The authorities continued to restrict freedoms of expression and association, arresting and detaining government critics and human rights activists. Most were released within days but some faced prosecution and imprisonment, creating an environment of self-censorship. Women remained subject to discrimination in law and in practice. Migrant workers were exposed to exploitation and abuse. The death penalty remained in force; no executions were reported.
Oman accepted a number of recommendations following the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Oman’s human rights record in 2015, but it rejected others, including abolition of the death penalty and bringing freedoms of expression and assembly in line with international standards.
In March, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Oman to cease harassment of human right defenders engaged in children’s rights and to allow Omani women to pass on their nationality to their children on an equal basis with Omani men.
In June, the UN CERD Committee expressed concern about government restrictions on NGOs, racial discrimination and migrant workers’ rights.
The government enacted a new Penal Code in April as well as laws prohibiting money laundering and financing terrorism.
In January, the authorities accepted the transfer of 10 detainees, all Yemeni nationals, from the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Freedoms of expression and association
The authorities restricted freedoms of expression and association. State Security personnel arrested and detained online and print journalists, bloggers and others. Most were interrogated and then released without charge after several days but at least eight individuals were sentenced to prison terms under vaguely worded public order, insult or national security provisions, for the peaceful expression of their opinions.
Those sentenced included Hassan al-Basham, a former diplomat, sentenced in February to three years’ imprisonment for Facebook posts the authorities said insulted God and the Sultan; Naser al-Busaidi, whose one-year prison sentence for criticizing officials was confirmed by the Nizwa Court of Appeal in February; and Sayyid Abdullah al-Darouri, whose 18-month sentence on sedition and public order charges imposed in 2015 was reduced to six months in February.
In May the authorities released former parliamentarian Talib al-Ma’mari after the Sultan issued a pardon. He was serving a four-year prison sentence imposed after an unfair trial in 2014 in connection with a demonstration to protect the environment.
In August, the authorities released Saeed Jaddad, a blogger and prisoner of conscience imprisoned following his convictions in September and November 2015.1
In August, the authorities closed down Azamn newspaper and arrested and prosecuted the editor and two of its journalists after it published articles alleging corruption by the government and the judiciary. Ibrahim al-Ma’mari, Azamn’s editor, faced four charges, local news editor Zaher al-‘Abri faced one charge and deputy editor Yousef al-Haj faced six charges. Internal Security Service officers arrested another journalist, Hamoud al-Shukaily, for Facebook posts criticizing the action taken against the Azamn journalists. In December an appeal court overturned the ban on the newspaper, acquitted Zaher al-‘Abri, and reduced the sentences handed down to Ibrahim al-Ma’mari and Yousef al-Haj.
Women faced discrimination in law and in practice, being accorded lesser rights than men in both criminal law and in personal status or family law in relation to matters such as divorce, child custody, inheritance and passing their nationality on to their children.
Migrant workers’ rights
Migrant workers faced exploitation and abuse. Domestic workers, mainly women from Asia and Africa, complained that employers to whom they were tied under the official kafala sponsorship system confiscated their passports, forced them to work excessive hours without time off, and denied them their full wages and adequate food and living conditions. The kafala system does not provide domestic workers with the protections available under the Labour Law. They remained vulnerable to abuse in the confines of private homes.
The death penalty remained in force for a range of crimes. Amendments to the Penal Code confirmed the use of firing squad as the method of execution. No executions were reported.
- Oman: Further information: Omani prisoner of conscience released: Saeed Jaddad (MDE 20/4758/2016)