Oman: Omani Coalition for Human Rights mourns the death of Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham
It is with great sadness that the Omani Coalition for Human Rights received the news of the death of detained Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham. The Coalition, established in March 2018, consists of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Omani Association for Human Rights, the Omani Center for Human Rights and Muwatin Center for Press Freedom.
Al-Basham passed away on 28 April 2018 while serving a three-year sentence in Samail Central Prison after a sudden deterioration in his heath due to the sharp drop in his blood sugar level according to the news received which also stated that he remained lying on the ground for an unknown period without providing any kind of first aid to him.
On 17 September 2015, Al-Basham was first arrested by the Internal Security Service (ISS) and appeared before the Special Division of the Omani Police in Sohar. He was released on 23 September 2015, and then arrested again two days later, on 25 September 2015, and subjected to a prolonged interrogation.
On 08 February 2016, the Court of First Instance in Sohar sentenced Al-Basham to three years in prison on charges of "the use of the Internet in what might be prejudicial to religious values." He was also convicted of "insulting the Sultan" and fined 500 Omani Rials (US$ 300).
On 13 June 2016, the Court of Appeal in Sohar upheld the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham. A fine related to the charge of "insulting the Sultan" was overturned.
On 17 January 2017, the High Court (the highest in the land) had revoked the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham after its examination of his case, which is related to his human rights activities. The ruling was based on his deteriorating health and the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal. The High Court took into account the fact that the request by the defense team to carry out a medical examination of the defendant was ignored during the trial.
However, on 19 November 2017, the Court of Appeal in Sohar again upheld the initial verdict of three years in prison to which he was initially sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Muscat. The Court of Appeal reportedly did not allow the defense team to present its evidence and medical reports.
Al-Basham wrote on 25 November 2017 on his Facebook page: "Goodbye my friends and my loved ones ...." before he was jailed the next day in Samail Central Prison to serve the sentence.
Al-Basham was an online activist who has defended prisoners of conscience with his numerous writings. He also carried out other activities on social and humanitarian levels. He participated in the 2011 protests during the Arab Spring, which in Oman focused on improving social conditions such as more jobs, as well as combatting corruption.
The Omani Coalition for Human Rights believes that authorities at the Samail Central Prison have effectively violated UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and failed to provide treatment to Al-Basham during his detention and caused his death by not acting with urgency after the sudden deterioration in his health.
The Omani Coalition for Human Rights urges the authorities in Oman to:
- Open an immediate, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the dearth of Hassan Al-Basham with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Ensure that all prisoners of conscience including detained human rights defenders are treated according to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; and
- 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.
The Coalition 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 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.”