Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oman's heavy handed treatment of peaceful protestors may catch the Global media's attention.

Tension remains high in Salalah, as the families and friends of those arrested on Thursday & Friday - having been rounded up by the Army for protesting via a sit-in outside the Governor's place downtown - are now forming a second protest outside the local prison demanding their release.

According to reports from Salalah local blogger Dhofari Gucci, several of the protests lead 'speakers' were arrested and immediately taken back to Muscat "...namely Nasser Sakroon, Bakhit Al Mahri, Fahim Al Mashani, Salim Al Mashani, Amer Hardan , and others...."

Oman does not provide its citizens subjects the right of habeous corpus**, and so I presume these gentlemen are getting the extended VIP tour of the Dark Castle, ISS's brand new mega-bunker-fortress up above Qurm.

Photo 23.589849, 58.477162: Oman's Internal Security Services new building: The Dark Castle. The Government is currently hosting extended tours for a few lucky representatives of Salalah-based human rights activists.

The Ministry of Information dismissed the press release and described the arrests as yet another example of the caring nature of Oman's Government: "We're simply giving these long suffering protesters a chance to get away from it all, with an unforgetable trip away, and all expenses paid too. It's an experience I'm hoping our guests will find quite... enlightening." The Minister of the Interior added, "We've always been a Government that listens to the people. In the case of our new guests from Salalah, we'll even be recording what they say! I think reasonable people will see how we want to hear absolutely everything they have to tell us."

News of the surprise round-up of what had been a generally peaceful scene has reached the wire services, and despite the dominance of extremely violent reports coming from Syria and Yemen, Oman's news often made the editorial cut too. So far, Sultan Qaboos is still generally being portrayed as responding with moderation. So far.

But the release of an international press statement condemning the arrests of "human rights activists" issued by 'a group of Omani Activists', and picked up by wire service AFP, was soon appearing on hundreds of media outlets, including The LA Times (see a few others below*). At a stroke, this has successfully branded the protesters as the good guys. Does Oman News Agency not realise that by refering to them with words like "provocateurs" and "attempt[ing] to incite sedition", it makes HM sound just like Ghaddafi or Ahmadinejad?

Omani authorities have carried out a wave of arrests against human rights activists calling for reforms in the Gulf monarchy, a group of activists says in a statement received by AFP on Tuesday.

"We strongly condemn the repression and restrictions to the legitimate right of activists to express themselves peacefully," said the statement. The activists described the "arrests targeting those who were calling for rational dialogue" as "disappointing".

Great PR for the (un-named) 'activists'. The protesters are learning fast.

I think the Government's agressive move on what was a peaceful sit-in was pretty damn stupid. They could have just left them there, harmlessly talking to each other and delegations of minor civil servants, while in the real world simply by-passing them, ignoring most of their 'demands' and doing what-ever the Government wanted. If the protesters ever really got out of hand and used violence, then they could properly arrest those breaking the law, and deal with them in the courts.

Detaining people against their will for the "seditious crime" of peacefully sitting around and voicing an opinion comes across as simultaneously despotic and weak. Doing under cover of night with APCs & military troops from the north of the country, while shutting down the internet and mobile phones... well, it just lets everyone around the world play the 'spot the dictatorship' game.

For now, HM's reasonable reputation is standing. But that won't last very long.

I can only suggest readers support Amnesty International's approach to this. While they have not yet responded to the latest arrests, from their recent release about the earlier detention of the Sohar protesters, here is the informattion you need:

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:
 Welcome the release without charge of those arrested following the protests in Sohar and Muscat;
 Urge the authorities to ensure that the at least nine men who remain detained are protected from torture and other
ill-treatment, and given regular access to their families, lawyers and any medical attention they may require;
 Call for their immediate and unconditional release if they are prisoners of conscience held solely for peacefully
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly; otherwise they should be released unless they are
promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences and tried in conformity with international fair trial standards;
 Ask for details of any charges brought against them and clarification of their current legal status and whereabouts
in detention.


His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id
Head of State, Prime Minister, Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Finance Minister
Diwan of the Royal Court
The Palace, Muscat 113
Sultanate of Oman
Fax: +968 24 735 375

Salutation: Your Majesty

His Excellency Sayyid Hamoud bin
Faisal bin Said Al Busaidi
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of Interior
PO Box 127
Ruwi 112, Muscat
Sultanate of Oman

Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:
Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Riyam i
National Human Rights Commission
P.O.Box 29, Postal Code: 103
Bareq A' Shati, Muscat, Sultanate of
Fax: +968 24648801
Email: enquiry@nhrc.om

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above
date. This is the first update of UA 96/11. Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE20/001/2011/en

* Reports:
AFP, Iran TV, the medialine, Zaywa, etc.

** Habeous Corpus
I'd recommend to interested readers the history of this important principal of English common law. (from wikipedia): The first recorded usage of habeas corpus was in 1305, during the reign of King Edward I. However, other writs were issued with the same effect as early as the reign of Henry II in the twelfth century. Blackstone explained the basis of the writ, saying "The King is at all times entitled to have an account, why the liberty of any of his subjects is restrained, wherever that restraint may be inflicted."

