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 Christians detained in prison

    Posted on 19th August 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd,

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following several significant changes in the situation of those detained in Iranian prisons for their faith in Jesus.

     

    Typically, those arrested for their faith in Jesus are charged with crimes against national security. However, 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.

     

    Recall that Abdolreza was arrested on 5th July in conjunction with a number of other leaders from the same denomination. Security officials raided his home in Rasht and confiscated Christian materials, including Bibles.

     

    On 23rd July Mehdi Ameruni, another member of the "Church of Iran" denomination, was called to serve his three year prison sentence in Adel-Abad prison, Shiraz.

     

    Recall that on 12th October 2012 seven believers were arrested in a raid on a prayer meeting in Shiraz. Mehdi Ameruni was among them. Although they were released from detention on 19th March 2013, they were then tried on 16th July 2013. Mehdi was sentenced to three years in prison. He remained at liberty pending an appeal which was later rejected.

     

    Fatemeh Torkkajouri, wife of Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a "Church of Iran" leader, has been summoned to appear before a court in Iran. They are resident abroad, but security officials are putting pressure on her family still in the country to see that she attends a court hearing in Iran.

     

    Prisoners not only face hardships from guards and other state officials, but are also exposed to threats from fellow prisoners. Saeed Abedini in Rajai Shahr Prison, serving an eight year sentence for Christian activities has said that other prisoners have told him that radical islamists in the same prison plan to kill him. During exercise times, when there would be opportunity for them to harm him, Saeed has decided to stay in his cell.

     

    Recently a number of prisoners have been relocated to different prisons or different wards within the same prison. Farshid Fathi, for example, has been moved from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. Farshid is serving a six year sentence for offences against national security. Saeed and Farshid are now being held in the same facility. However, Christian prisoners in Rajai Shahr and other prisons complain that they are being kept apart from one another.

     

    There is concern about the recent emigration of Christians from Iran, some in leadership positions. In recent weeks MEC has been notified of several families who have left the country because of the dangers they face inside Iran.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a)  The charge of  "Moharebeh"- enmity against God - against Abdolreza would be overturned
    b)  Abdolreza, Mehdi, Saeed and Fathi (and all other Christian detainees in Iran) will know the Lord's presence and support
    c)  Saeed will know special protection against the threats of extremists in the same prison
    d)  Prisoners will have opportunities for fellowship and to encourage one another
    e)  Families of prisoners will know God's grace, strengthening and support
    f)  Iranian Christian families will have clarity when faced with the dilemma of whether to emigrate
    g)   All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    h)  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.

     
  • Iraq: Update on deepening crisis facing Christians

    Posted on 13th August 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock,

     

    Christians in Iraq request our renewed prayer as the crisis in their country continues to deepen.

     

    During the night of 6th-7th August, Islamic State (IS) militants attacked towns and villages to the east and north of Mosul with mortars and heavy weapons. The protecting Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew, leaving the area to be seized by the IS. This area, including the towns of Qaraqosh, Karamlis, Bartella and Tel Kayf, is the ancestral home of Iraq's Christian communities and had the largest concentration of Christians in Iraq, including many who fled from Baghdad due to violence over the last few years. This area is now virtually emptied of Christians.

     

    The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch has estimated that one hundred thousand Christians fled overnight, mostly on foot and with little or nothing in their possession. Many of these had already been displaced, having taken refuge in these towns in recent weeks after fleeing from Mosul. Most have now fled to cities in the Kurdish controlled areas nearby.

     

    Earlier last week, the IS seized the city of Sinjar, a traditional home of the Yazidi minority, forcing two hundred thousand to flee to the surrounding mountain areas. There are many reports of atrocities, including summary executions of men and treatment of women as "spoils of war" (including abduction, forced marriage and rape).

     

    The humanitarian needs of these displaced communities are overwhelming. Trapped Yazidi communities have suffered dehydration and starvation, and are grateful that air-drop operations have now started. Among Christians who have fled to Kurdish areas, many have taken refuge in Church halls and corridors, or in public schools, gardens and in the streets. There is an urgent need for water, food and shelter.

     

    Church leaders have expressed deep concern for the future of the Christian presence in this area as many seek to emigrate. Asia News quotes Msgr Rabban Al-Qas, Chaldean Bishop of Amadiyah in the Kurdish controlled area, who says: "The majority of Christians want to get their documents and leave, go away, because they are afraid. Thousand of Christians want to escape." He notes that the lack of effective government in Baghdad is a key part of the problem.

     

    In the midst of this existential threat to the church in Iraq the church continues to be involved in the distribution of aid without distinction as to religion. Msgr. Al-Qas asserts that the Chaldean Church "is active, and we witness our presence with love."

