Torture in the Sultanate of Oman: Lost Liberties and Suppression of Human Rights Activists
Totalitarian governments resort to various types of persecution, repression of freedoms and even torture in order to silence voices of dissent and suppress the masses demanding change and reform. The situation is not much different in the Sultanate of Oman, which is an absolute monarchy.
Since the situation of civil society activists, writers, intellectuals and journalists is a mirror reflecting the conditions of any country, the human rights violations committed by the Omani government were captured in the writings of those who documented many forms of abuse of power in articles, books and lectures. Subsequently, the government confiscated many Omani literary works and prevented them from being circulated at the Muscat International Book Fair or in local libraries or bookstores. The banned works at the time of writing include “The Search for a Homeland” by Zahran Zahir Sarimi; “The Turban of the Military” by novelist Hamoud Saud; and “Obeid Al-Omani Alive” by authors Suleiman Al-Maamari and Saeed Sultan Al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi also wrote two other banned books, namely “Song of the Shadow” and “What has the Dungeon Left for the Rose?”, and Al-Maamari's novel “The One Who Doesn't Like Gamal Abdel Nasser” is also banned. The list of banned books also includes Yousef Al-Haj's novel “Winter 97”; “A Single Cry is Not Enough” by Hamood Al-Shukaili; “Time is Up for Correction” by Zahir Al-Mahrouqi; and “The Rebel’s Return” by Yaqoub Al-Khanbashi, inter alia.
Banned and confiscated books alone deserve an independent report, but we listed them here in the introduction to the present report because quite a few of them have to do with the subject matter concerning torture, repression and curtailing freedoms. The authors of these books have documented the persecution, imprisonment and torture to which they themselves or other citizens have been subjected, some in a direct fashion, as in “The Search for a Homeland”, which took the form of a biography, or indirectly, such as the novel titled “The One Who Doesn't Like Gamal Abdel Nasser”.
This report was researched and written by the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR), with support from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), through a project with the European Union.
In this report, the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) documented torture cases in Oman through interviewing a number of former political prisoners. This endevour faced several difficulties, the most important of which was the subjects' fear of talking about the torture to which they have been subjected and the violations that take place in prisons, because they could face reprisals. It was also difficult for them to trust a third party or a human rights organisation because these entities were often incapable of providing the necessary protection to human rights activists and prisoners of conscience who were still residing in the country, whether by protecting them from being targeted by the government, working to have them released, or lobbying the authorities to enable activists to continue their human rights work.
There are provisions in the Penal Law which stipulate punishments against whoever participates in any form in the work of an entity intended to act in what is described as opposing the “principles of the State,” or who provides intelligence to any foreign body in a manner aimed “against the country.” Therefore, it was very difficult for torture survivors to talk with the OAHR about their suffering, for fear of prosecution, trial and imprisonment, on the grounds of communicating with individuals or organisations abroad and may be accused of operating against state security.
Despite all these challenges, this report does provide some testimonies of victims of torture in Omani prisons. The information was collected from the survivors themselves, some of whom agreed to reveal their identity, whereas others preferred to remain anonymous. Some testimonies had been transmitted through various social media, after the survivors posted them on their personal accounts.
This report documents torture cases in Omani prisons in order to inform the international community of these violations; to call on the Omani government to put an end to such abuses, re-affirm its commitment to international treaties and conventions related to respecting human rights and prisoners’ rights, and to end the systematic repression against human rights defenders. The report underscores the need to comply with the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, both of which were ratified by the Sultanate in June 2020.
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