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

  • Iran: Update on house church members imprisoned for their faith

    Posted on 17th November 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Christians thank us for our ongoing prayers for believers in prison in their country. They rejoice that Homayoun Shokouhi was granted conditional release on 10th November but request prayer for Masoud Rezai who was summoned on 9th November to serve a five-year sentence.

     

    Recall that Homayoun, his wife Fariba and son Nima were among seven believers arrested in Shiraz on 8th February 2012 when their fellowship meeting was raided. An associate was also arrested at the same time in his home. In June 2012 the eight were found guilty of "attending a house-church, spreading Christianity, having contact with foreign ministries, propaganda against the regime and disrupting national security." Homayoun and three others were sentenced to 3 years and 8 months' imprisonment. One of these others, Mohammad-Reza, was released conditionally on 18th May 2014.

     

    Following an application of his family to the Shiraz court, Homayoun, was released conditionally on Monday 10th November 2014 after serving two years and eight months of his sentence in Adel-Abad prison. Those who remain detained are Mojtaba and Vahid.

     

    Recall that in a separate incident, nine members of the 'Church of Iran' were arrested in Shiraz in October 2012 when their prayer meeting was raided. One detainee was released shortly afterwards; the others were formally convicted and given sentences ranging from one year to six years' imprisonment (though one's conviction was subsequently dropped). An appeal was rejected on 29th March 2014 and subsequently four of those convicted - Shahin, Mohammad, Suroush and Mehdi - began serving their sentences.

     

    On 9th November Masoud was called to Adel Abad prison, Shiraz, to serve his sentence of five years. The two others, Eskander and Bijan, expect to be summoned soon to serve their sentences.

     

    Iranian Christians give thanks for Homayoun's release. They request our prayers that:
    a.  Homayoun will know physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, and experience strength and enabling as he and his family come together
    a.  Masoud and all other believers imprisoned in Shiraz will know the Lord's presence, comfort and strength, and that they will be released soon
    b.  Eskandar and Bijan will know the Lord's presence and support as they wait to be summoned to serve their prison sentences
    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.

     
  • Iran: Harsh sentences given to church leaders

    Posted on 20th Oct 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, our rock and saviour

     

    On 7th October we requested prayer for imprisoned believers in Iran who were awaiting sentences. Those sentences have now been handed down.

     

    Recall that three members of the "Church of Iran" movement, Behnam Irani, Abdolreza Haghnejad and Reza Rabbani had been charged with "spreading corruption on Earth," a charge that can carry the death sentence. However, these charges were later dropped. They have instead been tried for "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the System."

     

    The judge has sentenced each of them to 6 years imprisonment which will be served in exile in remote regions of Iran. Abdolreza and Reza are due to be sent to Minab prison in the south of Iran, whereas Behnam Irani is expected to be relocated soon to Zabol on the border with Afghanistan. Both of these locations will make visiting difficult for family and friends.

     

    Behnam Irani was arrested in a raid on a house church in Karaj on 14th April 2010. He was released on bail but then sentenced in January 2011 for one year, to which a previous 5-year suspended sentence was added. He began serving his sentence on 31st May 2011. With the recent additional sentence of six years, Behnam is expected to serve a total of twelve years in prison and therefore is due for release in 2023.

     

    Iranian Christians are grateful that the charges of spreading corruption on Earth against Behnam, Abdolreza and Reza were dropped, but they request our continued prayers that:
    a)  After receiving these harsh sentences, Behnam, Abdolreza and Reza will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support
    b)  Families of prisoners will know God's grace, strengthening and support and have opportunities to visit them in prison despite the exile imposed
    c)   All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus will be released
    d)  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.

     
  • Iran: Update on arrests and charges against Christians

    Posted on 7th October 2014

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice in answered prayer concerning a number of imprisoned believers and request our renewed prayers following further arrests of house church members.

     

    Recall that on 1st and 2nd September several believers from Muslim backgrounds were arrested in Isfahan. We are pleased to report that Moluk Ruhani, Hamidreza Borhani and his wife Zainab Akbari were released at the end of September, though the terms of their release are not yet clear. However, Mohammad Taslimi and Parsa Dadkhah remain detained in Dastgerd prison. Moluk Ruhani's sister, Sepideh Morshedi, was also arrested, but her present whereabouts are unknown.

     

    On August 12th security officers arrested two believers at a house church in Tehran. They were held in Ghezal Hesar prison, Karaj, but have since been released on bail.

     

    Recall too that three members of the "Church of Iran" movement, Behnam Irani, Abdolreza Haghnejad and Reza Rabbani had been charged with "spreading corruption on Earth," a charge that can carry the death sentence. However, these charges have been dropped. They are now being tried for "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the System." The judge is expected to deliver a verdict soon.

