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Oman
15.03.21
Urgent Interventions

Oman: Ongoing judicial harassment against environmental rights defenders

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

OMN 001 / 0221 / OBS 027.1
Judicial harassment /
Release on bail /
Acquittal
Oman
March 15, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Oman.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) about the release on bail and ongoing judicial harassment of Dr. Ahmed Issa Qatan and Mr. Salem Ali Al-Maashani, as well as about the acquittal of Mr. Amer Muslim Bait Saeed. Messrs. Issa Qatan, Al-Maashani and Bait Saeed are environmental rights defenders and online activists who work for the preservation of green areas and their natural heritage in the Dhofar Plain of the Dhofar Governorate in Oman.

On March 8, 2021, the Salalah’s Court of First Instance ordered the release on bail of Dr. Issa Qatan until his next appearance before the court, scheduled for March 17, 2021.

The Observatory recalls that on February 23, 2021, Dr. Issa Qatan was arrested by the Internal Security Service (ISS). On February 24, 2021, the Public Prosecutor charged Dr. Issa Qatan with “using social media in a way that would prejudice public order” (article 19 of the Cyber Crime Law) and remanded him in custody for two weeks pending trial. Dr. Issa Qatan remained detained in the detention centre of the Dhofar Governorate Police Command’s Directorate of Criminal Inquiries and Investigation until March 8, 2021.

On March 10, 2021, the Salalah’s Court of First Instance acquitted Amer Muslim Bait Saeed and ordered the release on bail of Salem Ali Al-Maashani until the next hearing in his case, which will take place on March 17, 2021.

On February 28, 2021, Amer Muslim Bait Saeed and Salem Ali Al-Maashani were arbitrarily arrested by the Internal Security Service (ISS) on charges of “using social media in a way that would prejudice public order” upon arrival at the Special Division of the Salalah Police Command, where they had been summoned to appear the same day. They remained detained in the detention centre of the Dhofar Governorate Police Command’s Directorate of Criminal Inquiries and Investigation until March 10, 2021.

In their fight for the preservation of the Dhofar plain, Dr. Issa Qatan, Salem Ali Al-Maashani and Amer Muslim Bait Saeed oppose a decree adopted by the Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Hamoud Al-Busaidi, which imposes, among other measures, a ban of camel grazing in parts of the Dhofar Plain in order to build residential complexes.

Using their personal Twitter accounts to defend their environmental views, the three environmental rights defenders posted several messages about the Ministerial Decree at stake, putting the emphasis on the importance to preserve the natural environment of the coastal plain, and calling on the authorities to nullify the transfer of the Dhofar Plain to housing planning.

The Observatory firmly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Dr. Ahmed Issa Qatan and Salem Ali Al-Maashani, which appears to be only aimed at sanctioning them for their defence of environmental rights. The Observatory welcomes the acquittal and subsequent release of Amer Muslim Bait Saeed but recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place, his detention being arbitrary as it was only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory also fears that the judicial harassment of the above-mentioned environmental rights defenders constitutes another attempt to silence any dissident and civil society voices demanding transparency and accountability from the government.

The Observatory calls on the authorities of Oman to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against, Dr. Ahmed Issa Qatan, Salem Ali Al-Maashani, and all human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Oman, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Ahmed Issa Qatan, Salem Ali Al-Maashani and Amer Muslim Bait Saeed, as well as of all human rights defenders in Oman;

ii. Guarantee the access of Messrs. Ahmed Issa Qatan and Salem Ali Al-Maashani to a lawyer of their own or their family’s choosing;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Ahmed Issa Qatan and Salem Ali Al-Maashani as well as all human rights defenders in Oman, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Abdulmalik bin Abdullah Al Khalili, Minister of Justice of Oman, Email: info@moj.gov.om
  • Mr. Hamoud bin Faisal bin Saeed Al Busaidi, Minister of Interior of Oman, Email: off@moi.gov.om
  • H.E. Mr. Abdulla Nasser Al Rahbi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland., Email: missionoman@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Oman located in your country.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 15, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

• Tel OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39

• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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