     

    Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
    a. A permanent political solution would soon be found in Iraq, leading to the effective challenge of all who pursue violence and to the establishment of justice and a lasting peace
    b. All those who have been displaced will find sanctuary, receive the humanitarian assistance they need, and in time be able to return to their homes
    c. Christians in Iraq, and especially those who have been forced to flee their homes, will know the peace of Jesus, the protection of the Father and the comfort of the Spirit

     

    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 Meriam and family, now in Italy

    Posted on 24th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

     

    In recent months we have requested prayer for Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a Sudanese believer from a Muslim background, who was sentenced to death on 15th May for apostasy but then released on 23rd June following a successful appeal. Recall that she was then re-arrested at the airport as she and her family were attempting to leave the country, and then released again on bail on 26th June.

     

    We are pleased to report that Meriam and her family have now left Sudan. They arrived in Rome at about 9.30am today (24th July) after the Italian government had negotiated her release with the Sudanese authorities. The family is expected to stay in Italy for a few days before continuing their journey to the US.

     

    Meriam's lawyers were not given prior notification of her departure. There remains a lack of clarity about the status of legal proceedings against Meriam in Sudan. It is not yet known whether the Attorney General has decided against filing charges for travelling on allegedly false documents. Nor is it yet known whether a court case brought by those claiming to be Meriam's relatives, to have her marriage cancelled, has been dropped.

     

    Sudanese Christians thank us for our prayers  and rejoice that Meriam, together with her husband Daniel and their young children Martin and Maya, are now in a place of safety. However, they are concerned about the possible repercussions for other Christians in Sudan.

     

    They request our continuing prayer that:
    a. Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya will know the comfort, healing and restoration of Jesus
    b. They will know the Father's provision and the Spirit's guidance at each stage of their journey
    c. Any outstanding court cases against Meriam will be dropped
    d. Christians across Sudan, and especially those from Muslim backgrounds, will know the Father's protection, the Son's peace and the Spirit's wisdom
    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.

     
  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 24th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock,

     

    Iraqi Christians request continued prayer, especially for the Christians of Mosul and surrounding areas, most of whom have now fled.

     

    Recall that the Islamic State (IS), now in control of the area, has acted violently towards and imposed stringent conditions on religious and ethnic minority communities. Most members of the Yazidi and Shi'ite Turkman and Shabak communities have reportedly fled from the area.

     

    IS demanded that Christians convert to Islam or agree to adhere to strict Islamic rules including payment of the jizya tax - or else face execution. When Christian leaders failed to attend a meeting on 17th July, an ultimatum was set, giving Christians until noon on 19th July to leave.

     

    More than 200 families are reported to have fled, leaving all their belongings behind, as demanded by the IS. Some were beaten or otherwise humiliated at checkpoints while fleeing, and many were stripped of their remaining possessions (including vehicles, money, jewellery, phones, ID documents and even food and medicines).

     

    A few Christians remain in Mosul, including some elderly or infirm who were not able to leave. In some cases Christians are being shielded by Muslim neighbours. There are credible reports that some have been compelled by the IS to convert to Islam by reciting the Islamic declaration of faith before a Shari'a court.

     

    On 20th July, IS militants overran the Syriac Orthodox monastery of Mar Behnam, 30 km south east of Mosul, violently expelling all residents. Within Mosul, the cross on the Cathedral of Mar Afram, the Archbishopric of the Syriac Orthodox church, has been removed. It was replaced on 22nd July with loudspeakers for broadcasting the call to prayer.

     

    Iraqi Christians request our continued prayer that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. Christians who stayed behind in Mosul would not suffer repressions or reprisals by the IS, or be threatened to change their beliefs.
    c. All the displaced will find places of sanctuary, and that humanitarian assistance will reach all who are in need.
    d. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    e. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    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.

     
  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 18th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock

     

    Christians in Iraq, especially from the city of Mosul, continue to face great difficulties. They have request renewed prayer for their country at this time of turmoil and hardship.

     

    Earlier this week the militant group in control of Mosul, the 'Islamic State' (IS, previously known as ISIS) summoned Christian leaders to a meeting on 17th July to notify them of Islamic rules to be applied to non-Muslims. Christian leaders did not attend this meeting. Consequently, it was announced that remaining Christians should leave the city or else face execution. They were ordered to leave all property behind. The ultimatum was initially set for noon today (18th July) but was then extended by 24 hours.

     

    It is believed that most Christian families have now fled from Mosul, many to areas of Northern Iraq under Kurdish control. Reports have suggested that some fleeing families were stopped at checkpoints by IS militants who confiscated belongings including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

     

    Earlier this week, the IS marked houses belonging to members of minority communities with the phrase "property of the Islamic State" including inhabited houses. Christian houses were marked with the letter 'N' for Nazarite.

     

    Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. The displaced families will find sanctuary and that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need.
    c. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    d. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    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.