Oman Must Cease Crackdown on Demonstrations, Release Human Rights Defenders

Washington

The recent flood of arrests of human rights defenders in Oman, including 22 individuals who remain in custody after participating in a peaceful protest on June 11, is a worrying indication of the deteriorating conditions for freedom of expression in the Gulf nation.  Freedom House urges authorities to immediately release and drop all charges against the protesters, and to implement meaningful reforms to secure free speech without fear of unjust prosecution.

According to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), 22 activists, including poets, bloggers, journalists and a 14-year-old boy, were arrested while participating in peaceful demonstrations near the capital city of Muscat to call for the release of other human rights activists currently in custody.

“While the world’s focus is on Libya, Egypt and Syria, countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have increasingly cracked down on human rights defenders, journalists and other political dissidents, to ensure that widespread reform efforts never take root,” said Charles Dunne, director of Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. “As the Arab Spring has shown, however, when citizens’ fundamental right to express themselves is restricted, it only increases the risk of political unrest.”

Three activists were arrested on June 4 and charged with incitement as they were heading to an oil workers’ strike.  One of the three remains in custody. Oman’s Attorney General issued a statement the same day threatening to crack down on activists’ “offensive writings and provocative invitations,” opening the door for greater restrictions on freedom of expression.

Another activist, Khalfan al-Badrawi, was arrested on June 6 and his whereabouts remain unknown, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).  Six more writers and bloggers were arrested on June 8.  Several of the individuals now in custody also participated in Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011 and were detained, kidnapped, shot, or tortured by security forces.

In April 2012, Omani activist and blogger Ammar Al Mamari, a law student in Jordan, was threatened with deportation back to Oman, where he would likely face formal charges.  Human rights groups helped to secure his Asylum Seeker status from the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), but his family has been pressured by Omani and Jordanian authorities to urge him to end his activism and to cut off financial support to force him to return.

Oman is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2012 surveys.

To learn more about Oman, visit:

Freedom in the World 2011: Oman

Freedom of the Press 2011: Oman

Omani Blogger Threatened With Deportation

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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