Indeed. Note this does not prevent people being held without trial where such things are deemed legal, nor does it ensure a fair trail. But it does force an explanation of their imprisonment, which only seem just.

wiki again:
The writ of habeas corpus is one of what are called the "extraordinary", "common law", or "prerogative writs", which were historically issued by the English courts in the name of the monarch to control inferior courts and public authorities within the kingdom. The most common of the other such prerogative writs are quo warranto, prohibito, mandamus, procedendo, and certiorari. The due process for such petitions is not simply civil or criminal, because they incorporate the presumption of non-authority. The official who is the respondent has the burden to prove his authority to do or not do something. Failing this, the court must decide for the petitioner, who may be any person, not just an interested party. This differs from a motion in a civil process in which the movant must have standing, and bears the burden of proof.


  1. I , an expat , was told at work yesterday by an Omani colleague that some Salalah / Dhofari 'protesters' had been burning photos of HM . True or not , this is heavy duty 'news'.

  2. It may be that given the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen and the animosity between Ali Abdullah Saleh and Southern Yemen that the Oman Government felt that it would be better prepared to deal with a potential influx of ‘refugees’ across the Oman border if there were fewer internal distractions.
    Notwithstanding other issues above

  3. I understand the sermons and speeches of May 6 by Salalah protestors crossed the line. One of the protestors you mentioned also lead a prayer for OBL. I am in full support of the actions taken by the authorities.

  4. Here is something which was in the local newspaper today.

    27 protesters to be tried in Al Khuwayr today:
    Twenty-seven protesters who were arrested in Sohar are to be tried at the Primary Court in Al Khuwayr on Wednesday.

    Six of the 27 accused are still in prison since their arrests on March 29 and 31 according to one of the protesters. The arrested protesters include Khalid al Handhooli, Hilal al Alawi, Ali al Badi, Khamis al Ajmi, Ali al Ghaithi and Ammar al Hinai according to the source.

    Protesters who were released earlier and asked to come for the trial today include Ali al Muqbali, Yusif Shaheen and Khalfan al Muqbali, the source added. The charges against the accused include blocking roads, provoking and attacking security personnel. Relatives of the accused denied the charges.

    In case you want to check out the original article, here is the link - http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Stories-Files/27-protesters-to-be-tried-in-Al-Khuwayr-today

  5. Two photos were burned. That's no reason for several hundred to be arrested. FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

  6. Sorry to spoil a good rumour, but the "Dark Castle" is actually the offices of the Royal Office.

    ...and there's definitely no dungeons in the lower floors.


  7. Dhofar Power Company's Indian management needs to go home. I wonder y u dont publish my comments related to Dhofar Power Company!!

  8. The function of that building is not internal security.

    -Omani in US

  9. Yes his reputation won't last very long. Now when things calm down I wonder who will be dismissed to cover up a big guy's mistake..

    Poor salalah people. Why is Oman so paranoid about them? There shouldn't be much to expect from the least educated ones in Oman, as my non-Dhofari professor call them. I wonder how many of them are aware of what they're doing....

  10. Al, OiUS
    Try taking a photo of it from close up! And doesn't MI and ISS report through the Diwan? (It's a nice rumour tho'...)

    Your fixation on Dhofari Power is fine, just stop with the continual whining. Your comments have been posted, just not on every single damn post.

  11. This is the new office of the Diwan, not a 'Dark Castle'. It is VERY VERY irresponsible for you to be posting such things on your blog at this time.

  12. there are extremely well educated and super intelligent Dhofari's, as you know, and to use an all encompassing term, which might be a results of poor phrasing, paints rather a bad picture

  13. Anon,
    I' like to know why it's "very irresponsible for you to be posting such things on your blog at this time"
    Don't you realise that 99.9% of everything on the web is either untrue or needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt?
    If the UK government listened to public opinion on the internet we'd now have Jeremy Clarkson as PM.
    (which probably would be an improvement on both the current and previous ones)
    And the good news is I'm allowed to say that without fear of being thrown in jail.


  14. Al, if you think that spreading false rumours about the fate of Omanis being held by the authorities is a bit of harmless fun, when there is very little information available on the web or elsewhere, then that's your opinion and I strongly disagree. You must have had a very comfortable life and have little concern for others.

    "If the UK government listened to public opinion on the internet we'd now have Jeremy Clarkson as PM."
    I couldn't care less whether the UK government was reading this blog or not. It is entirely irrelevant to my point.

  15. Anon,
    So there's very little information about the current situation available on the web..and the info that UD is giving is wrong?
    Why don't you do something about it? For example, start your own blog, or even just reply with some facts that we'd don't know, but would like to know? (congratulations to Dhofari girl for keeping us informed)
    Everyone (except UD) seems to know that the place on the hill is Royal court, so I don't see that any harm has been done.
    You need to go back and read my comment carefully. (I didn't say anything about the UK govt reading this blog)
    Your comment about me showing little concern is obviously part of the 99.9% of the web that is untrue :)

    And please pick a name...



If you wish to post anonymously, please pick a nickname by selecting the Name/URL option, or at least sign off your comment with one! I will delete comments I find objectionable or needlessly inflammatory. Sorry for the word verification.... OMG the spam has gotten BAD these past 12 months... trying to avoid making one log in...