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Written by HRDs and Journalists
“Waging War On Human Rights” / Ongoing Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders in Oman
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend this meeting.
My name is Khalid Ibrahim, the acting director of the GCHR. I will focus in my talk on the current crackdown on human rights defenders and activists in Oman.
Oman a country in which massive human rights violations are taking place as we speak with a little attention or reaction from the international community including the UN various institutions.
I have to mention the Omani copy of the Arab spring, the 2011 protests in Sohar, Muscat, and other parts of Oman. The protesters demanded reforms and fighting corruption. As a result of these protests, many human rights defenders were kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned. The situation calmed down only when Sultan Qabus –who is in power for the last 42 years- took few steps such as the dismissal of a third of the governing cabinet and the increase of the minimum wage. Subsequently, human rights defenders and activists were released from prison.
Then the second crackdown started this year on 31st of May 2012, when three human rights defenders Habibah Al-Hinaee, Ismael Al-Mikbaly, and Yacob Al-Kharusi, the three co-founders of the Omani Group for Human Rights, were arrested by security forces as they were on their way to cover a workers’ strike in the main oil production areas of Fohod and Marmul. They were denied access to their families and lawyers and there was no information available for some time as to the grounds for their arrests or their present conditions. These are the procedures that violate human rights law, and adopted by the security forces in Oman as normal procedures in their treatment of human rights defenders and activists. In actual fact criminal have more rights and protection than activists. We were shocked to see pictures of human rights defenders including women wearing prison clothes published in Oman daily newspapers in order to intimidate them.
On 4 June 2012 the Omani Public Prosecutor made a statement in which he threatened that legal proceedings would be brought against human rights defenders who continue to exercise their freedom of expression by calling for reforms, respect for human rights and the release of detained human rights defenders.
I have to say that human rights NGOs are not allowed to work in Oman and the Omani group for human rights, although it was just a facebook page, we have seen that the three co-founders ended up in prison.
I’m in communication with many human rights defenders in Oman who have expressed to me their concern that they may be arrested at any moment as a result of their legitimate human rights activities and the calls for reforms they have directed to the authorities. They talked about the international silence in relation to the attacks on the human rights movement in Oman. They believe that Sultan Qabus and authorities feel that they have impunity from the international institutions and that they will continue their crackdown on human rights defenders and activists.
The human rights defenders who are on trials now include, writers, journalists, bloggers, and poets, have been targeted by the authorities in a wave of recent arrests. Those arrested have recently called for reforms, the promotion of human rights and the release of detained human rights defenders.
I have to mention that on 11 June 2012 a group of 22 human rights defenders organized a peaceful protest, demanding the release of all detained human rights defenders in Oman.
Security forces arrested all the 22 protesters. Some of the names of those who have been arrested and ill-treated are:
1. Saeed Sultan Al-Hashemy (Writer, who was kidnapped and tortured in 2011)
2. Basma Al-Rajehy (Radio presenter and broadcaster, who was also kidnapped and tortured in in 2011)
3. Basma Al Keumy (Lawyer)
They started a hunger strike against their ill-treatment and were released later on.
Then a series of trials have started and still on-going targeting many human rights defenders and activists who have been handed down prison sentences by the Court of First Instance in Muscat for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Just very recently On 09 September 2012, the Court of First Instance in Muscat has sentenced 6 human rights defenders and advocates of reform between one year to one year and 6 months in prison, a fine of 1000 Rials (2600 US$) in addition to a bail of 1500 Rials (3900 US$) pending the appeal of their sentences. They were, convicted for allegedly insulting the Sultan by publishing “offensive Writings and violating information technology law.” They are:
1. Mr. Ismael Al-Miqbali
2. Mr Nabhan Al-Hanshi
3. Mr. Mahmoud Mohamed Al-Jamodi
4. Mr. Hassan Al-Ruqayshi
5. Mr. Isaac Al-Agbary
6. Mr. Ali Al-Haji
On 16th of September human rights defender Mukhtar Mohamed Al-Hinaei was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 1000 Rials (2600 US$) again for allegedly insulting the Sultan by publishing “offensive Writings and violating information technology law.”
It’s obvious that there is an on-going trend in Oman and across the region towards using the most politically oriented judiciary to create false cases with politically-motivated charges against human rights defenders and activists which is in most cases associated with travel ban.
Omani authorities should immediately stop the sweeping crackdown on human rights defenders, activists, and protesters arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly and for their calls to have reforms in Oman,
The government in Oman and in the Gulf region must guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and journalists are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Also these governments must be reminded of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998.
"A speech given by the Acting Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights Khalid Ibrahim at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 17 September 2012”