According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights) GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR), the Internal Security Service (ISS) in Oman continues its systematic policies repressing freedom of expression and opinion. In recent days, the ISS has arrested a number of Internet activists who support the Palestinian cause.
On 17 February 2019, Internet activist Musab Al-Thuhli (pictured on the left) was arrested in Nizwa province for his writings on his Twitter account and supporting the Palestinian cause.
On 18 February 2019, Internet activist Haytham Al-Mashaykhi (pictured on the right) was also arrested for his writings on his Facebook page and for rejecting normalisation with Israel.
The ISS works through its executive arm,the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat and its branches throughout the Omani governorates to intimidate Internet activists, who are arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado and not allowed to contact their families or lawyers.
Several other arrests have been confirmed in the reports received by GCHR and OAHR, but amid concerns from the detainees’ families, not all the names of the detainees were disclosed. The wave of arrests followed the leak of the report of the Omani Foreign Minister’s meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in the Polish capital of Warsaw on 13 February 2019. In addition, surrounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s surprise visit to Oman in late October 2018, the ISS arrested dozens of Internet activists who announced their rejection of the visit and of normalisation with Israel.
Once again GCHR and OAHR condemn the arbitrary practices of the ISS to arrest Internet activists, in addition to putting restrictions on freedom of expression outside and on the Internet. We strongly appeal to the Omani government to put an immediate end to the systematic targeting of bloggers and online activists by the security forces.
GCHR and OAHR urge authorities in Oman to:
- Release online activists Musab Al-Thuli and Haytham Al-Mashaykhi immediately and unconditionally;
- Protect the freedom of the press in the Oman as well as freedom of expression on the Internet; and
- 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.”