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TITLE:  OMAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                              
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                        OMAN


The Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy without popularly elected 
representative institutions or political parties.  Oman has 
been ruled by a sultan of the Al Bu Sa'id family since the 
middle of the 18th century.  While maintaining the ruling 
family's long tradition of firm control over all important 
matters affecting the State, Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Al Sa'id 
has brought leaders from the tribal system into his Government, 
and much decisionmaking is consensual in accordance with 
longstanding tradition.  Since his accession in 1970, he has 
balanced tribal, regional, and ethnic interests in composing 
the national administration.  The Cabinet of Ministers is 
appointed by and responsible to the Sultan.  The State 
Consultative Council, an advisory body formed in 1980, was 
replaced in 1991 by the Majlis Ash-Shura or Consultative 
Council.  This body represents the Sultan's measured effort to 
broaden participation in government.  The Consultative 
Council's mandate is to review new laws pertaining to economic 
development and social services prior to their promulgation.  
It may summon Ministers to appear before the Majlis to discuss 
the Ministries' policies and plans.

Oman is strategically located at the entrance to the Persian 
Gulf opposite Iran.  Oman is concerned with internal stability 
and security, given the tensions in the region, the proximity 
of Iran and Iraq, and the potential threat of political Islam.  
The security apparatus is pervasive but professional and well 
trained; it is under the direct responsibility of the Ministry 
of Palace Office Affairs.  The police are under the full 
control of the highest levels of government.  Reports of human 
rights abuses by security personnel are rare.  

Almost totally undeveloped when Sultan Qaboos came to power in 
1970, Oman has used its modest oil revenues to make impressive 
economic progress and improve public access to health care, 
education, and social services.  Almost 80 percent of the 
Government's revenue comes from its oil production, but it is 
seeking to diversify Oman's free market economy and stimulate 
private sector activity.  Individuals are free to associate 
with others in pursuing commercial interests, but only Omani 
citizens may own real property.  In 1993 the Government lifted 
restrictions on foreign ownership of Omani stocks and bonds.

There was no essential change in the human rights situation in 
1993.  A number of basic rights continued to be restricted or 
denied, particularly the freedoms of expression, peaceful 
assembly and association, the right of citizens to change their 
government, and worker rights.  Additionally, various forms of 
discrimination against women remain, although women have made 
tangible progress in some areas of public life.  Civil and 
political rights are not formally codified, but in the absence 
of any challenge to stability and order, the authorities 
generally respect the integrity of the person.  Freedom of 
religion is generally respected.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from: 
     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of torture in 1993.  There were a few 
unconfirmed reports that some prisoners had been beaten during 
pretrial detention.  In particular, there were a few instances 
of police beating suspects accused of crimes against women and 
children.  One defendant on trial in the Magistrate Court 
alleged he had been abused but retracted his accusation in 
court.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were no reports of arbitrary arrest in 1993.  The police 
do not require a judicial warrant to make an arrest but must 
obtain judicial concurrence to hold a suspect.  In practice, 
the police generally obtain warrants prior to making an arrest 
unless there is some urgency to apprehending a suspect.  Under 
current procedures, the police have 24 hours after an arrest to 
file charges or submit papers to a magistrate showing the 
grounds for holding the arrestee.  When the police provide the 
courts with documentary justification for an arrest, the 
magistrate may exercise his option to order bail or release the 
detainee into the custody of another or on his own recognizance.
Alternatively, the judge may order that the suspect be held up 
to 14 days.  If the police require more time to gather 
evidence, the judge may grant extensions of the detention 
period.  The police sometimes detain suspects for questioning 
or for protective custody.  Such detentions are usually for 
less than 24 hours.  However, there are indications that 
illegal detentions have occurred when the police did not seek 
judicial concurrence for detention for longer periods. 

The police do not routinely notify a detainee's family or 
sponsor (in the case of foreign nationals) of his or her 
detention; they will often allow a detainee to make a telephone 
call.  In the capital area, the authorities post outside the 
criminal court building a list of names of persons being held 
pending trial.  While there were no reports of incommunicado 
detention in 1993, the police did not always permit attorneys 
and visitors to see detainees.  Judges occasionally intercede 
to ensure access to detainees.  A detainee or persons 
interested in the detainee's case may hire an attorney, but 
there is no explicit right to an attorney, and the Government 
will not pay for legal representation for an indigent person.  

