Omani Centre for Human Rights
DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOUR RIGHTS ARE NOT IMPORTANT!
Human rights violations are one of the most serious challenges faced by activists, writers and journalists all over the world, even in places that have well-developed political systems and cultures. In the Middle East, however, rights violations have become daily occurrences, a fact that is globally recognised. Since 2013, the Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) has taken upon itself the task of investigating and publicising such violations in an Annual Report, in an attempt to document them for the record and create a reference source for researchers and others, and because of our profound belief that to document these violations is to chart the history and course of human rights in Oman, and an effective way of tracking the course of this history.
This it the OCHR’s Sixth Annual Report, this time covering the violations seen in 2018. It should be pointed out that, at the request of some of the victims of these violations, some cases will be left out of the Annual Report.
The Omani activist and former diplomat Hassan al-Basham died in Samail Central Prison while serving a penal sentence there. The true cause of his death is not known, and the Royal Oman Police did not issue any official statement. The Muscat Court of Appeal had on November 19, 2017 reaffirmed the three-year sentence previously handed down on al-Basham in 2016 by the Court of First Instance, for offences relating to atheism and insulting the Sultan, which the Supreme Court had quashed in January 2017.
After 15 months of delays, on April 2, 2018 the Muscat Court of Appeal upheld the three-year jail sentence, suspended for six months, previously passed on writer and film critic Abdullah Habib for offences relating to contempt for religions and blasphemy. Habib was later released, on June 13, 2018.
On January 2, 2018, the Muscat Court of First Instance sentenced former journalist Khaled al-Rashedi to one year in prison on a charge of prejudicing public order and security under Article 19 of the Cyber Crime Law, a fine of 1,000 Omani riyals ($2,600), and 1,000 Omani riyals bail pending appeal. On April 17, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Muscat upheld the sentence against Khaled, with a stay of execution.
Youssef Sultan al-Araimi (Youssef al-Youssef):
The Internal Security Service (Mukhabirat) detained Youssef al-Araimi on April 8, 2018 because of things he had posted on social media, without allowing him access to legal representation. Youssef was subsequently released without charge on April 22.
The Internal Security Service detained the Omani writer Mohammad al-Maktoumi on October 24, 2018 because of a number of tweets on his personal Twitter account in which he criticised the government’s performance. Al-Maktoumi was subsequently released without charge on November 8.
The Omani authorities detained social media activist Uday al-Omairi on November 7 for criticising and denouncing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman. Uday was subsequently released without charge on December 5.
The Internal Security Service detained former prisoner of conscience and social media activist Hatem al-Maliki on December 6 for things he posted on Facebook and Twitter. Hatem was subsequently released without charge on December 10, 2018.
On January 15, 2018, a number of unemployed people gathered outside the Ministry of Manpower to demand job opportunities. On January 22, unemployed people again gathered outside the Ministry of Manpower and its directorate in Muscat as well as in several other Omani cities, to demand jobs and urgent solutions to the problem of unemployment. On January 29, unemployed people gathered once again in various Omani cities, and the security forces arrested the demonstrators outside the Security Directorate in Salalah (Dhofar Province). They were however released later that day.
The OCHR expressed regret over the passing of the new Omani Penal Code in January, and condemned its blatant violation of various rights and freedoms.
BOOKS BAN NED AND IMPOUNDED
The 23rd Muscat International Book Fair:
The latest edition of the Muscat International Book Fair saw the impounding of more than 23 books by Omani writers, mostly novels, some of which had been on sale at previous book fairs. It is not known why the books were banned or withdrawn, and the Book Fair’s management team gave no reason or explanation. Most Omani books that have been banned have dealt directly or indirectly with the events of the 2011 protest movement. The list of books banned or withdrawn includes:
– Ta’wibat al-Zall (Shadow Shade) (a novel), Yasmin ala al-Ghiyab (Jasmine on Absence) (short texts), Al-Rabi’ al-Omani (The Omani Spring) (political articles), and Oman: al-Insan wal-Sulta (Oman: Man and Authority) (non-fiction) by writer and academic Saeed Sultan al-Hashimi
– ‘Imamat al-Askar (The Military Turban), a short story collection by Hamoud Saoud
– Alladhi La Yuhibb Gamal Abdel Nasser (The One Who Doesn’t Like Gamal Abdel Nasser), a novel by Suleiman al-Maamari
– Imra Tadhak fi Ghayr Awaniha (A Woman Laughing Out of Turn), a novel by Nabhan al-Hanashi
– Khitab Bayn Ghiyabat al-Qabr (A Speech Between Absences of the Grave), a novel by Mohammed al-Fazari
– Al-Khaleej fi Zaman al-Cholera (The Gulf in the Age of Cholera), articles by Zaher al-Mahrouqi
– Ma Ladhdh bil-Hulm (No Refuge in Dreaming), short stories by Nasser Saleh
The Omani Ministry of Information has banned Omani journalist and writer Mohammed al-Fazari’s new book Al-La-Yaqin (Uncertainty) from sale or display in Omani bookshops.
The Omani authorities arrested several peaceful activists from Musandam Governorate at various times, and sentenced a number of them to life imprisonment. Those convicted were:
– Ali Mohamed al-Mazyoud al-Shehhi (arrested in April), sentenced on October 8, 2018 to life imprisonment and fined 1,000 riyals ($2,600)
– Ali Ahmad Rajab al-Shehhi (arrested in April), sentenced on October 8, 2018 to life imprisonment and fined 1,000 riyals
– Mohamed Abdullah Ahmad al-Shehhi (arrested in May), sentenced on September 24, 2018 to life imprisonment and fined 1,000 riyals
– Mohamed bin Sulaiman bin Mazyoud al-Shehhi (arrested in May), sentenced on September 24, 2018 to life imprisonment
On July 31, 2018, the Omani academic Dr Mohammed al-Mahrouqi was dismissed from his job for asking Nizwa University, where he worked, to pay its employees their overdue salaries.
PUBLICATIONS AND NEWS COVERAGE
The Centre published several major reports during the year on its official website, in Arabic and English, on various topics related to human rights in Oman, such as:
– International Human Rights Day 2018: Progress on human rights, or regression?
– The New Omani Penal Code: A bonfire of human rights
– Weapons of Mass Surveillance
– International Day of Democracy
– Enforced Disappearances
– International Human Rights Treaties
HUMAN RIGHTS SOIREES
This year the Centre launched a series of evening gatherings to hear the personal experiences of human rights activists in Oman. The special guests for the first two events were Khalfan al-Badwawi and Saeed Jaddad.
YOUR RIGHTS ARE NOT A CRIME –
THE CRIME IS STOPPING YOU ENJOYING THEM!