Friday, June 22, 2012

Public Prosecution arrests bloggers. Oman named 'nicest police state in the world'.

It's been a busy month in the Dragon's lair. While I was gone, it seems the Public Prosecution Dept decided to expose the reality of Oman's law on speech - it's illegal. The story from Human Rights Watch is here

As local blogger Susan Al Shahari notes, the law is far from clear as to where the line is between fair comment and jail time. This is an issue discussed before on Muscat Confidential here

“Article 26: It is prohibited to publish anything which may prejudice the safety of the state or its internal or external security or all that relates to military and security apparatuses, their bylaws and internal regulations, any documents or information or news or official secret communications, either by publication through visual, audio or print media or through the Internet or any means of the information technology unless a permission is obtained from the competent authority.

It is also prohibited to publish the wordings of the agreements and treaties concluded by the government before they are published in the official gazette."

Oman's citizens and residents have never had freedom of expression, as it has always been subject to broad, vague, ill-defined rules that make any critical statement about the government illegal. And not just illegal, but criminal.

If the report is correct, the bloggers have actually been charged with incitement to protest. As noted in the HRW article, this is even more insidious, as apparently even the law for this charge is secret.
On June 4 the public prosecutor formally charged all three with “inciting to protest,” and released al-Hana’i and al-Khorousi on bail. The public prosecution renewed al-Meqbali’s detention for an additional seven days while it researched further charges, though none have been announced. An Omani lawyer who asked not to be identified said that the charge of “incitement to protest” is a state security crime not covered under the regular Penal Code. Authorities have not made public the code enumerating crimes falling under state security and punishments associated with them.


Several of the 'activists' have started a facebook page 'Humanitarian initiative for human rights in Oman'. Check it out!

The ROP and Public Prosecution are out of their depth, holding several arrested without charge or access to legal council for 4 days, according to the HRW report. The laws are so broad and draconian that denying them the few rights they actually do have [24hrs before you should be charged and given access to a lawyer, no beatings or torture] is really stupid.
The facebook page is reporting another arrest too, this time of a photographer.

Folks, try to understand. Oman is governed as an autocracy. In fact, Oman is one of the few absolute monarchies left, the others being Saudi, Brunei, Qatar and Swaziland. HM is not bound by a constitution, he can issue any decree he wants.

You've probably noticed that all laws are "Royal Decrees", as only the Sultan can make law. You get to 'vote' but political parties are banned. And the people you elect can only make requests of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. It is a criminal offense to criticise the Government. It is a criminal offense to encourage anyone to protest. It is a criminal offense to protest without permission. It is even a criminal offense to publish the name of someone who has been convicted of a crime in public court!

You do not, and have never had, a right of free speech. You are only allowed to express yourself if what you have to say supports the Government, and doesn't offend anyone. That a statement is true is not a defense. That a statement is only of personal opinion is not a defense.

Reread that new article 26 above.

Is it any wonder The Economist just called Oman "the nicest police state in the world"?

20 comments:

  1. Sad... and scary news.

    Limits really what we can talk about without worry doesn't it?

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  2. That place is going backward not forward. Hence why the dozen or so families that run the place are buying up loads of European properties and assets ready for the day the country runs out of oil and a slow decay takes over resulting in what is life in Yemen!!! Expats who live there I wouldn't be planning my life in Oman for ever. It's only going to get worse!!!!

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  3. LOL, anon, as if the current situation in Europe is improving, or so much better than in the ME.
    Oman should not only learn to be independent of oil, it should also become less dependent on expats.
    It's quite interesting to notice the position of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Oman (http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/06/21/221952.html) as well as the view by the Majlis Al Dawla, Dhofari Gucci pointed me to.
    This, together with the posts by MrSythe (http://www.muscatmutterings.com/2012/06/update-on-intercon-hotel-staff-strikers.html)put together a good picture of what is going on IMHO.