Although Omani law does not require a prompt judicial 
determination of the legality of a detention, the period of 
detention prior to trial is usually short.

The Civil Court publishes a semimonthly schedule assigning a 
"judge in charge" each day during off-duty hours and weekends.  
These magistrates are available to review charges or grounds 
for holding a detainee.  The occasional failure of the police 
to promptly seek judicial approval for detentions has caused 
tension between the civil judges and the police.  There are no 
known political detainees in Oman.

After his accession in 1970, Sultan Qaboos granted amnesty to 
all Omanis who were in exile.  Oman does not practice exile as 
a form of punishment.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

In addition to civilian courts, which treat misdemeanor and  
felony criminal cases, the court system includes Shari'a 
courts, which handle family law, an authority for the 
settlement of commercial disputes under the Ministry of 
Commerce and Industry, and a board to hear labor disputes under 
the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.  The Magistrate Court 
is a criminal court and adjudicates violations of the Criminal 
Code.  A rarely used security court system handles internal 
security cases.  Provincial governors arbitrate minor matters 
in rural areas but do not have the authority to detain persons.


The various judicial systems are subordinate to the Sultan.  In 
most cases they operate independently, but the Sultan may 
intercede in cases of particular interest, especially those 
concerning national security.  

Judicial practice in Oman conforms in most part to Islamic 
prescriptions for a fair trial before experienced and impartial 
judges.  Oman's criminal judges, all Omani, are professionals 
who have trained at legal institutions in various Arab 
countries after completing their bachelor's degrees.  A college 
graduate may become a judge in the civilian courts at age 28 
after 3 years of postgraduate study and 1 to 2 years' 
apprenticeship as a judge trainee.  In the Islamic, or Shari'a, 
court system, a high school graduate may join the ranks of 
Shari'a court judges at age 23 after completing a 5-year course 
at one of Oman's four higher institutes for Islamic studies and 
an apprenticeship.  There were no reports in 1993 that judges 
were transferred or dismissed for political reasons.

Oman's Criminal Code, enacted in 1974, does not explicitly 
state the rights of the accused during the criminal process but 
instead relies heavily on tradition and procedures instituted 
by the Magistrate Court.  There are no written rules for 
admission of evidence during trials or codified procedures for 
entering cases into the criminal system.

In a criminal trial, the accused is presumed to be innocent.  
He may be represented by an attorney, but this is not a legal 
requirement, and the Government will not pay for counsel.  
Defendants have the right and are expected to be present at 
trial; they may present evidence; and they may confront 
witnesses by asking questions put through the judge, who 
generally is the only one who may question witnesses.  The 
police have the responsibility to prosecute cases before the 
Magistrate Court.  Trial is before a single judge for 
misdemeanors and minor felonies and before a panel of three 
judges for serious felonies.  There are no jury trials, and, 
while there is no explicit right to a public trial, court 
proceedings are generally open to the public.  The accused 
person, or his lawyer, may read the police "charge sheet," 
which summarizes the case against him.  There is no procedure 
by which the defense may seek the deletion of elements of the 
charge sheet prior to trial, but the magistrate may delete 
charges during the trial.  The police or Public Prosecutor (a 
senior police officer) may add charges after inspection of the 
file by the defense and during the trial.


During the trial, witnesses may be called by the judge, 
prosecution, or defense.  The prosecution or the defense may 
cross-examine witnesses through (and with the approval of) the 
judge, but there is no procedural right to cross-examination.  
The prosecution and defense may challenge the reliability of 
statements or authenticity of documents in their closing 
statements to the judge.  Judges frequently pronounce a verdict 
and sentence within 1 day after a trial's end.  Jail sentences 
of over 3 months and fines of over $1,300 are subject to appeal 
before a three-judge panel.  However, judgments in serious 
felony cases may not be appealed because they are heard in the 
first instance before the highest judicial panel; there is no 
other court of appeal.  

The Public Prosecutor's office may also appeal a sentence that 
it believes to be too light, although it may not appeal an 
innocent verdict.  The President of the Magistrate Court chairs 
the Court of Appeals, which may opt not to consider an appeal 
it finds ill-grounded.  The Shari'a Court generally allows 
attorneys representing both parties to appear before the judge. 
Judgments may be appealed within 30 days to an appeal court 
within the Shari'a court system, and the appeals are heard by a 
senior judge.

