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Oman: Three businessmen forcibly disappeared immediately after declaring a peaceful sit-in

On 27 August 2022, businessman and internet activist Hani bin Ali Al-Sarhani announced, in a video recording posted on his YouTube account, the start of a peaceful sit-in by him and his two colleagues Mahmoud bin Al-Murr Al-Ghabshi and Saud Al-Mardouf Al-Kathiri. Several hours after the sit-in began in the capital, Muscat, they were arrested and taken to an unknown location.

In his recorded speech, which was also posted on his Twitter account, Al-Sarhani confirmed that their sit-in was being undertaken “with less than 10 people in implementation of the law that prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.”

As for the goals they seek, he mentioned “improving the level of income for us and citizens, activating the internal economic trade movement and simplifying government procedures, and opening and facilitating the tourism and commercial movement in the country.” In addition, they called for “activating the role of oversight, holding accountable those who are negligent in their tasks, fighting corruption and all those who deliberately harm the homeland and the citizens.”

They also called for “employment for young people looking for work besides giving them the means to lead and to earn a decent living, support for retirees, protection for those who are laid off from work, increasing the salaries of beneficiaries of social security, protecting the insolvent from forced imprisonment … and working towards a comprehensive reform.”

The Internal Security Service (ISS) issued strict orders for their immediate arrest after the video of the sit-in went viral on social media. They were arbitrarily arrested a few hours after they started the sit-in, and they were taken from the place of their sit-in in Muscat to an unknown location. The security authorities did not announce the place of their detention or the nature of the charges against them. They are completely cut off from the outside world and have not been allowed to communicate with their families or to hire a lawyer.

Al-Sarhani was previously arrested on 09 August 2022, after being summoned by the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in the Muscat after using his Twitter account to appeal to officials to provide support to businesspeople and citizens alike due to what he called the difficult period that everyone is going through. The Special Division is the executive arm of the Internal Security Services (ISS).

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) strongly condemn the arrest of the three businessmen, Hani bin Ali Al-Sarhani, Mahmoud bin Al Murr Al-Ghabshi and Saud Al Mardouf Al-Kathiri, in flagrant violation of their right to peaceful assembly, and demand the Omani government release them immediately and unconditionally.

GCHR and OAHR also call for an immediate end to the policy of silencing people and restricting public freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful demonstration. The authorities in Oman must respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, both online and offline. The security forces must carry out their duties to protect citizens, not oppress them, when they peacefully demand their civil and human rights.