Oman is becoming increasingly intolerant to freedom of expression. The sultan state has come under harsh criticism from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for the detention of activists, writers and bloggers in recent months for charges related to the publishing of defamatory material on the internet or peaceful protesting.
On the 8th August 2012, eleven activists were jailed for their involvement in peaceful protests. They were sentenced to one year in prison and were given a fine of 200 Riyals ($520). These charges come despite the recent reforms to the restrictions of freedom of expression and assembly.
Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch said, “Omani activists are speaking out about broken promises for government reform…Instead of listening; Omani authorities are arresting and prosecuting them to silence them.” Furthermore, Amnesty International said that if the dissidents end up behind bars they, “will consider them to be prisoners of conscience and will campaign for their immediate and unconditional release.”
We the undersigned support the criticisms made by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemning the recent detention of dissidents.
Omani citizens should have the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Furthermore, these rights are protected by Article 29 of Oman’s basic law as well as by international human rights laws. Additionally, Article 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights provides the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to impart news to others by any means and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that, “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression ... to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”
“Political leaders must be prepared to be criticized and have their performance scrutinized.” (Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International). Rather than blocking the dissidents, the Government should look for ways to address their complaints and improve the situation for the people of Oman.
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