UPR Submission - Oman
Submission to the 23rd Session of the Universal Period Review, November 2015
Date Submitted: 23 March 2015
1. Human rights defenders (HRDs) and those criticising government policies continue to be targeted and subjected to heavy restrictions and intense scrutiny. Many HRDs have suffered harassment, arbitrary detention and torture in detention. Hundreds of academics, journalists and commentators have been arrested, charged and at times kept in incommunicado detention for taking parts in protests or for criticising Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of Oman.
2. HRDs operate under increasingly restrictive security measures in Gulf countries, and this is especially the case since the signing of a security agreement by Gulf Cooperation Council states in Riyadh on 23 November 2013. The agreement focuses on inter-state exchange of information and searching of those who violate the law, and has led to the targeting of HRDs nationals of one country in other GCC countries.
3. This submission focuses on the situation for HRDs in Oman since the previous UPR cycle and thus covers developments in the years 2011-2014. In the period under review, key concerns are the following:
(a) Independent human rights organisations are not permitted to operate within the country, and individual HRDs operate under a very restrictive legal framework;
(b) HRDs are subject to police and judicial harassment, including incommunicado, unacknowledged and secret detention;
(c) Due to the very limited access to broadcast and print media, HRDs rely extensively on online platforms, which exposes them to surveillance and charges under the Cyber Crime Law.
Front Line Defenders calls upon the member states of the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Omani authorities to prioritise the protection of human rights defenders and in doing so to:
(a) Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment, and ensure full respect for the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
(b) Review legislation governing associations to ensure the free and independent establishment and operation of civil society organisations, including their right to receive domestic and foreign fund;
(c) Revise the 2011 Cyber Crime Law that was issued by Royal Decree No 12/2011 and relevant provisions of the Penal Code and bring them into compliance with international human rights standards, in particular in relation to the right to freedom of expression;
(d) Take urgent measures to put an end to the arrest and detention as well as judicial harassment against human rights defenders, and lift the travel ban issued against them;
(e) Review and quash the conviction of, and release, all human rights defenders who have been sentenced on grounds of their human rights work and who remain in detention;
(f) Publicly recognise the positive and legitimate role played by human rights defenders in Oman;
(g) Fully implement the adopted UPR recommendations on human rights defenders in a transparent and participatory manner with full involvement of human rights defenders at all levels.