What is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a United Nations document that was adopted on December 16, 1966. It came into force in 1976. It’s made up of six Parts and 53 Articles, some of which contain several paragraphs. The Articles all guarantee liberty for individuals and groups, in peacetime and in time of war, and guarantee their safety. The main provisions of the ICCPR are:
· The right of all peoples to self-determination and to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources.
· Equality between men and women.
· Freedom to form parties and associations, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.
· The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have no religion.
· Respect for people’s rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion etc.
· Every human being’s inherent right to life.
· The principle that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
· The principle that no one shall be held in slavery, and that the slave trade in all its forms shall be prohibited.
· The right to liberty and security of person and not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest.
· The right to freedom of movement within the territory of a State, and the freedom to leave any country.
· The right to take proceedings before a court, and the equality of all persons before the courts.
Oman has not signed or ratified this agreement. Here’s why:
· Oman is a country that bans politics and the formation of parties and associations. It considers these things a crime, under Article 116 of the Omani Penal Code. The only associations allowed are those whose activities support government policy, women’s associations, environmental groups and Quran memorisation societies.
· Oman is a country where anyone who opposes government policies or who calls for reform is subject to arbitrary arrest.
· The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have no religion, is not enshrined in law. There are Articles in the Omani Penal Code that penalise anyone carrying out an action interpreted as an affront to religion, such as Article 269 (Violation of the Sacredness of Religion), or Article 277 on violation of the sacred Ramadan fast. Activists have actually been put on trial and sentenced to prison for their opinions concerning religion.
· There is no freedom of the press in Oman. In 2011, the deceased monarch Sultan Qaboos issued Royal Decree No. 95/2011, backed up by Article 115 of the Omani Penal Code, to circumvent any free press or free speech and portray these things as false news contrary to national security. Several activists, writers and academics have been imprisoned for publishing their views.
· Under Article 97 of the Omani Penal Code it is a crime to criticise the ruling regime or any of the political offices held by the current Sultan, such as Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Foreign Minister etc. During and after the protests of 2011 several activists were jailed for “undermining the prestige of the State” and “insulting the Sultan”.
According to the report Oman submitted in November 2015 to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in relation to the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Oman, the country has agreed to accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (but has not yet signed it or ratified it) and is studying the matter of accession, while maintaining its right to attach reservations concerning certain of the ICCPR’s provisions!
What do you think – would accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights improve the human rights situation in Oman and help to change laws that allow repression?