Commercial matters brought before the authority for the 
settlement of commercial disputes are heard before a panel 
consisting of two judges and a member of the Chamber of 
Commerce.  Once a case is filed, the authority may summon the 
parties to appear and often seeks opinions from auditors and 
other experts.  Cases involving fines of over $26,000 (10,000 
Omani rials) may be appealed to a five-member panel and receive 
a fresh hearing.

There was no evidence that the legal system discriminated 
against minorities.  However, in the case of discrimination 
against women, the Shari'a courts adhere to Islamic law 
equating the testimony of one man with that of two women.  

A capital sentence requires the Sultan's ratification.  There 
were no reports of political prisoners in 1993.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The police are not required to have a warrant in order to 
search a private residence, office, or vehicle.  There is a 
widespread belief that the Government eavesdrops on both oral 
and written communications, and Omanis are guarded in both 
areas.  

A 1986 law banned marriage between Omanis and foreigners 
(defined as not including citizens from the Gulf Cooperation 
Council states).  However, many prominent Omanis are married to 
foreigners, and some were married after 1986.  Recently, a new 
marriage law was promulgated which set forth the conditions 
allowing marriages between Omanis and foreigners.  Omanis may 
now obtain permission from the Ministry of Interior if they can 
justify their desire to marry a foreigner and can show the 
financial ability to support the foreign spouse.  

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There is no legal protection of free speech or of a free 
press.  Criticism of the Sultan in any form or medium is 
prohibited by law.  Criticism of individual officials, 
agencies, and their programs is tolerated but rarely receives 
media coverage.  Sessions of the Majlis Ash-Shura, including 
those featuring questioning of ministers by council members, 
receive television and print media coverage.  

The 1984 Press and Publication Law mandates government control 
over all printed matter, including newspapers and magazines.  
The law provides for strict prior censorship of all information 
in printed form in both domestic and imported publications.  
Imported printed material is screened by government censors, 
and Omani publications operate under general, unwritten 
government guidelines on tone and content.  In practice, 
publishers in Oman censor themselves, avoiding anything that 
might be construed as an attack on the Government.  Editors and 
reporters usually give government ministries an opportunity to 
respond before critical stories are printed.  Friendly nations 
are also protected from direct attack.  While the law provides 
for censorship prior to publication, in practice, publications 
often receive pro forma clearance and are distributed and 
reviewed concurrently.  There were no reports of publishers 
having been forced to recall any editions in 1993.  However, 
the Information Ministry issued a decree in July delaying for 1 
day the distribution of newspapers published outside of Oman.

The Government owns two of the four daily newspapers, and 
government subsidies to the remaining dailies and several 
privately owned periodicals provide an effective incentive for 
self-censorship.  Editorials and news coverage largely reflect 
the Government's views, although some latitude is tolerated on 
foreign policy issues.  One Omani newspaper resumed publishing 
letters to the editor in 1993.  

Publications and video and audio cassettes arriving from 
foreign countries are censored for politically, culturally, or 
sexually offensive material and are occasionally banned.  There 
are no formal lists of objectionable material available to the 
public, but the censors' attention focuses primarily on 
articles that directly attack or embarrass the Government.

The Government controls all radio and television broadcasting 
and does not provide for the airing of political debate or 
nongovernment viewpoints.  However, the free market in dish 
antennae has made a wide range of broadcast information 
accessible to the public.

Oman has one institution of higher learning, Sultan Qaboos 
University, established in 1986.  Courses in politics and 
lectures on controversial subjects are prohibited.  Access to 
the campus by persons outside the university community is 
limited but may be obtained for visitors.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of assembly is not guaranteed by law, and public 
gatherings may not take place without government sponsorship.  
However, this requirement is not always enforced in practice, 
and such gatherings have occurred without official sanction.  
If the authorities learn of an unauthorized gathering in time, 
they may order its cancellation.  Associations of any kind must 
register with the Government and submit their by-laws to the 
concerned ministry for approval.  Those that oppose the 
predominant social or political views of the Sultanate are 
prohibited.  However, informal groupings, such as women's and 
expatriate clubs, are allowed to operate.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Oman is an Islamic State.  Most Omanis are Ibadhi or Sunni 
Muslims; there is also a Shi'a minority.  Non-Muslims in the 
Sultanate are prohibited from proselytizing, and conversion to 
Islam is encouraged and publicized.  Over 100 Saudi school-
teachers departed Oman at the end of the school year when the 
Government declined to renew their contracts.  Their departure 
was attributed, in part, to concern that some of the teachers 
were attempting to proselytize for their Wahhabi beliefs.

