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QATAR/OMAN/UAE: GCHR welcomes release of two Omani human rights defenders and Qatari poet

2016-03-17

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the release of two Omani human rights defenders, one who was jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in addition to Qatari poet Mohamed Rashid Al-Ajami, freed during an amnesty this month. 

After five years in prison, the poet Al-Ajami was freed on 15 March 2016 under an amnesty granted by the Prince of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. On 29 November 2011, Al-Ajami was handed down a life sentence, which was later reduced to 15 years in prison, for insulting the Emir of Qatar and allegedly “inciting to overthrow the ruling regime.” He was arrested after the publication of his "Jasmine poem," which criticised governments across the Gulf region in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/826

Also this week, on 14 March 2016, the Federal Supreme Court in the UAE acquitted Omani blogger Muawiya Al-Rawahi and released him from Al-Wathba prison. His trial had been repeatedly postponed in the past year, and he had been referred to the hospital after State Security prevented him from receiving his medication for two months. He spent four months in solitary confinement and threatened harm to himself. On 24 February 2015, Al-Rawahi, was stopped by UAE security intelligence agents at the border and was not allowed to return back to Oman. For more information on his case, see: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1170

In a separate case, another Omani online activist, Hilal Al-Alawi, was released on 10 March 2016 at 10:30pm by the Special Division of the Omani Police in Sohar, which was recently opened and represents the executive arm of the Internal Security Service (ISS). On 29 February 2016, Al-Alawi was summoned for interrogation before the Special Division, where he was held incommunicado. Reports confirmed that his arrest is linked to a clip he published on WhatsApp on the anniversary of the outbreak of protests in Sohar which he encountered on 26 February 2016.

Al-Alawi is a well-known human rights defender and blogger who had previously been arrested in August 2015 and in 2011 for his human rights activities. Following protests in Sohar, he was sentenced to five years in prison after being charged with allegedly “forcing the civil servants out of their offices.” He was released after two and a half years through an amnesty by Sultan Qaboos. For more information see: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1201

While welcoming the release of the three men, who were jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion, GCHR calls for other human rights defenders to be released in Oman, the UAE and across the region, and for freedom of expression to be respected.

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE and Oman to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders detained as a result of their human rights activities;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of all human rights defender in detention; and
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the UAE and Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that 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, 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.