Annual Report: Oman 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Oman 2013

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Sultanate of Oman

Head of state and government Sultan Qaboos bin

Over 30 human rights activists and government critics became prisoners of conscience after they were arrested, charged with using social media to insult the Sultan or committing other security-related offences, and sentenced to up to 18 months in prison.

Background

There was sporadic labour unrest. Brief strikes were held by oil industry employees and workers building Muscat's new international airport. Those on strike included both Omani and expatriate workers.

The authorities proposed to enhance judicial independence by removing the Minister of Justice from the Supreme Judicial Council. However, the Council continued to be chaired by the Sultan.

Freedoms of expression and assembly

The authorities restricted freedom of expression and took action against more than 35 government critics, including human rights activists and bloggers, who they accused of offences including insulting the Sultan on social media networks.

  • On 31 May, police detained lawyer Yaqoub al-Kharousi along with two members of the newly formed Omani Group for Human Rights – Habeeba al-Hina'i and Ismail al-Muqbali – at the Fohoud oil field where workers had gone on strike several days earlier. Their mobile phones were seized and they were held incommunicado for five days. Yaqoub al-Kharousi and Habeeba al-Hina'i were released on bail but Ismail al-Muqbali remained in detention. On 9 September, he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment and fined.
  • Between 2 and 8 June, four people were arrested, including writer Hamoud al-Rashidi and poet Hamad al-Kharous. On 11 June, a further 22 people were detained while holding a peaceful protest calling for the release of the four detainees. One of those detained on 11 June was Basma al-Kiyumi, a leading lawyer, who had previously been detained during protests in May 2011. Following the arrests, the Public Prosecution declared its intention to clamp down on those who, it said, “prejudice national security and public interests” by engaging in “libel, spreading rumours [and] provoking sit-ins and strikes” using online media.

One detainee, Saeed al-Hashimi, was reported to have needed hospital treatment after going on hunger strike to protest against his imprisonment.

At least 32 of those detained were prosecuted and, between 9 July and 9 September, fined and sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 months. They were convicted on charges such as insulting the Sultan, publishing defamatory information on the internet, undermining the state, inciting or engaging in protests and obstructing traffic. A number were released on bail pending appeals.

  • On 5 and 12 December, the appeal court in Muscat upheld sentences of between six months and one year against 28 activists, including Nabhan al-Hanashi, for insulting the Sultan, publishing defamatory information on the internet and inciting or engaging in protests.

Women's rights

Women and girls continued to face severe discrimination in law and practice, particularly in relation to personal status, employment and their subordination to male guardians.

Death penalty

No information was released about the imposition of the death penalty. No executions were reported. In December, Oman rejected a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. In previous years it had abstained on this vote.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Protesters and writers detained in Oman (MDE 20/001/2012)
  • Peaceful activists face prison in Oman (MDE 20/002/2012)
  • Oman: Further information – another 20 activists sentenced to prison (MDE 20/003/2012)
  • Oman: Further information – more activists face prison in Oman
  • (MDE 20/004/2012)
  • Oman: Further information – six activists' appeals rejected
  • (MDE 20/005/2012)
  • Oman must end assault on freedoms of expression and assembly (MDE 20/006/2012)