|Oman: General Human Rights Situation|
Information from Annual survey 2011
Generally speaking Oman has had a good Human Rights record over recent years.
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.
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.
Mistreatment of those in detention is illegal under the constitution and judges can order investigations into such allegations. There have been no reports of significant abuses since 2001.
Prisons generally meet international standards, and local human rights groups are allowed to visit.
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 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.
In April 2010 a controversial blogger was arrested. He was acquitted on a charge of insulting the Monarch because the actual entry had been posted by another blogger. He pleaded guilty to a charge of publishing a leaked government document. He was convicted and sentenced to one month in prison and a small fine. However, he was released immediately due to the 11 days between arrest and trial, with the remainder of the sentence being suspended. The blogger noted that he would continue operating but would be more careful in future.
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. However, there have not been reports of religious sites being blocked.
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.
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.
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).
The Basic Law of Oman issued by Royal decree in 1996 provides for religious freedom. However, in practice restrictions apply, including a prohibition on 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 tolerant 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. However, 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.
Abuse of some migrant domestic workers is regularly reported (as is the case in many countries).
Status of key international Human Rights treaties:
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