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

  • Sudan: Update on pastors on trial

     

    Posted on 3rd July 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Christians in Sudan request our continued prayers for Michael Yat (49) and Peter Yen Reith (36), two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum who had their latest hearing yesterday, 2nd July. They also request prayers for their lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa, and an associate, Pastor Hafez, both of whom were briefly detained on 1st July.

    Yesterday the judge questioned Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith, focusing on why they should be involved in Christian ministry in an Islamic country, and decided their case would continue to trial. The next hearing has been set for 14th July. The two pastors' lawyer has been denied access to them. Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were arrested in December 2014 and January 2015 respectively and charged with multiple offences, including undermining the constitutional system and espionage (offences which carry the death penalty) and blasphemy (which may be punished by whipping).

    On 1st July Pastor Hafez of the Evangelical Church in Bahri (where Pastor Yat preached before his arrest) and Mohaned (the lawyer not only for the two pastors but also for the church) were arrested and detained briefly before being released on bail. The authorities had come to destroy part of the church complex, on the order of government officials. When Pastor Hafez and the lawyer complained that the government employee was attempting to destroy part of the church compound that was not within the government order, they were both arrested for obstructing a public servant in the exercise of his duties. The government employee continued to destroy the part of the compound that was not within the order.

    The lawyer was driven to the police station but the pastor was made to walk there in handcuffs - a deliberate attempt to humiliate him. During his detention Pastor Hafez was hit on the side of his head with a gun. After his release he needed to go to hospital for x-rays.

    It is not yet known when the case against Pastor Hafez and the lawyer will be brought to court.

    Christians in Sudan ask us to pray that:
    a. Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith, Pastor Hafez and the lawyer Mohaned, together with their families, will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. all charges against them will be dropped
    c. church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    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: Christian released after 40 months in prison

     

    Posted on 1st July 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Middle East Concern is pleased to report that a Christian prisoner in Iran has been released. This is a wonderful answer to prayer requests made by MEC over the last three years.

    Homayoun was arrested on 8th February 2012 in Shiraz as part of a raid on a house church. He and three others were sentenced to 3 years and 8 months in prison.

    Homayoun was released on bail on 10th November 2014, but in January this year his bail conditions were cancelled and he was recalled to serve the remainder of his sentence, which was due to be completed in October 2015. The three other prisoners were released in December 2014 and January 2015.

    In April Homayoun's family were disturbed to find that they were unable to visit him or make contact as he had been transferred to a notorious punishment ward in Adelabad Prison in Shiraz, possibly on account of his evangelistic activity in prison.

    Homayoun was transferred back to the general ward on 1st June and released on Sunday 28th June.

    Homayoun and his family thank all who have been praying for them and advocating for his transfer out of the punishment ward and for his early release.

    Iranian Christians rejoice with Homayoun and his family, praising God for his release. They request our continued prayers for Homayoun and those who are still imprisoned on account of their Christian faith and activities.

    Please pray that:
    a. Homayoun will recover quickly from the trauma of his imprisonment, experience healing and adjust to normal family life
    b. those awaiting a court hearing or an appeal will know the Lord's presence, comfort and peace, and that the Lord will guide the judges in their decisions
    c. those serving their sentences will be encouraged and strengthened in their faith and experience the love of God and the presence of Christ
    d. the intimidation of Christians in Iran will not result in fear, but instead that faith will be strengthened and a clear witness maintained
    e. all prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God, and that those imprisoned unjustly on account of their faith in Jesus will be released soon
    f. 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.

     
  • Jerusalem: threats against Christians

    Posted on 30th June 2015
     
    Greetings in the name of Jesus.
     
    Christians in Jerusalem have expressed concern over Islamist threats to the Christian community and have requested prayer.
     
    On Thursday 25th June leaflets were distributed in East Jerusalem by a group calling itself “Islamic State in Palestine”. The leaflets bore the black flag used by Daesh (Islamic State in Iraq and ash-Sham). The message in the leaflets warned that if Christians do not leave Jerusalem before the end of Ramadan on 18th July they may be killed. Threats were also made against Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority.

