Oman: Oman: Vice-President of the Supreme Court thanks “Azamn” newspaper for publishing the facts
The Vice-President of Oman’s Supreme Court, Ali bin Salem Al-Nomani, has given an interview to “Azamn” newspaper, published in its 09 August 2016 issue, in which he thanked the newspaper for dissemination of "facts without a slur on anybody" in a news report published on 26 July 2016. The article, entitled "Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice," led to the targeting of the newspaper by the security forces and the arrest of two of its members.
Al-Nomani referred in his interview to the arrest of prominent journalist Ibrahim Al-Maamari, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, saying "He spoke honestly and sincerely in his publication, and now as an administrator in the judiciary I do not know his whereabouts."
He also said, "Attorney General Hussein Al-Hilali, Supreme Court Chief Justice Isaac Al-Busaidi, and Deputy President of the Court Saleh Al-Rashidi are amongst violators and abusers of the basic laws of the State with overwhelming evidence."
Al-Noamani concluded his interview by thanking “Azamn” and expressing regret for what happened, saying, "Misfortune occurs in the judiciary if the head of the Supreme Court and his deputy are behaving like this which shows that they are not familiar with the basic law of the state, no one can accept what they have done."
On 28 July 2016, security forces arrested Ibrahim Al-Maamari. On 30 July 2016, an official source from the Public Prosecutor gave statements to the local press in which he said the reason for the arrest of Al-Maamari was the 26 July news article that “Azamn” published which referred to the corruption of senior officials and their interference in judicial decisions.
On 03 August 2016, the Internal Security Service (ISS) summoned “Azamn” journalist Zaher Al-Abri to appear before the Special Division, and detained him upon arrival.
Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirm that both Ibrahim Al-Maamari and Zaher Al-Abri are being held at the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat, which is the executive arm of the ISS. They are not allowed to contact their families or lawyers.
On 07 August 2016, journalist and Deputy Editor of “Azamn”, Yousef Al-Haj, who is the Acting Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper at the moment, published on his Facebook page an image which referred to the newspaper possessing "an official documents file that condemns Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Isaac Al-Busaidi, and those with influence who ordered him to disrupt judicial decisions." He said: "I demand protection from this hour." He has already been previously targeted in September 2011 and sentenced to five months in prison for insulting the Minister and the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Justice.
GCHR welcomes the statements given by the Vice-President of the Supreme Court, Ali bin Salem Al-Nomani, in which he emphasises that “Azamn” has performed its journalistic duty to the fullest extent by publishing the facts for readers. GCHR calls upon the authorities in Oman to support the independence of the judiciary and non-interference in its duties, as well as to provide full protection to freedom of the press in the country.
Therefore, GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:
1. Release journalists Ibrahim Al-Maamari and Zaher Al-Abri immediately and unconditionally as their detention is a flagrant violation of press freedom in the country;
2. Stop directing judicial and security harassment against human rights defenders including journalists and Internet activists; and
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
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 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (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 12.2, which provides that “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.”