Oman: Universal Periodic Review submission finds civic space recommendations unfulfilled

12.11.20

In a submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), to be held in January 2021, CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) examined the Sultanate of Oman’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society. 

Specifically, the three groups analysed Oman’s fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders, bloggers and online activists since its previous UPR examination in November 2015. 

The three groups write, “We are deeply concerned by the closure of civic space and the use of draconian legislation to restrict civic space and limit the ability of human rights defenders and journalists to report effectively on human rights issues and the actions of the state. Power is concentrated in the hands of the Sultan and while the Constitution of Oman guarantees the rights to association, peaceful assembly and expression, restrictive legislation and policies are routinely used to prevent independent human rights organisations from operating and to subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution and arbitrary detention. The hostile environment for civil society has forced most human rights defenders to flee Oman and all independent human rights organisations have either been closed by the authorities or work from abroad.”

The submission continues, “We are further alarmed by the targeting of bloggers, journalists and writers who report on the state of human rights or the actions of the government. Journalists and bloggers are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution without regard to the law. Independent newspapers have been shut down and the authorities target writers and seek to silence them by jailing them and banning their books in Oman. Since the popular protests in 2011, when hundreds of Omanis took to the streets in several cities, the authorities have used the Penal Code to forestall and prevent protests. When protests occur, they are immediately dispersed and protesters are arrested. The threat of violence towards protesters has forced many people to resort to self-censorship and refrain from organising or taking part in public assemblies.” 

Finally, the introduction to the submission concludes, “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world, including Oman, implemented measures to enhance social distancing and limit the movement of people. However, some of these measures implemented in Oman have been used to restrict civic freedoms.”

Read the full report in English by clicking HERE.