Have you ever had a call from the security services asking you – without any legal formalities – to report somewhere for questioning?
Have you ever had a black hood placed over your head and been held in a secret place you didn’t recognise?
Have you ever been snatched from a public place, or picked up in the street, or had a raid on your house, and been forcibly detained?
Have you ever, while being held in detention, been prevented from contacting your lawyer or family members?
If any of these things has happened to you, then you were the victim of what is called an “ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE”.
In international human rights law, an enforced disappearance:
“occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organisation or by a third party with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of a state or political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate or whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law”.
Oman has not signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a United Nations treaty, which defines enforced disappearance as:
“the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”.
The Convention stipulates that “no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance”, and that no State may invoke any exceptional circumstances whatsoever as a justification for enforced disappearance. It requires all States Parties (States that sign the Convention) to investigate acts defined as enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice. It calls enforced disappearance a crime and, in certain circumstances, a crime against humanity, and it requires each State Party to make enforced disappearance a criminal offence.
Article 24 of the Basic Statute of the State (Constitution) of Oman stipulates that:
“Any person who is arrested or detained shall immediately be informed of the reasons for his arrest or detention. He has the right to contact whomever he wants to inform him of what has taken place or to get his assistance in the manner regulated by the law, and he shall be promptly informed of the charges against him. He or his representative shall have the right to petition the court against the action restricting his personal freedom. The law shall regulate the right of petition in a manner which ensures that the outcome of the petition will be decided within a specified period, failing which he must be released.”
In Oman, even when victims of enforced disappearance complain about this to judges at their trials, the judges don’t listen to them, and ignore their complaints!
If Oman signs the International Convention, will that put an end to violations of civilians’ rights?