Regional Information

Oman: General Human Rights Situation

Information from Annual survey 2012


Generally speaking Oman has had a good Human Rights record over recent years.

 

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.

 

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 have been no reports of significant abuses since 2001.

 

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 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. However, there have not been reports of religious sites being blocked.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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).

 

The Basic Law of Oman issued by Royal decree in 1996 provides for religious freedom. However, in practice restrictions apply, including a prohibition on 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 tolerant 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. However, 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.

 

Abuse of some migrant domestic workers is regularly reported (as is the case in many countries).

 

Status of key international Human Rights treaties:[2]

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] 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

  • Turkey: update on situation regarding Malatya

    Posted on 24th April 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    18th April was Good Friday and the seventh anniversary of the murders of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske in Malatya, Turkey. Hundreds of Turkish believers attended memorial services held at the gravesides of Ugur in Elazig and Tilmann in Malatya. (Necati is buried in Izmir.) The press was noticeably present, particularly at the service held at Ugur’s graveside. Some of Ugur’s relatives were present and there were cordial relations with the Christians. One relative accepted a Turkish New Testament as a gift.

     

    There have been significant consequences following the murders and Turkish believers expressed their thanks for changes in the attitude towards them, in particular a marked reduction in enmity and greater acceptance of their being part of Turkish society.

     

    The press spokesman for the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, Soner Tufan, made a statement restating the discomfort that the Christian community in Turkey feels in regard to the long drawn-out trial with no verdict yet reached and the fact that the five men arrested at the scene were released following a change in the law. The statement noted that justice has not been seen to be done. Recall that thefive were released in March following a legal change that reduced the maximum period of detention during a trial from ten to five years. Four of the defendants have electronic tagging devices attached, the other must report daily using his house telephone. Following the legal changes, a new judge and jury have been appointed and the next court hearing is scheduled for June.

     

    Despite the frustrations with the judicial process and the sadness associated with the deaths of three Christians, there was a joyful atmosphere for the opening of a church in Malatya following the memorial services. Local residents mingled with Christians at the formal opening.

     

    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that:

    a.      The families and friends of murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process

    b.      The Christian community in Malatya would not fear and that they wouldcontinue to show a faithful witness

    c.       The newly appointed judge and jury will grasp the complexities of the case, and that the current publicity will facilitate the prompt completion of the judicial process with justice being seen to be done, including for those behind the actual perpetrators

    d.      All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus’ forgiveness

    e.      All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice

    f.        All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father’s love, forgiveness and acceptance.




    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 Pastor serving six year prison sentence

    Posted on 23rd April 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Church leaders have requested further intercession for Pastor Farshid Fathi, a believer from a Muslim background, who is serving a six-year prison sentence. He was injured on 17th April when revolutionary guards attacked a number of prisoners held in Evin prison, Tehran. Farshid suffered a broken foot and toe after he intervened in the beating of another prisoner and a guard stamped on his foot. He was taken to hospital for treatment on 20th April as a day patient. Approximately 30 fellow prisoners were injured, some more seriously than Farshid. Three other Christians were included on a list of those who had been beaten: namely Ebrahim Firouzi, Rasoul Abdullahi and Alireza Seyyedian. Their injuries are understood to be minor.

     

    Recall that Farshid was arrested on 26th December 2010 along with a number of other Christian leaders. He was taken directly to Evin prison, Tehran, and has remained there ever since. He has been subjected to periods of solitary confinement, intense interrogation and at times he has been denied communication with his family. In March 2012 he was convicted on charges of anti-state political activity, charges that were derived from his leadership of a network of house fellowships. In June 2013 his appeal was rejected and the six-year sentence upheld.

     

    Across Iran, at least 50 others are known to be in prison because of their Christian faith or activities. Some, like Farshid, have been convicted and sentenced, though many have not yetbeen formally charged. Others have been released on bail and are awaiting hearings.

     

    Christians supporting Farshid request our prayers that:

    a.      Farshid, together with others injured on 17th April, will know the healing touch of Jesus

    b.      Farshid, his wife and their two children will know the presence, peace and protection of Jesus each day

    c.       Likewise for others convicted and imprisoned for their Christian activities, and that they will remain steadfast in their faith and clear in their witness and testimony

    d.      Those detained would have access to Scriptures and be able to communicate with their families

    e.      All those detained unjustly will be released

    f.        All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    Open sources used: Elam Ministries, Mohabat News

     

    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.

     

     
  • Syria: call for day of prayer as violence continues

    Posted on 7th April 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

     

    Syrian Christians are calling for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria on 11th April. As the devastating conflict continues, Christians continue to be affected by the violence along with all other communities in Syria.

     

    We regret to report that earlier today (7th April) Father  Frans van der Lugt, a 75 year-old Dutch priest who has been resident in Syria for more than 40 years, was murdered in the Bustan ad-Diwan neighbourhood of Homs. Father van der Lugt was killed by an assailant who entered his residence, took him outside and shot him. Talal al-Barazi, governor of Homs province, has reportedly claimed that the perpetrator is associated with Jabhat an-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate group in control of that area.

