and public service. The latter seems rarer, but there are government ministers who are Shi’ite.

 

Migrants

The GCC countries (see below) have collectively come under pressure to address the issues of the abuse of some migrant domestic workers and to reform the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system to meet the standards recommended the by International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers’ Convention. There has been some commitment to reform, including a GCC standard contract, and it should be noted that the worst stories from the Arabian Peninsula do not originate in Oman. However, the proposed reforms are regarded as inadequate by human rights organisations.[2]

 

Miscellaneous

In November 2008 the property ownership laws were amended to give women equal rights with men.

 

There is a National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking tasked with proposing new laws. One aspect being addressed is to allow expatriates to keep possession of their passports (rather than have them retained by their employers).

 

Status of key international Human Rights treaties:[3]

Treaty

Status

Covenant on Civil & Political Rights

-

Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

-

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

-

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Acceded

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Acceded



[2] Human Rights Watch; 17th November 2013; http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/16/proposed-domestic-workers-contract-falls-short; checked 26th February 2014

[3] The intention is to provide a summary of where each country has positioned itself with respect to international law, i.e. to what extent each country has formally undertaken to accept the provisions and standards set. The terms ratified and acceded imply acceptance.

 

Latest Requests

  • Sudan: Update on Meriam and family, now in Italy

    Posted on 24th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

     

    In recent months we have requested prayer for Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a Sudanese believer from a Muslim background, who was sentenced to death on 15th May for apostasy but then released on 23rd June following a successful appeal. Recall that she was then re-arrested at the airport as she and her family were attempting to leave the country, and then released again on bail on 26th June.

     

    We are pleased to report that Meriam and her family have now left Sudan. They arrived in Rome at about 9.30am today (24th July) after the Italian government had negotiated her release with the Sudanese authorities. The family is expected to stay in Italy for a few days before continuing their journey to the US.

     

    Meriam's lawyers were not given prior notification of her departure. There remains a lack of clarity about the status of legal proceedings against Meriam in Sudan. It is not yet known whether the Attorney General has decided against filing charges for travelling on allegedly false documents. Nor is it yet known whether a court case brought by those claiming to be Meriam's relatives, to have her marriage cancelled, has been dropped.

     

    Sudanese Christians thank us for our prayers  and rejoice that Meriam, together with her husband Daniel and their young children Martin and Maya, are now in a place of safety. However, they are concerned about the possible repercussions for other Christians in Sudan.

     

    They request our continuing prayer that:
    a. Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya will know the comfort, healing and restoration of Jesus
    b. They will know the Father's provision and the Spirit's guidance at each stage of their journey
    c. Any outstanding court cases against Meriam will be dropped
    d. Christians across Sudan, and especially those from Muslim backgrounds, will know the Father's protection, the Son's peace and the Spirit's wisdom
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 24th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock,

     

    Iraqi Christians request continued prayer, especially for the Christians of Mosul and surrounding areas, most of whom have now fled.

     

    Recall that the Islamic State (IS), now in control of the area, has acted violently towards and imposed stringent conditions on religious and ethnic minority communities. Most members of the Yazidi and Shi'ite Turkman and Shabak communities have reportedly fled from the area.

     

    IS demanded that Christians convert to Islam or agree to adhere to strict Islamic rules including payment of the jizya tax - or else face execution. When Christian leaders failed to attend a meeting on 17th July, an ultimatum was set, giving Christians until noon on 19th July to leave.

     

    More than 200 families are reported to have fled, leaving all their belongings behind, as demanded by the IS. Some were beaten or otherwise humiliated at checkpoints while fleeing, and many were stripped of their remaining possessions (including vehicles, money, jewellery, phones, ID documents and even food and medicines).

     

    A few Christians remain in Mosul, including some elderly or infirm who were not able to leave. In some cases Christians are being shielded by Muslim neighbours. There are credible reports that some have been compelled by the IS to convert to Islam by reciting the Islamic declaration of faith before a Shari'a court.

     

    On 20th July, IS militants overran the Syriac Orthodox monastery of Mar Behnam, 30 km south east of Mosul, violently expelling all residents. Within Mosul, the cross on the Cathedral of Mar Afram, the Archbishopric of the Syriac Orthodox church, has been removed. It was replaced on 22nd July with loudspeakers for broadcasting the call to prayer.

