Two years on from the introduction of Oman’s revised Penal Code

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The OCHR-Oman provides a recap of the main human rights violations contained in the harsh new law

  • Tougher penalties for exercising the right to freedom of expression in any way, such as peaceful demonstrations, free speech and freedom of the press
  • Forming political parties remains banned and criminalised, with tougher penalties than before
  • Zero enforcement or protection of women’s rights, with men given charge of women’s personal and public affairs
  • No mention of marital rape, or a husband’s coercion of his wife into sexual intercourse without her consent
  • No criminalisation of female genital mutilation
  • No guaranteed protections for gay people and atheists; in fact, the Code punishes rather than protects them, leading to even more people leaving the country
  • No protection for personal liberties, endangering individualism in society

On 14 January 2018 a new version of the Omani Penal Code was promulgated.  It contained a number of unpleasant shocks in terms of human rights… 

The death penalty:

The new Omani Penal Code makes the death penalty a standard punishment in several cases, contrary to the provisions of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Oman has not yet signed or ratified.  

The word “execution” is mentioned as a punishment more than 20 times in more than 20 different Articles: 94, 95, 106, 107, 109, 110, 111, 113, 117, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 133, 156, 164, 167, 260 and 302.

Violence against minors:

Article 44 gives parents the right to use violence against their sons and daughters, and says this is not a crime if it constitutes chastisement “committed in good faith”.

Article 97:

Any criticism of the Sultan’s running of the country or of his decisions, and any call for reforms, including diminution of the Sultan’s powers, is deemed a crime, for which the punishment was increased under the new Code to between three and seven years’ imprisonment, from six months to three years previously.

Article 102:

Criticising any head of state while they are visiting Oman can mean up to three years in prison.

Article 108:

Criticising religious and sectarian traditions can lead to a prison term of between three and ten years.  For the purposes of this Article, criticism means spreading ideas that foster religious or sectarian unrest or discord.

Article 115:

Any journalistic activity intended to uncover corruption in government or government institutions, publishing statements condemning actions of the security forces, or writing about the arrests of certain activists, is liable to be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years.  The three sub-clauses of this Article serve to target bloggers, activists and writers if they write anything that exposes corruption in the government. 

Article 116:

Establishing any party or association of a political or rights-based character is liable to be punished with a prison sentence of between three and ten years.  This Article is used to stamp out any peaceful civic action, whether political, intellectual or to do with human rights.

Article 121:

The punishment for demonstrating peacefully in Oman ranges from three months to a year in prison.

Article 248:

Criticising the judiciary or casting doubt on its impartiality is deemed a crime in Oman, for which the penalty is a jail term of up to three years.

Article 259:

Individual and personal liberties, or extramarital relationships, are criminalised in Oman.  Anyone who has sex outside marriage may be imprisoned for up to three years.

Articles 261 and 262:

These two Articles constitute an attack on the rights of gay people, confirming that there is no place for them in Oman.  This makes their lives precarious not only in Omani law but also in the community.  The penalties for homosexual acts can be as much as three years in prison.

Article 269:

Any atheistic or non-religious activity or criticism of Islam or a particular sect is liable to punishment with a prison term of between three and ten years.

Article 277:

Anyone found not to be fasting during the daytime in Ramadan is liable to a punishment of between ten days and three months in prison.