     

    There has been much media attention on recent events in the town of Kessab, near Syria’s border with Turkey, which has a significant Armenian population. On 21st March armed groups opposed to the government took control of the area. Up to 3,000 Christians reportedly fled. Following the take-over, some church buildings were desecrated, homes pillaged and government buildings destroyed. However, Christians from Kessab, including the town’s mayor, have refuted reports that alleged that a massacre occurred.

     

    Syrian Christians request our prayers that:

    a.      Fr. Frans’ family, friends and colleagues will know the presence, peace and comfort of Jesus

    b.      Church leaders will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom in all aspects of their work

    c.       Those forced to leave Kessab will know the protection, provision and peace of Jesus

    d.      Efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire will be resumed, including efforts to curb the influx of foreign fighters and weapons and to promote reconciliation

    e.      All those detained without trial or held by kidnappers will be released, including the two bishops kidnapped in April 2013, a priest kidnapped in July 2013 and two priests kidnapped in February 2013

    f.        Local initiatives to promote reconciliation will be effective and wisely supported

    g.      Humanitarian assistance will be provided for all those in need within Syria and amongst Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

     

    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.

     

     
  • Turkey: legal change leads to temporary release of murderers of Christians

    Posted on 12th March 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Last week we requested prayer regarding the effects of a legal change on the trial of five men arrested at the scene of the murder of three Christians in Malatya in April 2007. Recall that a new regulation means people cannot be held in remand for more than five years. Under these new provisions, the five perpetrators were released, as expected, on Friday evening (7th March) pending trial.

     

    The Turkish press has condemned the fact that there have not yet been convictions and expressed concern about the release of the defendants. They also point to various irregularities in the trial process. A local TV station in Malatya interviewed Susanne Geske, who continues to live in Malatya. She spoke of her forgiveness in Christ of her husband’s murderers and that she held no bitterness against them, but questioned the justice of the release and how the Christian community might thereby be affected.

     

    The Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey issued a statement today (12th March)saying that the release has caused great sorrow among Christians and that belief in justice has been shaken. They express their horror at having the perpetrators once more at large in society, especially as they had verbally threatened the relatives and lawyers of the victims in court during 2013. The Association also called on the government to do its duty and intervene promptly to prevent any miscarriage of justice.

     

    On 10th March the Justice Minister announced that four of the five would be electronically tagged. The fifth would be monitored using different technology as the tagging system would not work in the area where his family lives.

     

    The trial now involves a total of18 defendants, with 13 added during the process on charges of instigating or otherwise being involved with the crime. Those close to the trial hope that verdicts in the case of the five perpetrators will be issued soon. The prosecution have requested that the five perpetrators each receive three terms of life imprisonment.

     

    Recall that the five defendants murdered Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske at the Zirve Publishing House on account of their Christian activities. Their trial opened in November 2007 but became complicated as the investigation into the murders revealed that those behind the actual perpetrators had links to wider conspiracies.

     

    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that:

    a.      The families and friends of murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus

    b.      The Christian community in Malatya would not fear and that they wouldcontinue to show a faithful witness

    c.       The current publicity on this case will facilitate prompt completion of the judicial process

    d.      Judges throughout Turkey will be wise in applying this change in this legal change

    e.      All defendants released under the legal change would not be able to flee the country to avoid judicial processes

    f.        The truth concerning the Malatya murders will be revealed, and all guilty of involvement will be convicted

    g.      All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus’ forgiveness

    h.      All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice

    i.        All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father’s love, forgiveness and acceptance.

     

    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: three believers arrested as restrictions are imposed on some house church leaders

    Posted on 10th March 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following the arrest on 5th March of three believers, Amin Khaki, Hossein Barunzadeh and Rahman Bahman. They were arrested near Shoush, Khuzestan province, together with five other believers, while attending a picnic. The other five present were questioned for several hours and released. The security agents reportedly had arrest warrants for Amin and Hossein, but not for the others.

     

    Amin, a deacon in the fellowship led by Behnam Irani (detained since May 2011), has faced problems from the authorities in recent years. He was arrested on 10th May 2010 in Karaj, charged with anti-government activity and given a one-year suspended sentence (suspended for five years). On 15th December 2013 the homes of Amin and several associates were searched  and computer equipment confiscated. It is understood that a travel ban was imposed on Amin and another church leader in February 2014, forbidding them from leaving Alborz province. If so, he was in breach of this order at the time of his arrest.

     

    There are concerns that these travel bans and the latest arrests are part of a wider campaign to restrict the movement and activities of known ministry leaders.

     

    Christians supporting these believers request our prayers that:

    a.      Amin, Hossein and Rahman will know the peace and presence of Jesus each day, and will remain faithful to Jesus and clear in their testimony

    b.      They will be released soon

    c.       Ministry leaders throughout Iran will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom when confronted with pressures and restrictions from the authorities

    d.      Behnam and others detained in Iran for their faith or Christian activities will know the Lord’s daily enabling and healing, be cleared of all unjust charges and released

    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.