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

  • Libya: Daesh kills 30 African Christians

    Posted on 20th April 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of God, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

     

    Christians around the world have been deeply saddened by the brutal murder of approximately 30 Christian men by Daesh (so-called 'Islamic State' or IS) Muslim extremists in Libya.

     

    The extremists published a video on Sunday 19th April showing the decapitation and shooting of the Christians, who are reportedly Ethiopian. The footage shows one group of men being beheaded on a beach and another group in a desert area being shot in the head. The victims had been seized in Libya by Daesh-linked militants. The video is similar to previous ones posted by Daesh, including a video released in February of the beheading of 21 Christians (20 Egyptians and one Chadian).

     

    The new video lasts for 29 minutes and includes the logo of the media arm of Daesh. The Ethiopian Information Minister Redwan Hussein has stated that the Ethiopian government is seeking to verify the nationality of those shown in the video. Mr Hussein has condemned the killings, calling them a crime against humanity.

     

    The international community has also expressed its outrage at this "brutal mass murder". The US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan has commented that "this atrocity once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya".

     

    In the video, a masked militant with a gun is seen making a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam or pay a special tax. The killings appear to have taken place in two different regions of Libya.

     

    Please pray:

    a. that Libyan Christians and expatriate Christians in Libya will know the Father's loving protection and the Spirit's guiding wisdom

    b. for protection and wisdom for Christians attempting to leave Libya

    c. that the Daesh murderers will know the Spirit's conviction of their sin, and seek the Father's forgiveness and new life through the death and resurrection of the Son

    d. that the rule of law will be established and upheld for the benefit of all in Libya, and that the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities will cease

     

    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: Murder and abduction of Christians, Idlib

    Posted on 1st April 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

     

    Syrian Christians have requested prayer following the killing and abduction of Christians in the provincial capital of Idlib, North West Syria.

     

    On 28th March a coalition of extremist militias, led by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, seized control of the city from pro-government forces. The take-over of the city has been accompanied by violence against minority communities, including Christians.

     

    Two Christians, a father and a son, were reportedly murdered because they owned a shop that sold alcohol. In addition, a Greek Orthodox priest, Father Ibrahim Farah, has been abducted along with a small number of congregants from his church. It has been claimed that they are to be tried in an Islamic court established by the extremists. No details of charges or demands have yet emerged, beyond reports that Christians have been ordered to pay the 'jizya' tax or leave Idlib.

     

    Idlib's Christian community once numbered several hundred, but the majority had left prior to the recent offensive. Father Ibrahim had refused to leave.

     

    There are tensions within the coalition now in control of Idlib. One source claims that this includes differences over the treatment of Christians, with members of Ahrar ash-Sham opposing the more hard-line approach of Jabhat al-Nusra. However, both groups are known to be hostile to religious minorities and to be working to establish a Sunni Islamist theocracy in Syria.

     

    There remains uncertainty about the situation of around 200 Assyrian Christians abducted in late February by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants in Hassaka province, North East Syria. A total of 23 are known to have been released; it is assumed that the others remain in captivity.

     

    Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

    a.  The families of those murdered will know the Lord's comfort and peace as they mourn

    b.  Those abducted in Idlib, together with those abducted in Hassaka and elsewhere, will know his presence and protection, and will be released soon

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

    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 murders and 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: Christian released from prison in Shiraz

    Posted on 30th March 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    On 29th January MEC reported the release of Vahid Hakkani and asked for prayer for the release of two other believers held with him, Mojtaba Hosseini and Homayoun Shokouhi. Iranian Christians rejoice that Mojtaba was set free on 18th March and that Homayoun was recently allowed ten days' leave from prison for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year holiday.

    These three were among eight believers arrested on 8th February 2012 in coordinated raids by security agents in Shiraz. Although all the others have now been released, Homayoun remains in detention to complete his sentence of 3 years and 8 months, with an additional suspended sentence of 8 months.

    Four were released in 2012. On 10th January 2013 the other four believers, Homayoun, Kurosh, Mojtaba and Vahid, were brought before the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz on charges of 'disrupting national security' and 'propaganda against the regime' (related to their involvement in a house church), evangelism, and contact with Christians outside Iran. They were found guilty and received prison sentences of three years and eight months each.

    Kurosh was released on 18th May 2014 and Homayoun was released on 10th November 2014 - only to have his bail conditions cancelled and be returned to prison. Vahid was released on Monday 26th January 2015 and, most recently, Mojtaba was released on 18th March 2015.

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a. Mojtaba and Vahid will know God's strength and love as they recover from imprisonment and seek God's direction for the future
    b. All those detained in Iran for their Christian faith or activities, including Homayoun, will know the Lord's strength and support during their detention and that they will be released soon
    c. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God
    d. All 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.

     
  • 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.