Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Oman
|Publication Date||24 May 2012|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Oman, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe391cc.html [accessed 25 December 2014]|
Head of state and government: Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 2.8 million
Life expectancy: 73 years
Under-5 mortality: 12 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 86.6 per cent
Police used excessive force against peaceful and other protesters; at least two people were killed and others were injured. Hundreds of protesters were arrested; at least 80 were tried, many of whom were sentenced to prison terms. The authorities tightened restrictions on freedom of expression. Women and girls continued to face severe discrimination in law and in practice.
In January, people demonstrated against the cost of living and lack of job opportunities, and called for political reforms and the dismissal of government ministers and corrupt officials. Sultan Qaboos responded in February by raising the minimum wage, increasing benefits paid to the unemployed, promising to create 50,000 new jobs, and replacing several government ministers. In March, after protests spread, he dismissed more government ministers and subsequently amended the Constitution to cede some legislative powers to the Shura Council, the only elected body of the two that comprise the Majlis (Parliament). Elections were held on 15 October and those elected chose a President of the Shura Council for the first time. Oman's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in March. Oman was urged to review its legislation to combat discrimination and violence against women.
Repression of dissent
Police and security forces used excessive force to disperse peaceful and other protests, using tear gas, firing rubber bullets and beating protesters. On 27 February, one man was reported to have died when police forcibly dispersed protesters in the town of Sohar. On 29 March, the security forces carried out a pre-dawn raid on protesters camped at Globe Roundabout in Sohar, reportedly beat those who refused to leave and at the same time arrested others at their homes.
Abdullah al-Ghamalasi, a student, died on 27 February when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters at Globe Roundabout in Sohar. The authorities announced an investigation but its outcome was not disclosed.
Many protesters were arrested during the year and at least 80 were brought to trial. Some were convicted of offences such as insulting officials, disrupting traffic or acts of violence, and sentenced to prison terms.
Ahmed al-Shezawi was arrested at his home in the capital Muscat on 29 March. He was held for over a week at an undisclosed location, where he was kept in solitary confinement and allegedly subjected to constant loud music until he was transferred to the Central Prison in Samail. He was released on 10 April, together with another protester, his uncle Dr Abdul Gufar al-Shezawi, after they pledged not to destroy or damage public property. In June, both were acquitted of all charges.
Basma al-Kiyumi, a prominent lawyer, was the only woman among 15 people arrested on 14 May as they and others held a peaceful protest in front of the Shura Council in Muscat to call for the release of protesters detained two days earlier. She was charged with participating in an unlawful gathering and released on bail on 16 May. The other 14 were also released.
In June, a court in Muscat convicted seven people arrested in connection with the protests in Sohar of violence against public authorities and sentenced them to five-year prison terms.
On 20 April, Sultan Qaboos pardoned 234 people accused of committing "crimes of crowding in the streets" in the provinces of Dhank, Ibri, Sohar and Yanqul.
Freedom of expression
In October, the authorities amended Article 26 of the Press and Publications Law to prohibit the publication through any means, including the internet, of anything deemed likely to affect the safety of the state or its internal or external security or related to its military and security organs. The maximum penalty was set at two years' imprisonment and a fine.
Yusef al-Haj, a journalist working for Azzamn newspaper, and Ibrahim al-Ma'amary, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, were sentenced to five months' imprisonment in September after they were convicted of "insulting" the Justice Minister in an article concerning alleged corruption within the Ministry. Haroon al-Muqaibli, a Justice Ministry employee who was their source, was similarly convicted and sentenced to five months' imprisonment. Their sentences were upheld on appeal.
Women and girls continued to face severe discrimination in law and in practice, particularly in relation to personal status, employment and their subordination to male guardians. Around 77 women stood for election to the Shura Council, more than triple the number in 2007, although only one was elected.
No information was released about the imposition of the death penalty, and no executions were reported.