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Oman 2023

Prosecutions related to freedoms of expression, and religion and belief continued, and summons and detention of government critics remained frequent. Oman took no concrete steps towards protecting women and girls from gender-based violence or ending gender-based discrimination. A new labour law improved some workers’ rights, but labour protections for migrant workers remained weak.


On 21 March, Oman acceded to the Arab Charter on Human Rights.

Freedom of expression

Authorities cracked down on individuals critical of government actions and policies, including those related to corruption and the failure to address the rising cost of living.

On 9 and 16 August, security forces summoned, respectively, businessman Hani al-Sarhani and religious cleric Masoud al-Maqbali for interrogation about their online criticism of state corruption. Masoud Al-Maqbali was released on 24 August; the Muscat Primary Court sentenced Hani al-Sarhani to two years’ imprisonment under the Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. He was released on bail after paying a fine of OMR 600 (USD 1,550) and appealed the sentence.

On 30 September, the Internal Security Service summoned and subsequently detained without charge activist Talal al-Salmani after he appeared in a video calling on the government to provide a better standard of living, including improved access to electricity. His whereabouts remained unknown at the end of the year.

Oman made no steps to amend articles of its penal code that infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, specifically Article 269, which criminalizes actions deemed by the authorities as hostile to Islam or denigrating of Islamic values; and Article 115, which criminalizes broadcasting and publishing material that would “undermine the stature of the state” or weaken confidence in the economy.

Freedom of religion and belief

On 21 August, Omani human rights groups reported that an appeals court retried four people in a case known as “Ghaith spaces” – a space on Twitter (now known as X) devoted to intellectual discussions. All four were arrested in 2021 on charges of using the internet and information technology to provide material that “would prejudice religious values and public order” arising from their participation in online discussions on freedom of thought, religion and atheism. In June 2022, a first instance court sentenced Maryam al-Nuaimi and Ali al-Ghafri to three and five years’ imprisonment, respectively; acquitted Ghaith al-Shibli; and referred the case against Abdullah Hassan to the Specialized Court for review. Maryam al-Nuaimi was released on 20 April 2023 under an amnesty. Ali al-Ghafri remained in prison.

Women’s and girls’ rights

Civil society actors lamented the continued prevalence of the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), despite its criminalization in 2019. In response to concerns about FGM raised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Omani authorities stated only that a database dealing with the issue had been established.

Civil society organizations renewed their calls for the adoption of laws that criminalize domestic violence and provide effective access to protection and justice for survivors.

Oman failed to take steps to end discrimination against women despite civil society’s increased demands for equal rights for women, including with respect to marriage, divorce, inheritance, nationality and child custody, as well as restrictions on movement and the type of work allowed. Abortion continued to be criminalized.

Migrants’ rights

On 25 July, a new labour law came into effect for private sector workers, of whom 80% are migrant workers. The law introduced positive changes, including lowering the maximum working week from 45 to 40 hours, increasing paid sick leave and allowing employees to leave an employer if the latter fails to pay wages for two consecutive months. However, the new law fails to safeguard against discrimination and workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. It continues to exclude domestic workers, who remain governed by a 2004 ministerial decree that falls significantly short of the guarantees offered to other workers in the new labour law.

Right to a healthy environment

In May, Oman’s transport, communication and information technology ministry launched a programme to reduce carbon emissions from these sectors, under phase one of the national strategy to tackle climate change that focuses on carbon neutrality goals for 2030, 2040 and 2050. However, Oman continued to rely on and produce fossil fuels, including from a new diesel production refinery that exported its first shipment in September, and did not commit to phasing them out.