     

    On 27th September security officers raided the house of Shahram Ghaedi in Isfahan. They arrested him and two other believers, Heshmat Shafiei, and Emad Haghi. They are currently , detained in Dastgerd prison. Shahram Ghaedi, who was also arrested in 2012, is well-known as the actor who portrayed Jesus in the Iranian version of the Jesus Film.

     

    Recall that 26th September was the second anniversary of Pastor Saeed Abedini's imprisonment in Iran. It is claimed that prayer vigils to mark this occasion were held in over 500 different locations in 33 countries.

     

    Iranian Christians are grateful for the support of so many in prayer and rejoice that some believers in Isfahan and Tehran have been released and that the more severe charges against Abdolreza, Behnam and Reza have been dropped.

     

    They request our continued prayers that:
    a)  All those recently arrested on account of the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will know the Lord's presence and support
    b)  Families of prisoners will know God's grace, strengthening and support
    c)   All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus will be released
    d)  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: Update on foreigners abducted and killed

    Posted on 30th September 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, who came that all may have eternal life.

     

    In recent years we have requested prayer following the kidnapping on 12th June 2009 of nine foreigners in Saada, north-west Yemen. Three were murdered shortly after their abduction.

     

    Recall that Lydia and Anna, two young German girls, were freed in May 2010 and are now living with relatives in Germany. For many months there was no news of Johannes and Sabine (their parents), Simon (their infant brother) or of Tony (a British man).

     

    We regret to report that, in recent days, the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs has advised that reliable intelligence confirms that Johannes, Sabine and Simon are no longer alive. The situation of Tony remains unclear.

     

    Those supporting these families request our continued intercession. They ask us to pray that:
    a.  Lydia and Anna, together with other family members and colleagues, will know the deep comfort and peace of the Lord Jesus at this time of grieving
    b.  Information about Tony will be forthcoming soon, and that, if still alive, he will know the Lord's presence and strength and be released soon
    c.  Tony's wife and other family members and colleagues will know the strength, comfort and hope of Jesus amidst continuing uncertainty
    d.  Peace will be restored in Yemen, and godly leadership established which respects all ethnic, tribal and religious groups
    e.  The perpetrators will be convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the forgiveness, love and true life offered by Jesus.

     

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

     
  • Iran: Continuing Arrests and Harsh Sentences for Christians

    Posted on 16th September 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following the recent arrests of house church members and further extraordinary charges filed against church leaders.

     

    On 1st and 2nd September five Christians were arrested in Esfahan. Bibles, computers and mobile phones were confiscated and Mohammad Taslimi, Hamidreza Borhani and his wife Zainab Akbari, Moluk Ruhani and her sister, Sepideh Morshedi, were arrested and taken to Dastgerd prison, Esfahan. They have yet to be charged.

     

    Prior to this on August 12th Iranian security authorities arrested two Christian men at a house church in Tehran. They are being held in Ghezal Hesar prison, Karaj. The owner of the house was unable to return for several weeks as his house was being watched.

     

    A worrying development is the serious charges being levelled against church leaders. Recall that on 3rd August a leader within the "Church of Iran" denomination, Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad, was charged with "Moharebeh"- enmity against God - a crime that can carry the death sentence. He has since been charged with "Mofsed-e-filarz" - generally translated as "spreading corruption on Earth". This charge also carries the death sentence.

     

    Two other members of the "Church of Iran" movement are reported to have recently been charged with "Mofsed -e-filarz" as well: Behnam Irani, serving a six year sentence for "action against the state and against order", has received an additional 18 other charges including "mofsed -e-filarz" and Reza (Silas) Rabbani, who was arrested on 5th May 2014 and has suffered much physical abuse at the hands of security agents has also recently been charged with "mofsed -e-filarz".

     

    The charge of "Mosfed-e-filarz" has been applied to a wide range of expressions of political or religious dissent and carries the death sentence. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, possibly more than 8,000 people have been executed under this charge ranging from former members of the Shah's government, leaders of opposition or terrorist groups, to opponents of the regime and some Baha'i leaders.

     

    The 26th September, 2014, will mark the second anniversary of Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini's imprisonment in Iran. Saeed was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for "anti-state activities" due to his work with house fellowships. Saeed's wife, Nagmeh, has organised a prayer vigil for 26th September to pray for Saeed and the persecuted church. A current list of vigil locations can be found at this web site http://beheardproject.com/prayer-vigil/saeed.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a)  The charges of  "Mosfed-e-filarz"- spreading corruption in the Earth - against Abdolreza, Behnam and Reza would be overturned
    b)  All those recently arrested on account of the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will know the Lord's presence and support
    c)  Families of prisoners will know God's grace, strengthening and support
    d)   All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus will be 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.