     

    Iraqi Christians request our continued prayer that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. Christians who stayed behind in Mosul would not suffer repressions or reprisals by the IS, or be threatened to change their beliefs.
    c. All the displaced will find places of sanctuary, and that humanitarian assistance will reach all who are in need.
    d. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    e. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 18th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock

     

    Christians in Iraq, especially from the city of Mosul, continue to face great difficulties. They have request renewed prayer for their country at this time of turmoil and hardship.

     

    Earlier this week the militant group in control of Mosul, the 'Islamic State' (IS, previously known as ISIS) summoned Christian leaders to a meeting on 17th July to notify them of Islamic rules to be applied to non-Muslims. Christian leaders did not attend this meeting. Consequently, it was announced that remaining Christians should leave the city or else face execution. They were ordered to leave all property behind. The ultimatum was initially set for noon today (18th July) but was then extended by 24 hours.

     

    It is believed that most Christian families have now fled from Mosul, many to areas of Northern Iraq under Kurdish control. Reports have suggested that some fleeing families were stopped at checkpoints by IS militants who confiscated belongings including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

     

    Earlier this week, the IS marked houses belonging to members of minority communities with the phrase "property of the Islamic State" including inhabited houses. Christian houses were marked with the letter 'N' for Nazarite.

     

    Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. The displaced families will find sanctuary and that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need.
    c. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    d. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iraq: Abducted nuns and orphans released unharmed

    Posted on 15 July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    As Christians in Iraq continue to request prayer for their country, they rejoice in good news concerning two nuns and three orphans in their care who were abducted in Mosul on 28th June by Islamic militants.

     

    The nuns and orphans were released on Monday 14th July. According to the Chaldean Patriarch, no ransom was paid for their release, all are in good physical health and they were treated well during their abduction.

     

    The two nuns had disappeared on 28th June close to the Chaldean Monastery of Maskenta in Mosul. The nuns live and work in an orphanage attached to the Monastery. They were accompanied by two girls and a young boy from the orphanage. It is widely assumed that they were held by militants from the extremist group ISIS that seized control of Mosul and surrounding areas in early June.

     

    Chaldean and other church leaders continue to express grave concern for the future of Iraq's Christian communities. Similarly, other non-Sunni communities in areas controlled by ISIS fear for their future. In recent days there have been reports of atrocities against Yazidi communities, the appropriation of land belonging to Christians and members of other minority communities, and the further removal of statues and religious symbols.

     

    Iraqi Christians are grateful for our prayers and give thanks for the safe release of the five Christians. They request continued prayer, asking that:
    a. The nuns and orphans will know the comfort, healing and peace of Jesus and the protection of the Father as they adjust to their new circumstances
    b. Iraqi Christians will know the guiding wisdom of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    c. Violence will cease, peace will be restored, those displaced (including Christians) will be able to return to their homes, and the clear rule of law will be established equally for all throughout Iraq
    d. Those in authority locally, together with the international community, will ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all those in need.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Update on house church members and leaders imprisoned for their faith in Christ

    Posted 8th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following developments in the long-standing cases of three house church members detained for their faith in Jesus.

     

    Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were arrested on Saturday 5th July 2014 in Bandar Azali in northern Iran. It is believed that they have been taken to Shiraz prison in order to serve sentences handed down in July 2013.

     

    Recall that on 12th October 2012 seven believers were arrested in a raid on a prayer meeting in Shiraz. Mohammad and Suroush were among them. Although they were released from detention on 19th March 2013, they were then tried on 16th July 2013. Mohammad was sentenced to six years in prison and Suroush received two and half years. They remained at liberty pending an appeal which was subsequently rejected.

     

    The leader of an associated fellowship, Abdolreza Haghnejad (also known as Matthias), was also arrested on 5th July. Security officials raided his home in Rasht and confiscated Christian materials, including Bibles. He has yet to be charged.

     

    In May 2011 Abdolreza and a number of other believers were acquitted of charges that included propaganda against the state. Abdolreza was tried again on 8th April 2012 and the judge ruled, on the basis of the previous acquittal, that there was no case against him. On 22nd August 2013 there was a new Tribunal hearing in Rasht at which he faced charges of actions against national security.

     

    Even after release, former prisoners continue to experience hardship. In some cases those released prisoners have been pressurised by security officials to become informers. Many former prisoners suffer psychological trauma and some have struggles in areas of marriage and family relationships.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a.  Mohammad and Suroush will experience the Lord's support during this time of imprisonment
    b.  Abdolreza and his family will know the Lord's presence and support
    c.  Those who have been released will be know his physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, and experience his strength and enabling as they and their families adapt
    d.  All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    e.  All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.