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Oman: Authorities continue to harass human rights defenders and impose restrictions on Internet activists

The Internal Security Service(ISS) continued its campaign against human rights as well as bloggers and Internet activists who supported the Palestinian cause in addition to their opposition to Netanyahu’s visit to Oman in late October 2018.

On January 22, 2019, prominent human rights lawyer and writer BasmaAl-Keumypublished an article in Al-Falaq under the title “I write in defense of my right!” In which she showed that she was harassed while doing her purely human rights work in defending people’s rights in their cases, which they assign to plead for them in different courts. Al-Keumy explained that she has been subjected to harassment for many years by the authorities, in contravention of the Omani constitution. “Why should I write this now?” She asked in part of her article. She answered as follows, “I write, because I have the right to defend myself, my full citizenship, my right to practice my profession, and the right to live in my country without harassment or harm, just because I am different.” She concluded with a sentence reflecting her full commitment to her rights work, “This is my country, this is my profession, and I am there to stay.”

On other hand, on 17 January 2019, activist Bader Al-Arimi has been released. He was arrested on 19 December 2018 for his writings on social media networks, which included his defense of the Palestinian cause.Al-Arimi is also unemployed and has criticised authorities for not creating jobs opportunities for citizens who are qualified to work in various fields.

On 30 December 30, 2018, religious leader and activist Obeid bin Hashl Al-Hinai was arrested for supporting the civil and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people. He was released only on 10 January 2019.

On 10 December 2018 human rights defender and online activist Hatem Al-Maliki was released. He was arrested on 06 December 2018, after being summoned by the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in Sohar State. The Special Division is the operational arm of the ISS.He was arbitrarily detained upon his arrival and held incommunicado without any access to his family or a lawyer. According to the information circulated, Al-Maliki was arrested for posts on social media networks, including his Facebook page and Twitter, criticising Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat in October and rejecting normalisation between Oman and Israel, as well as for his support for the Palestinian cause.

Reports received also confirmed that on 01 January 2019, security forces detained two journalists from Hala FM while covering a gathering protest organized by unemployed citizens the Ministry in front of Ministry for Labour in the capital, Muscat. The same day, authorities arrested a group of unemployed protesters looking for work in the city of Salalah, the largest city in the Governorate of Dhofar. They were all released on the same day.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) condemn the harassment of human rights defenders and their rejection of the arbitrary practices of the ISS and appeal to the Omani government to put an immediate end to the systematic targeting of activists, including bloggers and Internet activists.

GCHR and OAHR urge authorities in Oman to:

  1. Put an end to the harassment of Basma Al-Keumy immediately as its related solely to her long and arduous work in the field of human rights;
  2. Stop targeting bloggers and Internet activists and protect press freedom in the country as well as freedom of expression on the Internet;
  3. Ensure in all circumstances the ability of human rights defenders and journalists in Oman to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.

GCHR and OAHR respectfully remind the Omani authorities that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”