Non-Muslim foreigners are free to worship at churches and 
temples built on land donated by the Sultan.  There are about 
20 Christian denominations.  A new Catholic church was 
completed in 1993 on a compound in the city of Sohar (the 
fourth such compound of church buildings in the country), and 
plans are under way for a new Protestant church at the same 
location.  Clergymen also conduct services for smaller groups 
of their congregants throughout Oman.  There is no indigenous 
Jewish community, but Jews are not barred from living and 
working in Oman.  Non-Muslim religious publishing is not 
allowed, but non-Muslim texts and literature may be brought in 
to the country for use by non-Muslims.

Members of all religions and sects in Oman are free to maintain 
links with coreligionists in other countries and with the 
supranational hierarchies that exist for some denominations.  
They are also free to undertake religious travel, whether for 
the Muslim hajj, conferences, or consultations with religious 
leaders.  Religion is not a factor in gaining entry into Oman, 
nor is it commonly a basis for job discrimination (see also 
Section 5).

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on travel by Omanis within their 
country, with the exception of a ban on travel to a few 
military areas and a requirement that passes be obtained from 
the police to travel to certain areas.  While male Omanis may 
travel abroad freely, a woman must have authorization from her 
husband, father, or nearest male relative to obtain a 
passport.  

Omanis living abroad before 1970 have returned to Oman in large 
numbers with official encouragement and without legal 
obstacles.  The returnees include the many Omanis who sought 
refuge in Yemen during the 1965-75 Dhofar rebellion.  Thousands 
of ethnic Omanis from east Africa, particularly Tanzania, have 
been resettled and integrated successfully.

Oman does not have a standard policy on refugees and 
traditionally has not harbored stateless or undocumented 
aliens.  Tight control over the entry of foreigners into the 
country has effectively screened out would-be refugees.  The 
rare stateless or undocumented person who arrives in Oman may 
be detained pending a determination that he or she has not 
violated immigration or other laws.  The Government deals with 
persons seeking resettlement on an ad hoc basis.  Oman has 
assisted some non-Arab, Muslim refugees to be resettled in 
third countries.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Oman has no formal democratic political institutions, and its 
citizens do not have the ability peacefully to change their 
leaders or the political system.  Oman has an autocratic system 
in which the Sultan has the final word on all government 
decisions in theory and in practice.  His successor, should a 
change occur in the near future, will probably be determined 
through a consensus of the royal family and leading public 
figures.

There are no political parties, legal opposition groups, or 
elections, and there is no written constitution.  Citizens have 
indirect access to senior officials through the traditional 
practice of petitioning local leaders for redress of 
grievances.  Successful redress depends on the effectiveness of 
personal contact and the status and influence of the 
intermediary.  People have access to the Government at the 
level of provincial governor (wali) and to their district 
representatives in the Majlis Ash-Shura.  Provincial and tribal 
leaders and Majlis members in turn have access to the Sultan, 
his advisers, and ministry officials to present the views of 
their constituents and to accept their petitions.  Citizens may 
also call on ministers and lower level officials.  The Sultan 
makes an annual 3-week tour of the country to listen directly 
to his subjects' problems.  Ministers accompany the Sultan and 
can be asked to respond directly to citizens' complaints.  In 
rural areas, local government reflects the tribal nature of 
Omani society, as traditional elites dominate the tribal and 
appointive town councils.  Final authority outside Muscat is 
with the provincial governors, who are appointed by the Sultan.

The Majlis Ash-Shura, established in 1991, is seen as a modest 
step toward broadening popular participation in the 
Government.  The Sultan chose 59 of its 60 members from among 
three nominees from each district, selected in caucuses held in 
the spring of 1991 in which hundreds of leading citizens in 
each district participated.  In contrast to the practice under 
the predecessor Council, no serving government officials are 
eligible to sit as members of the new Majlis.  In its second 
full year of existence, the Majlis met four times in full 
session, as decreed by the Sultan.  Its five committees met on 
virtually a weekly basis, preparing reports on agenda items for 
the full Council.  The Council's stated purposes are to serve 
as a conduit of information between the people and the 
government ministries and to provide the citizens' perspective, 
sometimes local in scope and sometimes national, on issues that 
previously were the sole preserve of government officials.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no independent organizations to monitor human rights 
violations.  Under the existing restrictions on freedoms of 
speech and association, public criticism of the Government's 
human rights practices would not be permitted.  There were no 
known requests by international human rights organizations to 
visit Oman in 1993.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

