U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Oman
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Oman, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1c4.html [accessed 23 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
OMANThe Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy which has been ruled by the Al Bu Sa'id family since the middle of the 18th century. It has no political parties or directly elected representative institutions. The current Sultan, Qaboos Bin Sa'id Al Sa'id, acceded to the throne in 1970. Although the Sultan retains firm control over all important policy issues, he has brought tribal leaders--even those who took up arms against his family's rule--as well as other notables into the Government. In accordance with tradition and cultural norms, much decisionmaking is by consensus among these leaders. In 1991 the Sultan established the 59-seat Consultative Council, or Majlis Ash-Shura, which replaced an older advisory body. The Government selects Council members from lists of nominees proposed by each of the 59 wilayats (regions). After the first national census in 1993, the Sultan expanded the membership of the new Council to 80 seats. In 1997 it was expanded further to 82 seats. The Council has no formal legislative powers but may question government ministers, even during unrehearsed televised hearings, and recommend changes to new laws on economic and social policy, sometimes leading to amendments to proposed decrees. In December the Sultan appointed 41 persons as members of the new Council of State (Majlis Al-Dawla), which with the current Consultative Council forms the bicameral body known as the Majlis Oman (Council of Oman). In late 1996, the Sultan promulgated by decree the country's Basic Law, which provides for citizens' basic rights in writing for the first time. The courts are subordinate to the Sultan and subject to his influence. The internal and external security apparatus falls under the authority of the Ministry of Palace Office which coordinates all intelligence and security policies. The Internal Security Service investigates all matters related to internal security. The Royal Oman Police, whose head also has cabinet status, performs regular police duties, provides security at airports, serves as the country's immigration agency, and maintains a small coast guard. There are credible reports that security forces occasionally abuse detainees. Since 1970 Oman has used its modest oil revenue to make impressive economic progress and improve public access to health care, education, and social services. Oman has a mixed economy with significant government participation in industry, transportation, and communications. The Government seeks to diversify the economy and stimulate private investment. The Government continues to restrict or deny important human rights. Human rights abuses include arbitrary arrest, mistreatment of detainees, prolonged detention without charge, and the denial of due process. The Government restricts freedom of expression and association and does not ensure full rights for workers and women. As a practical matter, the people do not have the right to change their government. The 1996 Basic Law provides for many basic human rights, e.g., an independent judiciary, freedom of association, speech, and press. The Basic Law permits the Government two years, until 1998, to adopt the necessary implementing decrees but, as a practical matter, implementation may be extended to the year 2000.