Oman: Oman - Authorities continue to target human rights defenders and their families
On 17 December 2013, human rights defender, Khalfan Al-Badwawi, left his country for Lebanon due to harassment and threats by the Omani Internal Security Apparatus (Omani Intelligence) which have been on-going for over a year. He was warned by the Omani Internal Security Apparatus, to stop his human rights work or legal proceedings would be taken against him. Following his return to Oman on 9 December 2013, after taking part in a training focused on civil society held in Morocco, the threats against him increased to such an extent that he was forced to leave the country.
On 19 December 2013, the security forces started to put pressure on Khalfan Al-Badwawi's family. His father was summoned for investigation and was told by the Internal Security Apparatus that his son must stop working in the field of human rights and return immediately to Oman. They also gave him a deadline of 26 December 2013 by which his son had to return to the country.
Khalfan Al-Badwawi was arrested on 6 June 2012 in relation to charges of "Insulting the Sultan" which were brought against him and other human rights defenders. He was released on 11 September 2012. However, he continued to face a trial which was postponed 14 times until Sultan Qaboos announced an amnesty on 31 March 2013 for all those who were involved in two cases concerning allegations of "Insulting the Sultan" and "Illegal gathering". On 20 June 2012 only two weeks after his arrest, he was dismissed from his job at Sohar Aluminum.
On the morning of 7 November 2013, the Internal Security Apparatus arbitrarily arrested Khalfan Al-Badwawi for the second time. He was questioned about his different human rights activities and requested to stop them. He was released the next day.
Over the past week, two other human rights defenders were called for interrogation before the Special Branch Police at the General Police Headquarters in the capital of Muscat. One of the men, Saeed Al-Hashemi, founder of the initiative "reading is light and insight", was interrogated on 29 December 2013 about the activities of his initiative and was warned that he should desist his activities. The other human rights defender, Hassan Al-Roqaishi , was interrogated on 30 December 2013 about his activities on social networking sites and was also warned to stop his activities.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the continued acts of threats, intimidation, and surveillance directed at human rights defenders, Khalfan Al-Badwawi, Saeed Al-Hashemi, and Hassan Al-Roqaishi. The GCHR strongly condemns the harassment and intimidation by the security forces in Oman against the families of human rights defenders.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:
1. Stop the harassments, threats and intimidation of human rights defenders, Khalfan Al-Badwawi, Saeed Al-Hashemi, and Hassan Al-Roqaishi immediately and unconditionally;
2. Stop directing pressures and harassment against the families of human rights defenders in Oman;
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.
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, recognizes 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”.