There are many forms of discrimination against women in this 
traditional society, even though some women, primarily in the 
capital, have attained positions of authority in government, 
business, and the media.  An estimated 14 percent of all civil 
servants are women.  The occupational areas available to women 
are gradually expanding beyond the traditional field of 
teaching, as secretarial work, medicine, and communications 
have become acceptable professional areas for women over the 
last several years.  However, some observers have noted a 
contraction of opportunities for women as the Government 
becomes more concerned about employment opportunities for men.  
In addition, some employers are concerned that female 
candidates for jobs might leave the work force to marry or have 
children, further diminishing women's opportunities for 
employment or for professional training.  

Schooling for girls is available to the same extent as for boys 
in urban areas and increasingly so in rural areas.  In general, 
the level of education that girls attain remains below that of 
boys; however, the gap appears to be narrowing.  Over 90 
percent of Oman's children reach grade five of primary 
education.  Women constitute roughly half of the 3,000 students 
at Sultan Qaboos University.  Women students constitute the 
majority in the colleges of arts, education, and Islamic 
sciences, and science and business.  Over half of the first 
graduating class of the college of medicine in 1993 were 
women.  Admission of women to faculties in some technical 
fields, however, has become severely restricted in a reflection 
of a reluctance both among employers to hire trained females 
for work in these fields outside the capital area and among 
trained females to accept work in them.

The gains achieved by a small minority of women are largely 
irrelevant to the great majority, who live their lives within 
the confines of the home.  Many females in the rural areas are 
illiterate.  The lack of female education in some outlying 
areas of the country, where poverty is higher, combined with 
communal and tribal customs that dictate a subsidiary role for 
women, makes it difficult for most adult women to participate 
fully in the modern sector.  

By law, women are to receive equal pay and benefits for equal 
work.  The Government, by far the largest employer of women in 
the country, enforces this regulation within its ministries, 
where women serve in professional and senior managerial 
positions.  Women in the private sector earn salaries equal to 
those of their male counterparts.  Women can sometimes have 
difficulty in obtaining land grants or subsidized government 
housing loans because the Government presumes that they will 
reside with a male relative, be it husband or brother.  Legal 
provisions for female employees, including a provision for 
liberal maternity leave, are observed in both the public and 
private sectors.  The Labor Law, in some ways very progressive, 
allows women with infants time off during the day to nurse.

Omani society's interpretation of Islamic precepts on the 
status of women also results in de jure and de facto 
discrimination in a number of areas.  Islamic inheritance laws 
are strictly interpreted.  A woman may receive only one-eighth 
of her husband's property when he dies.  Daughters receive less 
than sons.  In urban, educated families, many women have 
property in their own names; less educated women do not usually 
have that protection.  Because of the relative lack of 
education among older women, many are unaware of their rights.  
Others are reluctant to use the court system out of fear that 
they might forfeit family support by bringing a matter before 
the court.  


There is no evidence that there is a pattern of spouse abuse.  
Because of the closeness of Oman's extended families, battered 
women often seek family intervention to remove and protect them 
from violent domestic situations.  

     Children

The Government has made the health, education, and general 
welfare of children a priority in its budget.  Medical care for 
Omani children is free, and a highly effective child 
immunization program has helped bring about dramatic 
improvements in child health.  Communities in a few towns in 
the interior and in the Dhofar region still practice female 
genital mutilation (circumcision).  The total number of cases 
nationwide is small and declining annually.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

While there are no government restrictions directed against 
Omanis of east African origin, some of these Omanis appear to 
face de facto discrimination in employment opportunities.  Some 
public institutions ostensibly favor members of one or another 
regional, tribal, or religious group in their hiring.  Each 
ethnic or national group has its patrons in certain sectors.  
No group is banned from employment in the public sector.  A 
regionally based group that is favored in positions in its 
native region would not have the same advantages in a different 
area of the country.

     Religious Minorities

Oman's Muslim population includes a small Shi'a minority.  Some 
Shi'as claim they face obstacles in employment and educational 
opportunities.  Although there may be some grounds for these 
concerns, the main obstacle that the Shi'as face is that their 
limited number makes it difficult for them to develop an 
effective patronage group.  Non-Muslim religious publishing is 
not permitted (see Section 2.c.).