    It seems like a bunch of (...) are trying to create a little anarchy here. From what I've read these punks have contributed little to Omani society and are eager to destroy everything that has been build up in the past decades. They certainly do not qualify as "Freedom activists" and are best ignored. I'm not saying current arrests are ideal, they might even make martyrs out of them. But international organizations should better take a close look at the intentions of these people. Of course that would not generate any press, so no publicity for themselves...

    Let's hope and pray things will calm down soon.
    J

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  4. Denial, denial, denial.

    'J' misses the point. Its the shear 'ability' of a democracy to effect change - no matter how erroneously it eventually achieves it. It gets the job done. It does what it says on the tin. No one is saying its the best, but in light of history its the best that's been thought up so far. To sycophantic supporters of a absolute Monarchy this must be jarring. In that sense its rather like evolution. It too works, no matter how bumbling it may appear to get the job done.

    A routine cleaning out the REAL crap is a good thing. Lessons need to be learnt as there is no hiding place in today's world.

    So, ya got a local guy who doesn't seem to kill folk willy nilly. That then is about the only difference in the lands of the long white thobe. If religion is the opiate of the masses a Monarchy must be the opiate of the asses.

    Where will all these Wasafarian's and their asinine gangsters and thugs try to run too? No doubt to a secular democracy far removed from the stoneage shadow of a minaret. 'Twas ever thus.

    The African Queen

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  5. "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"
    Dear African Queen, I hope you're not pointing to an Egyptian-style democracy?
    I'm not questioning the freedom of speech here, nor democracy. I am questioning the motives of the people that got arrested. If they relate to certain strikers, they are egoists and hypocrites for not demanding the same wages for their expat colleagues, whose rights and wages are even less.
    They are also not acting in the interest of their country or their families (some of those arrested have only recently moved to Oman). I am confident that if they had any constructive arguments or ideas they would not have been arrested in the first place.
    It may be true that inflation is high and jobs are scarce, but in Europe, that's the same (and/but no wasta there to help you). Democracy will not help solve that. On top of that, look at the last election results: again mostly traditionalists got elected, but at least the Majlis al-Shura got (limited)legislative and regulatory powers.
    So I suggest to make the best of what can be done, in stead of being angry with what can't be done.
    J

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  6. J, your suggestions of diversifying the economy and replacing expats with Omanis has been tried for the past 10 years and failed. You need to get rid of the self-entitlement attitude of many locals and have them accept that Oman is not the paradise they have been led to believe.

    Every Omani I know who has lived abroad would happily hand over their passport for a European one, and that's not just because living standards are better there, for the majority (even now during this economic blip) but there's also a real sense of freedom, civic responsibility and sense of opportunity and change,

    Further, there may be an economic crisis in the west, but it will be not be permanent or have such as catostrophic effect on living standards and security as when the oil production declines in Oman.

    O

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  7. O:

    Let those Omanis handover their passport to me then and I will give them mine, which I am told is valued very highly in the world. And isn't doing bad like poor Europe and US.

    May the powers that be proect Oman from ever having a dictator like Yemen's president.

    I agree with J in limited form. Ask what you can do for your country. About protesters only asking for human rights of Omanis not those imported expats who have far less than they. And I agree with YOU, many MANY Omanis have entitlement issues. They don't see the state of their economy. They don't understand the propaganda called "news" they are fed. [but at least it isn't as hard to swallow as the stuff on Emirates news like, Sheikh so and so won this horse race, and Sheikha so and so smiled in Brazil---or that Saudi Princess who left Paris without settling her million dollars hotel bill].

    But that is TOTALLY OF THE POINT from the Dragon's post's initial point. I think Susan Al Shahri's post summed it up best. The law is too vague to be comprehensible. That such a law exists isn't the problem of the moment, whether you want a monarchy or a democracy. It is how to make the law understandable. And right now? It is totally incomprehensible.

