According to reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Human Rights Association (OHRA), the Internal Security Service (ISS) in Oman detained online activist and blogger Hatem Al-Maliki last week. The ISS also released two online activists, Salem Al-Arimi and Uday Al-Omairi. On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, GCHR and OHRA call for an end to the arbitrary arrests of online activists, in violation of their right to freedom of expression.
On 06 December 2018, Hatem Al-Maliki (pictured in the middle) was summoned by the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in Sohar State. The Special Division is the operational arm of the ISS. He was arbitrarily detained upon his arrival and held incommunicado without any access to his family or a lawyer. According to the information circulated, Al-Maliki was arrested for posts on social media networks, including his Facebook page and Twitter, criticising Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat in October and rejecting normalisation between Oman and Israel, as well as for his support for the Palestinian cause.
Al-Maliki is a well-known activist who was previously arrested on 24 June 2012 and charged with “insulting the Sultan.” He was released on 27 August 2012 on bail while his trial continued until it was suspended after he received an amnesty from Sultan Qaboos in 2013.
On 06 December 2018, Internet activist Uday Al-Omairi (pictured on the left) was released after being arrested by the ISS on 07 November 2018. He was detained due to his publications on social media, including his Facebook page, in which he declared his support for the Palestinian cause and his rejection of normalisation with Israel.
On 19 November 2018, activist Salem Al-Arimi (pictured on the right), who had been held by the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in Muscat since 27 October 2018, was released after being summoned over of his writings calling for reform and rejecting normalisation as well.
GCHR and OHRA condemn the arbitrary practices of the ISS and appeal to the Omani government to put an immediate end to the systematic targeting of bloggers and online activists by the security forces.
GCHR and OHRA urge authorities in Oman to:
Release online activists Hatem Al-Maliki immediately and unconditionally;
Protect the freedom of the press in the Oman as well as freedom of expression on the Internet; and
Ensure in all circumstances the ability of human rights defenders and journalists in Oman to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.
GCHR and OHRA respectfully remind 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 Recognised 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 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (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 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) 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.”