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

  • Turkey: Update on Malatya murder trial

    Posted on 12th March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

    Further delays are anticipated in the trial of the suspects behind the murder of three Christians at Zirve Publishing House, Malatya in Turkey in 2007.

    A recent amendment to legislation has resulted in the establishment of new courts in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir to try cases of terrorism and organised crime. Previous hearings in this case took place in Malatya, but the trial will now move, possibly to Diyarbakir, which is the closest of the new courts.

    Lawyer Erdal Dogan remarked that this will be the fourth change of judge and court officials and that this will inevitably have a negative effect on the progress of the trial as it takes a lot of time for each board of judges and prosecutors to read and acknowledge the case file.

    As mentioned in a prayer update of 22nd January 2015, all the defendants (apart from one held on a separate charge) have now been released, although the five accused perpetrators have been electronically tagged and are under house arrest. Life sentences without parole have been demanded for the killers of the three Christians (two Turkish and one German).

    Turkish Christians request our continued prayers that:
    a. The new court will quickly become engaged with the trial and that justice will be seen to be done
    b. The families and friends of the murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process
    c. 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
    d. All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice
    e. 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 - release of Pastor Victor

    Posted on 4th March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

    Iranian Christians are pleased to report the release from Evin Prison in Tehran of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz. MEC issued a prayer request on 2nd January mentioning his arrest and asking for prayer on his behalf. Pastor Victor expresses his thanks to those who have been praying for him, and says that it was a great source of encouragement to know of this support.

    On 26th December security officials raided the house of Pastor Victor and conducted a thorough search, confiscating Bibles, mobile phones and identity papers belonging to people who had gathered for a Christmas celebration. All those present were arrested and most were released shortly afterwards, but Pastor Victor, who is of Assyrian Christian background, and two other believers (from Muslim backgrounds) were taken to Evin Prison.

    The two believers detained along with Pastor Victor, Amin and Kaviyan, were released on bail a month ago. Pastor Victor was initially refused bail. However, on 1st March he was offered conditional release. The bail conditions were high and his family has had to submit title deeds to meet these conditions.

    Pastor Victor feels weak, has breathing difficulties, and has lost weight. He also has a tooth infection, but otherwise is in reasonable health. Security officials are keeping his home under observation.

    Iranian Christians rejoice at Pastor Victor's release and request prayer that:
    a. Victor will quickly recover from the ordeal and have wisdom about the next steps that he should take
    b. Victor will be able to receive adequate legal assistance
    c. Iranian justice officials will not make unreasonable bail demands
    d. All those in prison in Iran on account of their faith in Jesus will be released soon
    e. All the Iranian officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    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.

     
  • Syria: Update on abduction of Assyrian Christians in Hassaka Governorate

    Posted on 1st March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

    Last week we requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria involving the abduction of large numbers of Assyrian Christians by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

    We are pleased to report that 19 of the hostages were released yesterday (1st March). However, grave concerns remain for the many others still being held by Daesh, now estimated to be more than two hundred. The nineteen released were taken by bus to the Church of Our Lady in Hassaka. Most are men, and all are reported to be over 50 years old. There is speculation that an Islamic court ordered their release after 'tax payments' were made on their behalf.

    The abductions began at around 4.00am on 23rd February, when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate - an area in which there are around 35 predominantly Christian villages. It is believed that the abducted Christians are being held in Mount Abdelaziz, an area nearby which is under Daesh control.

    In the days following the offensive, all sources increased their initial estimates of how many were abducted and how many had fled from their villages. Most sources claim that the number of abductees is more than 200. A representative of the Assyrian Church of the East reported that 51 families failed to flee from Tal-Shamiram and are feared to have been abducted, in addition to more than 100 individuals from other villages. He noted that the number of families who have fled is expected to reach 1,200. At least 15 casualties have been reported, principally among Assyrian combatants fighting alongside Kurdish militias in defence of their areas.

    Assyrian and Syrian Church leaders have appealed to the international community to redouble efforts to stop the killing and systematic displacement of Christians, and to promote a peaceful settlement in the region.

    Syrian Christians ask us to continue to pray that:
    a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon
    b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon
    c.  Those released will know the Spirit's comfort and healing following their ordeal
    d.  Violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria
    e. Those responsible for the abductions will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

     

    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. 

     
  • Syria: abduction of Assyrian Christians in Hassaka Governorate

    Posted on 24th February 2015

     

    Syrian Christians have requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria in which large numbers of Assyrian Christians have been abducted by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

     

    The abductions began at around 4.00am local time yesterday (23rd February) when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate. There are around 35 predominantly Christian villages along the river in that area. The Daesh offensive follows clashes in which Kurdish and Syriac militias claim to have 'liberated' villages from Daesh control in neighbouring Raqqa Governorate.

     

    According to one source, more than 600 families managed to flee from these villages. However, many Christians were abducted by Daesh militants. There is still some uncertainty about the exact numbers being held; one source refers to 56 Christians having been taken from the village of Tal-Shamiram and 'dozens' from other villages. Some refer to up to 100 having been abducted.

     

    There are reports that churches in two villages were set on fire, and that a 17 year-old Christian was murdered. Examples of Muslim neighbours showing solidarity and assisting Christians have also emerged.

     

    The reason for the abductions has not been stated. There is speculation that the abductees may be used in negotiations for the release of Daesh militants captured by Kurdish militias. However, there is grave concern over the fate of the Christians, especially in view of the recent murder of 21 Christians by Daesh-affiliated militants in Libya.

     

    Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

     

    a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon

    b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon

    c.  Violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

    d. Those responsible for the abductions will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

     

     

    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.

     
  • Iran: Release of Rasoul Abdollahi

    Posted on 23rd February 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

     

    We are pleased to report that an Iranian Christian has recently been released from prison, although the conditions imposed are severely restrictive.

     

    Rasoul Abdollahi had been arrested on 26th December 2010 along with Farshid Fathi and other believers. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in December 2013 following a conviction for "collusion against the government" and "evangelism" and detained in Evin Prison, Tehran.

     

    On 2nd October 2014 Rasoul was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. On 24th October he and another Christian prisoner went on hunger strike to demand relocation because of overcrowding.

     

    Rasoul was released on 16th February 2015, but strict conditions have been imposed which preclude him from participating in Christian activities. Violation of any of the conditions could result in his re-arrest to serve his full 3-year sentence.

     

    Please also continue to remember Farshid in prayer. In April 2012 Farshid was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. In April 2014 Farshid was beaten by security officials during a raid on political prisoners in Evin Prison, and he suffered a fractured foot and toe. He was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison on 19th August 2014.

     

    On 29th December 2014 Farshid received an additional sentence of one year. This followed the discovery of alcohol during the raid on Evin Prison in April, which security officials attributed to Farshid. Farshid strongly denies this claim and his lawyer has appealed against this decision.

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that Rasoul has been freed, but they are disturbed by the severe conditions placed upon his release and request our continued prayers that:

     

    a. As he returns to his home and family, Rasoul will know God's strength and love and recover from his imprisonment.

    b. The appeal against the additional sentence for Farshid will be successful.

    c. The Iranian judiciary would not impose conditions of release which restrict freedom of religion or belief.

    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 (including Farshid) will be released soon.

    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.