This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 11 November 2016.
On 8 November 2016, the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced writer, cinema critic and online activist Abdullah Habib to three years in prison and a fine of 2000 Omani Rials (US$5200). Bail was set at 1000 Oman Rials (US$2600) in order for him to appeal the verdict. He was charged with violating Article 19 of the Information Technology Crimes Act for “using the Internet in what would prejudice the state public order.”
On 15 April 2016, Habib was summoned by the Omani Internal Security Service (ISS) to appear for investigation before the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in the capital, Muscat. He was immediately detained incommunicado by the Special Division, which represents the executive arm of the ISS. He was not allowed to have access to his family or lawyer and was only released on 4 May 2016.
His arrest and the trial are related to his writings on Facebook in which he expressed his views, in addition to defending the people's rights in Oman.
Habib is a well-known writer and cinema critic who is 53 years of age. He has produced many short films and published a few books in addition to many articles in the national newspapers. He has received many awards for his work.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern regarding the ongoing targeting of a leading Omani personality such as Abdullah Habib. GCHR condemns the arrest, incommunicado detention, and trial of Abdullah Habib, and calls for his achievements to be celebrated instead of leading to persecution and trial.
GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:
- Drop all the charges against Abdullah Habib immediately and without any conditions; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
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, recognizes 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.