Sultanate of Oman


The Sultanate of Oman is located on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Its land border include Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. 5.1 million people live in Oman, with immigrants making up roughly 46% of the population. The predominant ethnic groups are Arabs, Baluchis, South Asians, and Africans. Religiously, 85.9% of the population is Muslim, 6.5% are Christian, 5.5% are Hindu, 0.8% are Buddhist, and less than one percent are Jewish.



Freedom of expression remained unduly restricted, including through prosecutions of and sentences against individuals for publishing COVID-19-related information deemed “false” by the government. Oman amended the Foreign Residency Law, removing the requirement for foreign workers to obtain a “no objection certificate” from their current employer to change jobs. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Courts handed down death sentences.

Oman continued its “Omanization” drive to replace expatriates with Omani nationals in the workforce.

In April, Oman acceded to the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance, the UN Convention against Torture, and the ICESCR. However, it rejected the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Committee against Torture to receive individual and interstate complaints. The reservation to Article 8 of the ICESCR impinged on the right of public employees to unionize and strike.


Death penalty

No new death sentences were reported in 2021. Three men and one woman were executed.


Excessive Use of Force

Demonstrations in February and March 2011 led to the use of excessive force by Omani security forces and at least two protesters were killed.  On March 29, dozens of protestors were arrested and subsequently held incommunicado. A protest in March 2021 over layoffs and poor economic conditions also drew a large police presence, with police resorting to tear gas and riot gear to end the protests.


Freedom of Assembly, Association, and expression

The government continued to unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression, arresting and sometimes prosecuting journalists and online activists.

On 1 March, shortly after the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oman, the new Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued a decree reaffirming the extraordinary powers of the Internal Security Service (ISS) which has an open-ended mandate “to combat activities harmful to the Sultanate’s security and stability” and has repeatedly been implicated in the arrest of individuals for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Also in March, the government prohibited the circulation of all printed publications as part of measures adopted to contain COVID-19. It announced that several individuals had been prosecuted and sentenced, including publishers and “purveyors of rumours”, for failing to abide by COVID-19 regulations that prohibit “spreading false news” or “inciting” against the positions taken by state health agencies.

In June, the government established the Cyber Defence Centre led by the head of the Internal Security Service. The Centre was afforded sweeping powers including to inspect internet networks, information systems and electronic devices of civil, military and private institutions.

Also in June, the Ibri Court of First Instance sentenced Awad al-Sawafi to a suspended one-year term of imprisonment, a fine and a ban on social media use for one year for criticizing government agencies for “their continuous intimidation of citizens” on Twitter. The Court of Appeals later confirmed the judgement. During the same month, the Court of First Instance in Muscat, the capital, sentenced former Shura Council member Salem al-Awfi and journalist Adel al-Kasbi to one year in prison for online comments about corruption and justice. They were both released on bail. In July, the ISS arrested activist Ghazi al-Awlaqi for comments he made on social media criticizing the authorities for their intimidation of social media users. He was released in September.

On 17 November, the Sultan pardoned 390 prisoners, including four of six prisoners of conscience who had received life sentences after unfair trials of Shuhuh people in 2018 on vague charges related to national security. The same month, police aggressively entered two homes in the town of Khasab, Musandam province, without a warrant and arbitrarily detained several residents for a week.


Rights of Refugees and Migrants

Migrant workers

Migrant workers continued to be tied to their employers through the kafala (sponsorship) system, under which they depend on their employer to enter the country and maintain a legal residency status.

In June, Oman Royal Police passed an amendment – effective from January 2021 – allowing migrant workers to change jobs at the end of their contracts without the permission of their employers. It was unclear whether domestic workers are covered by this amendment. Prior to that, migrant workers who moved jobs without the permission of their employer were banned from entering the country for two years.

The labour system coupled with migrant workers’ insanitary living conditions, including crowded labour accommodation and inequitable access to medical care and health insurance, put migrant workers in an even more vulnerable position and at risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Women’s rights

Discrimination against women continued in law and practice, particularly in matters of divorce, child custody and inheritance. Specific legislation to address gender-based violence remained absent. Oman maintained its reservations on provisions of CEDAW, including Article 9(2) which grants women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children; and Article 16 which grants women equal rights in matters relating to marriage and family relations.

There has been a very gradual opening of the political process in Oman in recent years, including the participation of women.

Oman Newsroom

February 26, 2019 • Report

Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018

The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them …

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 23, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Oman 2013

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 …

July 13, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Oman 2011

Head of state and government: Sultan Qaboos bin Said Death penalty: retentionist Population: 2.9 million Life expectancy: 76.1 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 14/13 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 86.7 per cent …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Oman 2010

Head of state and government Sultan Qaboos bin Said Death penalty retentionist Population 2.8 million Life expectancy 75.5 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 14/13 per 1,000 Adult literacy 84.4 per cent …

August 10, 2016 • Press Release

Journalists detained for reporting on corruption in Oman

Oman’s authorities have carried out a string of journalist arrests in recent weeks signaling a growing crackdown on freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

May 18, 2011 • Press Release

Amnesty International Seeking Whereabouts of Detained Protesters in Oman

(New York) – Amnesty International today demanded that authorities in Oman reveal where and why they are holding six people arrested during a recent peaceful protest in Muscat, the capital, as more than two dozen others faced trial on protest-related charges.