The Omani Human Rights Association (OHRA) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) have received with great concern the news that the Internal Security Service (ISS) has started a new campaign against bloggers and Internet activists who are supporters of the Palestinian cause.
According to reports received by OHRA and GCHR, Sultan Al-Maktoumi (pictured on the right), an Internet activist who writes for “Al-Raya” newspaper and the magazine “Al-Shabab Al-Toufahim”, was arrested on 23 October 2018. He was summoned by the Special Division of Sohar Police Headquarters. Subsequent reports confirmed that he was detained upon arrival. It is noteworthy that the special section represents the executive arm of the ISS. It seemed that Al-Maktoumi was likely to be arrested several days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman in the last week of October. It is believed that the ISS has been trying to silence Al-Matkoumi due to the nature of his articles, which called for reform and peaceful change and democracy, as well as his pro-Palestinian position. He may have been detained in order to prevent him from expressing his views rejecting the process of normalisation at a time when Netanyahu’s government confiscates the civil and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people.
In a separate case, on 27 October 2018, Internet activist Salem Al-Arimi was arrested by the Special Division of the Omani Police Headquarters in Muscat after they summoned him because of his writings, which also called for reform.
Both activists were prevented from communicating with their families or with a lawyer, and were arbitrarily detained without a warrant.
In addition to condemning the arbitrary practices of the ISS, we appeal to the Omani government to put an immediate end to the systematic targeting of bloggers and Internet activists by the ISS.
GCHR and OHRA urge authorities in Oman to:
⦁ Release online activists Sultan Al-Maktoumi and Salem Al-Arimi 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 OHRA respectfully remind you 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.”