Oman: Oman/UAE-Freedom of expression continues to be targeted as Omani blogger Muawiya Al Rawahi held in incommunicado detention at UAE border and human rights defender Abdullah Ghailani subject to harassment


 Freedom of expression continues to be under serious threat in the UAE. In the latest of a series of violations of this most basic right prominent Omani blogger Muawiya Al Rawahi was arbitrarily detained at the UAE border on his way from Muscat and has not been heard from since. Human rights defender Abdulhadi Ghailani was detained on yet another occasion due to his on-line postings.

On 24 February 2015, Muawiya Al Rawahi, was stopped by the UAE security intelligence agents at the border and was not allowed to return back. He managed to make contact with a fellow human rights defender and told him that he had been stopped. Since then he has remained in incommunicado detention and there are serious concerns expressed for his safety.

The precise reason for his detention is unknown at this time.  However, reports confirm that its due to his on-line postings, in which he criticised the ruling family in Abu Dhabi. He has been detained on occasions in the past as a result of speaking out against Sultan Qaboos and posting on line calling for reform. He was detained in February 2015 for a week and previously in 2011, following the publication of an article in which he criticized the Sultan of Oman.

On 11 March 2015, the Special Division of the Omani Police in Muscat summoned human rights defender Abdullah Ghailani and detained him.  He was released three says later on 14 March 2014. Reports confirm that the reason for his arrest is re-tweeting tweets related to human rights. It is noted that Ghailani had been arrested and tried on charges of illegal gathering in 2012 and spent four months in jail before being released with other activists by Sultan pardon.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the detention of Muawiya Al Rawahi and Abdullah Ghailani are directly related to the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression and views it as another example of the restriction on these rights and evidence of the on-going trend of targeting and harassing on-line activists and those who strive for the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights.  Furthermore, the GCHR expresses serious concern for the safety of Muawiya Al Rawahi particularly given that nothing is known of his whereabouts.

The GCHR urges the authorities in the UAE and Oman to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Muawiya Al Rawahi as his arrest is solely related to his peaceful on-line activities;
  2. Immediately disclose his whereabouts and grant him unfettered access to a lawyer and his family;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Muawiya Al Rawahi and Abdullah Ghailani;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the Oman & UAE 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, 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 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.