Oman - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in

SULTANATE OF OMAN

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Head of state and government: Sultan Qaboos bin Said
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: signed

Important improvements were made to the labour law but these did not apply to domestic workers, who were mostly foreign migrants and who continued to be subject to exploitation and abuse by employers. A possible prisoner of conscience was released after completing her prison sentence. At least one prisoner remained under sentence of death.

Background

In August activists were banned from staging a peaceful children's demonstration outside the UNICEF Office in Muscat against Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

In September, Oman signed a free trade agreement with the USA.

Political trials

It emerged during 2006 that at least 18 military officers had been tried in June 2005 reportedly accused of involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the government. They were convicted and received prison sentences ranging from three to 25 years following a trial before a military court, but all were released following a royal pardon in July 2005. Some 31 civilians had been tried separately before the State Security Court (SSC) in May 2005 on charges of threatening national security, but they too were pardoned and released.

Human rights activist released

Human rights activist and former member of parliament Taiba al-Mawali was released from prison on 31 January after serving a six-month sentence. She was arrested in June 2005 and prosecuted for sending messages by mobile phone and the Internet in which she criticized the trial of 31 men before the SSC in May 2005. She received an 18-month prison term, reduced to six months on appeal. Taiba al-Mawali was a possible prisoner of conscience.

Employment rights

Amendments to the 2003 Labour Law, introduced in July by decree 74/2006, established legal rights to form trade unions, engage in collective bargaining and carry out union duties free from official pressure or interference. It also prohibited forced or coerced labour. However, domestic workers, many of whom were foreign migrants and women, were not covered by the law.

Women's rights

Oman acceded to the UN Women's Convention in February and the authorities later announced that a committee had been established to promote its implementation. However, women continued to be subject to discrimination both in national law and in practice, notably in terms of personal status, employment and participation in public life.

The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, visited Oman in November. In her initial findings, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern about reports of ill-treatment and abuse of domestic workers by employers, including sleep deprivation, withholding payment of salaries, restrictions on movement and denial of access to basic communications including use of the telephone. The Special Rapporteur also found that women from Central and East Asian countries had been trafficked into Oman for prostitution.

Death penalty

At least one prisoner, Zuhair Islam Abdul Haq, a Bangladeshi national convicted of murder in 2004, was believed to be under sentence of death.