The practice of torture is widespread in Oman state penal institutions and has become the state’s knee jerk reaction to independent political expression, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) says in a report published today.

A GCHR mission in October 2013 documented the arsenal of torture methods in use in Oman including mock execution, beating, hooding, solitary confinement, subjection to extremes of temperature and to constant noise, abuse and humiliation. The practice is allowed to flourish against a back drop of widespread arbitrary arrest and detention in secret institutions. The state has failed to conduct prompt and impartial investigations into these allegations as required under its constitutional and international law obligations.

2013 saw the conviction and imprisonment of 35 human rights defenders on a range of charges, none of which are recognizable as crimes by international standards, such as “defaming the Sultan” and “illegal gathering”. The GCHR calls for an immediate end to these attacks on freedom of expression and assembly.

Khalfan Al-Badwawi is a prominent human rights activist who has suffered some of the most consistent abuse over the last 2 years. He has been threatened with serious harm if he does not cease his human rights activities. In addition to being convicted and imprisoned on the charge of “insulting the Sultan” he has been subjected to arbitrary detention and torture and his family harassed and intimidated.

Basima Al-Rajhi is a well known broadcaster in Oman who became involved in campaigns for social change. She has been subjected to a kidnap during which a mock execution took place. She has also been convicted and imprisoned on the charge of “illegal gathering”. Her family continues to suffer intimidation from the authorities.

These examples are typical of the sort of cases documented by GCHR. The pattern of abuse suffered is so systematic and widespread that the authorities cannot be unaware of it. This gives rise to a duty to prevent, investigate and punish these wrongdoings as a matter of urgency.

The GCHR calls on the authorities in the Oman to:

  1. Ensure the conduct of full, prompt and independent investigations into the allegations raised in the report;
  2. Publish in full the findings of any such investigations;
  3. Take all suitable measures to ensure further violations of the prohibition against torture are prevented and punish the perpetrators any such abuses;
  4. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of human rights defenders and activists who remain in detention;
  5. 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; 
  6. Guarantee the rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association for all citizens and residents of the Oman.

 The full report is available HERE

 N.B The GCHR will launch the Omani report in a side event at the HRC in Geneva on 10 March 2014.

For more information, please contact: 

1. Melanie Gingell British human rights lawyer,

2. Khalid Ibrahim, Gulf Centre for Human Rights