    Though of course we'd love to hear Nadia's veiws, just for fun;)

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  8. I'd be interested to know if latest The Economist with the Oman article is sold in Oman.

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  9. The National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) announcement (presumably by its chairman The Hon Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Masoud Al Riyami, member of the State Council) is a valid point of view.
    I'm interested in the comment by 'J' that some of those arrested "are also not acting in the interest of their country or their families (some of those arrested have only recently moved to Oman)"
    - are those arrested, who have only recently moved to Oman, foreign agitators’ and infiltrators’ ?

    off topic a bit, where is 'MTI' who usually sheds light in these issues

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  10. shirley shenanigansJune 23, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    Having gotten in trouble for a comment I made online about omantel when the internet had just been been introduced in oman (when I was a young teenager no less), and for the most asinine of reasons, the way I see it now is that you have to apply common sense.
    - Don't make unsubstantiated claims that may offend the pride of a powerful individual or entity, nor anything controversial which may invoke strong negative reactions from a group of people.
    - Don't question the competence, decisions or rulings of the authorities.
    - If you were to decide to raise an issue, make your points vague enough so your intended subject could not be construed as a direct criticism.

    this code has kept me from facing deportation again (which in my case would have meant my entire family packing our bags and leaving,

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  11. shirley shenanigansJune 23, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    evoke*

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  12. Omani Princess: You naivety is astounding.

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  13. Thank you J.

    I am on holiday outside the Sultanate. I will shed light on the above issue once I am back.

    Mti

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  14. Stone... yes I saw it on the shelves at the Borders in QCC. Didnt look inside to see if it had been blacked out though.

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    Replies
    1. I read the article online last evening (Sat, 23 June, at around 19.00 (GMT). There were 3 comments, the last of which made some pretty forthright accusations about the Sultan. I assume it was considered libellous and taken down because it's not there this morning.

      If that's the type of comment that some Omani bloggers are making, then I am not surprised that the authorities have reacted. Whether they have reacted in the best way is another matter.

      Delete
  15. To Thats What I Said, I can't seem to find the reference anymore, so please ignore the statement. But I believe I read somewhere that at least one of those detained lived much of his life in Egypt, but is of Omani descent. But as I said, I can't remember or find who or what. My apologies.
    J

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  16. Anon: Your comment is vague. What is so naive in my comment?

    I hope by "naive" you did not mean the Colonial mindset that would naturally state that this country is inferior to your own because someone could give up a Western/European lifestyle ect.... because that isn't naive. That is a choice, far be it from your own preferences.

    I am saying discuss the post topic: the law. Not democracy versus monarchy. Whether Oman is heading for the worse, or not ect...

    Be specific. What is naive about discussing the relevent subject and not getting drawn into a native versus colonist debate?

    Shirley: I suppose as an expat you can live by that and must. But it really isn't helpful for Omanis to do that when they witness abuses of power or corruption or theivery ect... Is it?
    -Omani Princess (too lazy to sign in)

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  17. It is really sad to see such evil people find their way and convince the world they are human activists. I will never trade in my passport I don't want to be European and can't think of being American. Freedom is illsional there is no such thing as freedom anywhere in the world if you cross you're lines you're taken aside ...try being free in an American airport if you simply miss you're flight you'll be lucky hahaha. Some people want freedom of speech I bet on stability and good life which I can achieve by quietly working hard.

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  18. Wake up and smell the roses, lets get real people!!! Oman has about 20 years left of Oil & Gas and thats being generous. 85% of the GDP come from that revenue. What will be the sector to take over from Oil & Gas? Please don't say tourism? Unemployment is around 40%?

    The self indulgence and belief from the younger community that they don't have to work comes from somewhere? They are the new leaders!!!

    I would be extremely worried if i was a local!!! The wealthy always have a way out, but what about the rest???

    What HM has created over the last 40 years is slowly decaying because of greed, corruption & blindness!!! To many Ministers with their hands in the cookie jar!!!

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