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, releases, dropped charges and failed appeal

    Posted on 18th December 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace. 

     

    Following the acquittal and release last Sunday (15th December) of Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad and Reza (Silas) Rabbani, we are pleased to report that the recent charges brought against Behnam Irani, an associate of Abdolreza and Reza, have also been dropped. 

     

    Recall that in September all three had been charged with "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the System." The judge found them guilty and sentenced each of them to 6 years imprisonment, to be served in remote regions of Iran 

     

    Behnam was first arrested in December 2006, convicted of crimes against national security and given a suspended five year prison sentence. He was rearrested in April 2010, convicted of acting against the state. He was sentenced to one year following that conviction and also ordered to serve the initial five-year sentence. He began serving these six years on 31st May 2011. Although he has been acquitted of the further sentence imposed in October 2014, he remains detained, serving the previous sentence. 

     

    During the appeal, the defendants' lawyer, Mr Farahani, had argued that it was inconceivable that Behnam Irani could have been guilty of the political crimes given that he was already imprisoned. 

     

    Behnam is known to suffer from health problems, but recently was able to send a letter to supporters thanking them for their prayers and affirming his willingness to suffer imprisonment for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

     

    Another Christian prisoner, Ebrahim Firouzi, had his appeal come up before the judge on 15th December, but his appeal has been rejected. Ebrahim was arrested on 21st August 2013 during a raid by plain-clothed security officers at a friend's place of work. Four days later he was sentenced by the Revolutionary court in Robat Karim city to one year in prison and two years of exile in Sarbaz city. He is presently detained in Rajei Shahr prison in Karaj. 

     

    We are pleased to report that two other believers, Hossein Baraunzadeh and Rahman Bahman, have been released from prison on bail. They had been among a group of eight arrested at a picnic in Shush in March.  Although most of these were released following interrogation, Hossein and Rahman, along with Amin Khaki, were imprisoned.  Amin remains detained. 

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that the most recent charges against Behnam have been dropped and that Hossein and Rahman have been freed, but they request our continued prayers that: 

    a. Behnam and his family will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support as he continues to serve his prison sentence
    b.  Hossein and Rahman will enjoy their freedom as they return to their homes and families and know God's strength and love as they recover from their imprisonment and that charges against them will be dropped
    c. Ebrahim will not become discouraged after the rejection of his appeal
    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 Behnam, Ebrahim and Amin) will be released soon
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Hi 

     

    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: Two Christian prisoners released

    Posted on 15th November 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    On 20th October we requested prayer for three members of the "Church of Iran" movement, Behnam Irani, Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad and Reza (Silas) Rabbani, who had been charged with "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the System." The judge had found them guilty and sentenced each of them to 6 years imprisonment, to be served in exile in remote regions of Iran. 

     

    We are pleased to report that, following appeals on 24th November and 9th December, the charges against two of these prisoners, Abdolreza Haghnejad and Reza Rabbani, were dropped and they have since been released. 

     

    Reza, a deacon with the "Church of Iran", was arrested in Karaj on 5th May 2014. It was reported that Reza was violently treated during interrogation on several occasions. 

     

    Pastor Abdolreza was arrested in May 2011, but then acquitted of charges that included propaganda against the state. From then onwards, Abdolreza faced frequent summons and harassment by officials. On 5th July 2014 he was detained once again following the arrest of other church members. 

     

    The lawyer representing Abdolreza and Reza, Mr Farahani, argued that Abdolreza should be released on the basis that he had previously been acquitted of charges by a tribunal in Bandar-Anzali and contended that people cannot be sentenced on political charges for simply belonging to a religious fellowship. 

     

    According to sources close to the victims, international indignation at the severity of the sentences lain down and advocacy conducted on the prisoners' behalf played an important role in the success of the appeal and subsequent release of Abdolreza and Reza. 

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that the charges against Abdolreza and Reza have been dropped and the prisoners freed, but they request our continued prayers that: 

    a) The charges against Behnam Irani will also be dropped and that he will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support
    b)  Abdolreza and Reza will enjoy their freedom as they return to their homes and families and know God's strength and love as they recover from their imprisonment
    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. 

     
  • Turkey: Christian ministry targeted in arson attack

    Posted on 14th December 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd 

     

    Christians in Turkey have requested prayer regarding a recent case of arson which has caused significant damage to the property of a Christian ministry. 

     

    On Sunday 7th December in Kadikoy, Istanbul, neighbours notified emergency services of a fire in the offices and storage facilities belonging to the Bible Correspondence Course (BCC). Fire services and police arrived and the fire was soon extinguished. 

     

    Initially, the fire was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault, but witnesses then claimed that the door had been forced open before the arrival of the emergency services. CCTV footage showed a suspicious character waiting opposite the building and then exiting it shortly before neighbours raised the alarm. 

     

    Although, according to the assistant mayor of Kadikoy, police made an arrest on Tuesday 9th December, BCC workers have requested the police to investigate the incident thoroughly and ensure that justice is done. 

     

    Both the fire and the water used to extinguish it caused extensive damage to property, including furnishings, but primarily to the stocks of Christian literature. Between ten and twenty thousand books and booklets were irreparably damaged with an estimated value of over $12,500. 

     

    Christians in Turkey are thankful that no one was hurt in the fire and that the neighbours alerted the police and fire service.They request prayer that: 

    a.  The BCC leaders will have wisdom to know how to proceed with the police and relevant authorities
    b.  State officials will do all in their power to see that justice is done
    c.  The Lord will turn this attempt to harm the work of the Kingdom around for good
    d.  BCC staff will not be discouraged by this attack
    e.  The materials damaged will be replaced
    f.  The perpetrator himself will appreciate his wrongdoing and turn to God for forgiveness

     

    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 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.