[The following report was published by the Gulf Center for Human Rights on 24 April 2017.]
Oman: Internal Security Service Continues Systematic Targeting of Human Rights Defenders and Internet Activists
According to reports from Oman, the Internal Security Service (ISS) has arrested both human rights defender Ahmed Al-Bahri and Internet activist Khalid Al-Ramadani for their peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights and their writing on social media networks.
On 17 April 2017, the ISS summoned Ahmed Al-Bahri for interrogation, and detained him at the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in the capital, Muscat. According to reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), he has no access to his family or a lawyer. Based on some information received, the reason for his arrest is his criticism on his personal Facebook page of the spread of the Omani police 4WD cars that block visibility and cause crowding in the streets of the province of Buraimi where he lives.
Al-Bahari, who is 32 years old, is a teacher and a well-known human rights defender who was one of the symbols of the teachers’ strike in 2011. In the following years, he was arrested and on 09 July 2014 was sentenced to one year suspended in prison with a fine of RO 1,000 (approx. USD$2,600), on charges of "disrupting public order" after his active participation in a strike organised by teachers.
The ISS also arrested Internet activist Khaled Al-Ramadani on 15 April 2017 at the Wadi Al-Jizi border crossing between Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Reports confirmed that he was transferred on 17 April 2017 to the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat, where he was not allowed to meet his family or speak to a lawyer. Reports suggested that the reason for his arrest was his criticism of the government and of corruption, through his writings on his personal Facebook page.
Al-Ramadani, 51 years of age, is an Internet activist who has studied at many universities in America and Britain.
GCHR expresses its condemnation of the arbitrary practices of the ISS, and appeals to the Omani government to put an immediate end to the systematic targeting of human rights defenders and activists by the ISS.
GCHR urges authorities in Oman:
- To release human rights defender Ahmed Al-Bahri and activist Khaled Al-Ramadani;
- To protect the freedom of the press in the country as well as freedom of expression on the Internet; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders including journalists, writers and on-line activists in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds the Omani authorities that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”