    Religious leaders in the Muslim and Christian communities of Jerusalem were quick to condemn the leaflets and threats. The Director General of Caritas in Jerusalem,  Fr Raed Abusahliah, has said the incident has caused alarm among some Christians and demonstrates the vulnerability of the Christian community in Jerusalem.
     
    In recent months there have been a number of disturbing incidents affecting Christians in Jerusalem's Old City. On 5th  May Muslim youths attacked the homes of Christians and caused damage to the Ethiopian Patriarchate in Old Jerusalem, removing the cross from the building and writing anti-Christian graffiti.
     
    There are increasing reports of activity under the banner of “Islamic State” among Palestinians. At the beginning of May a consignment of 120 rings bearing the “Islamic State” insignia, sent from Turkey and destined for Ramallah, was discovered at Ben Gurion Airport and confiscated. Israeli intelligence officials noted that, although this was a minor incident, the consignment indicated a degree of affiliation to “Islamic State” within Palestinian communities.
     
    Sheikh Issam Ameera, an imam at the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, recently posted online a video of a sermon entitled "The Islamic State is the keeper of religion and state", in which he indicated that Muslims must constantly be at war with the "polytheist enemy". While this is interpreted as referring to Christians, his wider threats were clearly also directed at Jewish communities.

     

    Christians in Jerusalem request our prayers that:
    a. the authorities will bring to justice those responsible for distribution of the threatening leaflets
    b. the Christian community in Jerusalem will not be fearful and will respond wisely to provocations
    c. the leaders of the different religious communities in Jerusalem will work together for the peace of the city and avoid inflammatory comments or provocative behaviour
    d. “Islamic State” will not gain a strong foothold among Muslim Palestinians
     
    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 25th June 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

     

    Christians in Sudan request our continued prayers for Michael Yat (49) and Peter Yen Reith (36), two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum who had their latest hearing today, 25th June.

     

    At today's hearing the prosecution produced one person who gave testimony, but brought no new evidence against the pastors. The next hearing is due to be on 2nd July. At that hearing the judge will allow the two pastors to speak and he can question them. Afterwards he will decide whether to drop the case against them (if he believes there is no bases to the charges), or whether to allow the case to continue.

     

    Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were detained in Khartoum by the NISS on 14th December and 11th January 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.

     

    On 4th June the pastors were transferred from a low-security prison in Omdurman to the high-security Kober Prison, where they are held in separate cells. Kober Prison administrators have denied the pastors access to their families and lawyer. The defence lawyer has been informed that the pastors were transferred because Western visitors took photographs of them, and because an interview they gave was broadcast by a Christian media organisation.

     

    Please pray:

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

    b. that all charges against them will be dropped

    c. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing 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: pastors trial update

    Posted on 18th June 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Christians in Sudan request our prayers for Michael Yat (49) and Peter Yen Reith (36), two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum who had their latest hearing today, 18th June.

    At today's hearing the prosecution produced one person who gave testimony, but brought no new evidence against the pastors. The next hearing is due to be on 25th June. The prosecution said they have two more witnesses to give testimony.

    In the legal process the next step is for the judge to make a preliminary ruling on whether he believes there is any basis for the charges against the two pastors. If there is no basis, he will drop the charges and the case will be finished. Otherwise he will allow the case to proceed to trial.

    The defence lawyer believes the judge will make this ruling at the next hearing due on 25th June and, although there is not really any evidence against the pastors, the lawyer expects that the judge will allow the case to proceed to trial.

    Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were detained in Khartoum by the NISS on 14th December and 11th January 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.

    On 4th June the pastors were transferred from a low-security prison in Omdurman to the high-security Kober Prison, where they are held in separate cells. Kober Prison administrators have denied the pastors access to their families and lawyer. The defence lawyer has been informed that the pastors were transferred because Western visitors took photographs of them, and because an interview they gave was broadcast by a Christian media organisation.

    Please pray:
    a. that Pastors Yat and Reith and their families will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. that all charges against them will be dropped
    c. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing 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.