The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Oman is not a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 21 of which governs the right of peaceful assembly.
The right of peaceful assembly is, though, a fundamental human right that is part of the corpus of customary international law. It is also a general principle of law.See Art. 38(1), 1945 Statute of the International Court of Justice.
At regional level, Oman is not a State Party to the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights, which provides for the right of every citizen to freedom of peaceful assembly.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
According to Article 32 of the 1996 Constitution of Oman (as amended), "The Citizens have the right to assemble within the limits of the Law."
Under the Penal Code, persons participating in a gathering of over ten persons may be sentenced for up to one year in prison for “disturbing public order”.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
The 1999 Code of Criminal Procedure of Oman allows all necessary force to effect an arrest.Art. 44, 1999 Code of Criminal Procedure of Oman.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
There are not believed to be specific legal restrictions on the use of firearms during assemblies. On 28 February 2011, in Sohar, 250 kilometres north of Muscat, the police were said to have opened fire on protesters.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Oman is not a State Party to the ICCPR.
In the 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Oman under the UN Human Rights Council, the right of peaceful assembly was addressed by several States.
The same year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association noted that the rights of peaceful assembly and non-discrimination are guaranteed only to Omani citizens, contrary to best practice, and that a number of laws and decrees place limits on assembly rights that are vague and susceptible to misuse by the authorities.
The Special Rapporteur recommended that Oman guarantee in law and in practice the right to freedom of peaceful assembly for everyone, whether citizens or non-citizens, without exception. He urged the adoption of a law that would clearly and explicitly establish a presumption in favour of holding peaceful assemblies.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Oman:
A limited right to peaceful assembly is provided for in Oman’s basic law. However, all public gatherings require official permission, and the government has the authority to prevent organized public meetings without any appeals process. The 2018 penal code prescribes prison terms and fines for individuals who initiate or participate in a gathering of more than 10 people that threatens security or public order, or who fail to comply with an official order to disperse. A series of protests against unemployment were reported in January, leading to the arrest of at least some participants.