     People with Disabilities

The Government has taken some steps to address the public 
access needs of the handicapped, although compliance has been 
voluntary and not mandatory.  There are handicapped parking 
spaces and some ramps for wheelchair access in front of private 
and government office buildings and shopping centers.  In 
October the Government sponsored a handicapped awareness week 
to increase public knowledge of the problems facing the 
handicapped.  The Government has established a few handicapped 
centers for children in Muscat and outlying regions.  There are 
a few voluntary associations in Muscat which help people with 
disabilities, particularly handicapped children.  Handicapped 
people, including the blind, work in government offices.  
Disabled students in wheelchairs successfully attend Sultan 
Qaboos University.  The free medical assistance offered to all  
Omanis includes physical therapy for the handicapped.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association 

The Omani Labor Law does not anticipate or address the 
formation of labor unions.  In practice, organizations 
representing only workers do not exist, and there have been no 
known efforts to form unions.  The Labor Law specifies that "it 
is absolutely forbidden to provoke a strike for any reason."  
Labor unrest has been rare during the two decades Oman has been 
developing a modern economy.  Nevertheless, there were at least 
three reported strikes in 1993.  Workers reportedly struck at 
two garment factories due to labor-management disagreements 
about terminating workers' contracts.  The strikes lasted a few 
days and were settled without resort to police enforcement of 
the law prohibiting strikes.  The factory owners requested the 
assistance of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in 
mediating two of the disputes.  There were no reports that 
workers were forced to return to work.  Oman is a member of the 
Arab Labor Organization and in 1993 decided to join the 
International Labor Organization.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is not provided for in Omani law and is 
not practiced.  However, according to the Labor Law, employers 
of more than 50 workers are required to form a joint body of 
labor and management representatives as a forum for 
communication between the two groups.  However, implementation 
of this provision of the Labor Law appears to be uneven, and it 
is unclear how often the committees that do exist meet.  
Generally, these committees discuss such questions, for 
example, as living conditions in a company housing compound.  
Wages and hours are not under the purview of these committees; 
they are agreed upon by workers and employers in individual 
contracts, within the guidelines delineated by the Ministry of 
Social Affairs and Labor under the law.  The committees are not 
formed across company lines; membership is confined to 
management and labor representatives from each individual 
company.  

The 1973 Labor Law (as amended) defines conditions of 
employment for both Omanis and foreign workers.  The Labor Law 
covers domestic workers and construction workers but does not 
cover temporary workers (those in Oman for less than three 
months).  Foreign workers constitute at least 50 percent of the 
work force--if one includes the traditional Omani occupations 
of fishing, subsistence farming, and herding--and 80 to 90 
percent of the work force in the modern sector.  In August the 
Government promulgated a new regulation effective in March 
1994, aimed at reducing the number of expatriate shopkeepers.  
The regulation prohibits the hiring of additional workers after 
that date.  The initial concerns of the Omani business sponsors 
and the foreign shopkeepers have eased because the Government 
is allowing unlimited hiring of expatriates before the deadline 
and may consider amendments to the final regulation.  

Citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and 
Sri Lanka continue to seek employment in Oman in large numbers, 
generally entering into employment contracts prior to their 
arrival.  Work rules must be approved by the Ministry of Social 
Affairs and Labor and posted conspicuously in the workplace by 
employers of 10 or more workers.  Similarly, any employer with 
50 or more workers must establish a grievance procedure.  
Regardless of the size of the company, any employee, Omani or 
foreign, may file a grievance with the Labor Welfare Board, 
which comprises 6 inspectors who arbitrate disputes.  Lower 
paid workers, such as clerks, mechanics, and salesmen, use the 
Board regularly.  Both plaintiff and defendant may retain and 
be represented by counsel.  Worker representatives may present 
collective grievances, but most cases are filed on behalf of 
individual workers.  

The Board has a docket of about 150 cases per month, about 80 
percent of which involve foreign nationals.  Sessions convene 
daily; procedures are informal and summary in nature.  The 
Board operates impartially and generally gives workers the 
benefit of the doubt in grievance hearings.  Disputes that the 
Board cannot resolve are referred to the Minister of Social 
Affairs and Labor for decision.  Complaints involving 
employer-employee relations should be brought before the 
magistrate court if there is an allegation of criminal 
wrongdoing. 

There are no export processing zones in Oman.


