Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

22 March 2013

Sultan of Oman pardons activists

Sultan of Oman pardons activists
The Sultan's pardon should be the first step in addressing freedom of expression in Oman

The Sultan's pardon should be the first step in addressing freedom of expression in Oman

© AFP/Getty Images


The Sultan’s pardon is a very welcome step and we are delighted that dozens of prisoners of conscience on whose cases we have been campaigning are back at liberty and able to rejoin their families and friends.
Source: 
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa
Date: 
Fri, 22/03/2013

The Sultan of Oman’s decision to pardon all activists and writers convicted last year for insulting the ruler, IT crimes and taking part in unauthorized protests should be just the first step in addressing the issue of freedom of expression in Oman, said Amnesty International.

Sultan Qaboos issued the pardon on Thursday and ordered that the prisoners be released today. Amnesty International received information that all those held on such charges were released this morning.

“The Sultan’s pardon is a very welcome step and we are delighted that dozens of prisoners of conscience on whose cases we have been campaigning are back at liberty and able to rejoin their families and friends,” said Philip Luther of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

“However, individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression should never have been put in prison in the first place, nor tried on charges that criminalize freedom of expression.

“The pardon should act as a spur for the Omani authorities to lift restrictions on freedom of expression by repressive laws.”

Amnesty International considered all those held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to be prisoners of conscience and had been calling for their immediate and unconditional release and for their convictions to be quashed.

Dozens of Omani activists had been sentenced or were standing trial when the Sultan issued the pardon.

The trials began shortly after numerous writers, activists and bloggers were arrested during a crackdown in Oman in late May and early June 2012.

During this time, Oman’s Public Prosecution issued a number of statements threatening to take legal action against anyone who publishes “offensive writing” in the media or online deemed to incite others to action “under the pretext of freedom of expression”.

The trials, some of which reached the Supreme Court, had seen multiple delays. In February 2013 many of the jailed activists went on hunger strike for around a week to 2 weeks in protest at the delay of their hearings at the Supreme Court. It ended after they were informed that their appeals would be heard.

In February and March the Supreme Court upheld sentences against eight people but accepted the appeals of eight others and ordered a retrial. Alongside the 16 cases, the trials of at least 18 other activists were still ongoing when the pardon was issued.

The Omani authorities have a history of operating strict restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. Bloggers and journalists were also targeted prior to events in 2012 after criticizing the government, including some who were detained.

Issue

Activists 
Detention 
Freedom Of Expression 
Prisoners Of Conscience 

Country

Oman 

Region

Middle East And North Africa 

Follow #oman @amnestyonline on twitter

News

21 August 2014

Children accused of being members of armed groups in the conflict in Mali are languishing in adult jails while human rights abuses continue.

Read more »
15 August 2014

The number of killings perpetrated by the police is on the rise again in the Dominican Republic whilst legislation intended to fix the problem stalls and stagnates in Congress... Read more »

02 September 2014

The arrest and detention of a 25-year-old man accused of sedition for allegedly disrespecting India’s national symbols is a reminder of how archaic laws continue to be used to... Read more »

02 September 2014

The Turkish government’s prosecution of Twitter critics is a deeply hypocritical stance for the host of the Internet Governance Forum, Amnesty International said today.

Read more »
02 September 2014

Fresh evidence uncovered by Amnesty International indicates that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic... Read more »