Oman: Oman: Serious concerns about use of new citizenship law to target human rights defenders and activists

03.03.15

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is gravely concerned that the new Omani Citizenship Law, which was enacted on 12 August 2014 under Royal Decree No. 2014/38, can be used to target human rights defenders and activists.

The new law, which consists of 22 articles, prevents courts from hearing complaints regarding citizenship issues and instead fully places control of such decisions in the hands of the Interior Ministry. According to Article four, “Courts do not have jurisdiction in citizenship matters and disputes related thereto.”

This means that the Interior Ministry, which is dominated by its security agencies, including the Internal Security Service, will consider cases of nationality. This is not considered appropriate according to international standards of justice and due process.

Also, Article 20 states the following:
“Omani nationality will be withdrawn from original Omani citizens if it is proved that he/she is:
1. A member of a  group or party or organisation that embraces the principles or ideologies that harm Oman’s interest.
2. Works for a foreign country in any capacity, whether it is done inside or outside Oman, and does not meet the Omani government's request to leave this work during the specified period outlined to him.
3. Works in favour of a hostile country that acts against the interests of the Oman.”

This article is vague and allows the security services in the Ministry of Interior to potentially use it to target human rights defenders who cooperate with various international mechanisms such as the UN system.

The GCHR expresses serious concern about this new law, and in particular the articles outlined above, which has given the Interior Ministry the absolute power in the implementation of the law and will enable its security agencies to  use it easily and arbitrarily to threaten human rights defenders, journalists and Internet activists.

The GCHR calls on the Omani government to reconsider this law in a view to allow the Omani courts to look at the cases and complaints relating to citizenship, as well as Article 20 that needs to be revised and narrowed down, in order to prevent its use by the security services against human rights defenders and other activists.

Also, the GCHR urges authorities in Oman to ensure in all circumstances the ability of human rights defenders and journalists in Oman to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisal, and free of restrictions including judicial harassment.