     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although prohibited by law, a form of compulsory labor occurs 
occasionally.  Some employers withhold the letters of release 
that foreign workers require in order to transfer employment 
and residency sponsorship from one employer to another.  
Failing to secure a letter of release and legal transfer to 
another firm in Oman, a foreign national must either continue 
working at his current workplace or become technically 
unemployed.  To avoid that status and the possibility of being 
forced to leave the country, some employees submit to their 
employers' coercion.  

Some employers demand that foreign workers perform overtime or 
remain at a firm for several months against their wishes, in 
some cases without compensation, in exchange for the promise of 
a release letter.  This practice is proscribed by law.  
However, labor inspections in the workplace are rare, and it 
generally falls to the worker to approach the Labor Welfare 
Board to report a violation.  Many foreign workers are not 
aware of their right to a hearing on a labor dispute before the 
Labor Welfare Board.  Workers may engage attorneys to argue 
cases before the Board, and in most cases the Board releases 
the employee immediately from service with back compensation 
for the time worked under compulsion.  The employer faces no 
penal sanction if the Board decides in the worker's favor.  The 
only penalty against an employer is the loss of the worker and 
the compensation payment made to him.  

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the law, children, defined as those under the age of 13, 
are prohibited from working.  This prohibition is effectively 
enforced by the Directorate of Labor under the Ministry of 
Social Affairs and Labor.  Juveniles, defined as those over 13 
years and under 16 years of age, are prohibited from performing 
evening or night work or strenuous labor.  Juveniles are also 
forbidden to work overtime or on weekends or holidays without 
the permission of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.  
There are no export industries in which child labor is used.  
Omani children are sometimes employed as riders in camel races, 
but they generally ride under the auspices of their families.  
Their involvement in the races does not preclude them from 
access to education and medical care.  There were no instances 
in which child camel jockeys suffered serious injury.


     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Using its legal authority to determine the minimum wage and 
make adjustments according to economic circumstances, the 
Government issues minimum wage guidelines for various 
categories of workers.  The current minimum wage for 
nonprofessional workers, set in 1979, is approximately $156 per 
month (60 Omani rials).  Minimum wage guidelines do not cover 
domestic servants, farmers, government employees, or workers in 
small businesses--a considerable segment of the total work 
force.  In some public sector jobs requiring a high degree of 
specialization, foreign workers earn a higher wage than Omani 
counterparts.  However, many foreign workers are in categories 
exempt from the minimum wage statute.  For menial work that is 
subject to the minimum wage, lax enforcement by the Directorate 
of Labor usually permits employers to pay less than the legal 
standard.  The minimum wage is sufficient to provide an Omani 
worker in the capital area with a decent subsistence, with 
something left over to send to family members living in rural 
areas, as is the custom.  The compensation for foreign manual 
laborers and clerks (mainly south Asians) is sufficient to 
cover living expenses and to permit a portion of the income to 
be sent home.  

The private sector workweek is 40 to 45 hours (less for Muslims 
during Ramadan) and includes a rest period from Thursday 
afternoon through Friday, which many shopkeepers and their 
employees opt not to observe.  While the law does not designate 
the number of days in a workweek, it requires at least one 
24-hour rest period per week and mandates overtime pay for 
hours in excess of 48 per week.  In practice, the workweek is 5 
days in the public sector and generally 5 1/2 days in the 
private sector.  Some menial laborers not protected by the 
Labor Law are required by a few employers to work longer hours 
under substandard working conditions.  Supplemental income 
through compensated overtime work is common for lower level 
employees.  

Every worker has the right to 15 days of annual leave during 
the first 3 years of employment and 30 days per year 
thereafter.  Employers provide many foreign nationals, 
including maids, with annual or biennual round-trip tickets to 
their countries of origin.  Employers commonly hold foreign 
workers' passports, as they are legally responsible for the 
workers' actions while they are in Oman.


The Labor Law and regulations cover in detail issues of 
occupational safety and access to medical treatment.  For 
example, all employers must provide first aid facilities, and 
those with over 100 employees in one location must also employ 
a nurse at that location.  Employees covered under the Labor 
Law may recover compensation for industrial injury or illness 
through medical insurance, which the employer must provide.  
The health and safety standard codes are enforced by inspectors 
from the Department of Health and Safety of the Directorate of 
Labor.  They make frequent on-site inspections, as required by 
law. 



[end of document]

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