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

  • Iran: Update on pastor on trial

    Posted on 27th May 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

    Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz of Tehran requests prayer for his upcoming trial.
     
    On 26th December 2014 Pastor Victor, a former leader of the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church, was arrested at his home along with guests gathered for a Christmas celebration. Security agents who conducted the raid on his home stated that they were arresting the individuals because they were “participating in an illegal gathering”.
     
    Although most of the guests were released shortly afterwards, Pastor Victor (who is from an Assyrian Christian background) and two other believers, Amin and Kavian (from Muslim backgrounds), were charged with conducting illegal evangelism and taken to Evin Prison where they were kept mainly in solitary confinement until bail conditions were set for their conditional release (Amin on 10th February, Kavian on 17th February and Pastor Victor on 2nd March).

    Pastor Victor is expected to be summoned to court soon for his case to be heard.

    Pastor Victor has experienced difficulty in finding a lawyer willing to act as his defence counsel. Some lawyers have experienced a backlash after representing Christians in court and Victor is well-known as the former pastor of Shahr-Ara Assyrian Pentecostal Church, ministering until the church was shut on the orders of the Ministry of Interior in March 2009.

    Pastor Victor requests prayer that:
    a. a suitable lawyer will be willing to defend him in court
    b. the judge who will review his case will be someone who fears God
    c. Pastor Victor and his family will be able to continue in faith and strength and have wisdom and patience
    d. God will protect them as they carry on His work


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



     
  • Sudan: Update on pastors on trial

    Posted on 19th May 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace. 


    On 13th May MEC requested prayer for two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum, Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36).

    Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were detained in Khartoum by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) on 14th December 2014 and 11th January 2015 respectively. They have been charged with a range of criminal offences. These include crimes against the State which are punishable by death, a life sentence or lesser detention and confiscation of property.

    A court hearing took place today (19th May) from 10am to 3pm local time.

    A representative from the NISS was present and the prosecutor began to make his case. The prosecutor did not finish and will continue to present his evidence at the next hearing. Afterwards the defence lawyer will have an opportunity to present his case.

    The defence lawyer believes there is no real evidence against the two pastors for any of the charges. He also believes that the sole reason for the court case is the two pastors' exercise of their Christian faith.

    The next hearing is scheduled for 31st May 2015.

    Christians in Sudan ask us to pray:
    a. that Pastors Yat and Reith and their families will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. that the next hearing will be held as scheduled and that all charges will be dropped
    c. that church leaders across Sudan will know the Lord's guiding wisdom in the face of the continuing pressures against them
    d. that 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.

     
  • Sudan: Update on pastors on trial

    Posted on 14th May 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus. 

     

    Yesterday (13th May) we requested prayer for two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum, Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith. 

     

    The court hearing took place this morning. Since the prosecutor could not produce his witness from Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the judge postponed the hearing until 19th May 2015. He ordered the prosecutor to produce his witnesses at that hearing. 

     

    Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were detained in Khartoum by the NISS on 14th December 2014  and 11th January 2015 respectively. They have been charged with a range of criminal offences. These include crimes against the State which are punishable by death, life sentence or lesser detention and confiscation of property

     

    Christians in Sudan ask us to continue to pray: 

    a. that Pastors Yat and Reith and their families will know the Lord's peace and protection 

    b. that the next hearing will be held as scheduled and that all charges will be dropped 

    c. that church leaders across Sudan will know the Lord's guiding wisdom in the face of the continuing pressures against them 

    d. that 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.

     
  • Yemen: Aden church destroyed in bombing raid

    Posted on 13th May 2015

     

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

     

    Church leaders in the Arabian Peninsula have requested prayer for the country of Yemen, including its Christian communities, following the destruction of a church building in Aden amid the current warfare.

     

    Catholic church leaders report that the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the al-Ma'ala area of Aden was destroyed in an aerial bombing raid during the night of 11th May. The adjoining priest's residence was also destroyed. The priest was not present at the time of the airstrike. The church building, constructed in 1960, is one of very few church buildings in Yemen (all of them in Aden) that have been permitted to host services for the expatriate Christian community. Christian gatherings also take place in private locations.

     

    In recent weeks airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia have targeted Houthi rebels, the Zaydi Shi'a group that has seized control of much of the country. It is understood that the church was hit during a raid targeting Houthi positions. The current conflict has led to a deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

     

    Church leaders request our prayers that:
    a.  peace and justice will be restored in Yemen
    b.  humanitarian aid will reach all who are in need
    c.  the small remaining expatriate Christian community in Yemen will know the Father's comfort and strength, and the Son's close presence
    d. all Christians in Yemen will know the Spirit's guidance in every aspect of their life and witness

     

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

     
  • Sudan: Pastors on trial

    Posted on 13th May 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

     

    Christians in Sudan request our prayers for two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum.

     

    On 14th December Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detained Pastor Michael Yat (49) in Khartoum at the end of a church service. The church, Bahri Evangelical Church, has been repeatedly harassed by the authorities in recent months. Pastor Yat is a minister in the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC).

     

    On 11th January the NISS detained a second pastor from the SSPEC, Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36). He was detained after attending a prayer meeting in Khartoum.

     

    Both pastors were detained incommunicado until 1st March, when their case was referred to the Prosecutor for State Security (rather than an attorney-general who deals with normal criminal cases).

     

    On 4th May there was a procedural hearing, at which charges were declared. The pastors are charged under Sudan's Criminal Act of 1991 with the following offences: responsibility for joint criminal acts (Article 21 of the Act); undermining the constitutional system or endangering the unity and independence of the country (Article 50); waging war against the State (51); espionage (53); unlawfully obtaining or disclosing information or official documents (55); agitating hatred (64); disturbing the peace (69); and blasphemy (125).

     

    Articles 50, 51 and 53 are crimes against the State, punishable by a life sentence, the death penalty, or lesser detention and confiscation of property. Article 55 is also a crime against the State and may be punished by two years' imprisonment and/or a fine. Articles 64 and 69 may be punished by a two-year jail sentence. Article 125 is punishable with a one-year jail sentence, a fine or 40 lashes.

     

    The next court hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow, 14th May.

     

    Christians in Sudan ask us to pray:
    a. that Pastors Yat and Reith and their families will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. that tomorrow's hearing will go well and that all charges will be dropped
    c. that church leaders across Sudan will know the Lord's guiding wisdom in the face of the continuing pressures against them
    d. that 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.