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Monday, November 17, 2008

Human Rights Commission in Oman

MUSCAT- Oman has for the first time set up a human rights commission as the United States removed the Sultanate’s name from a list of countries that it said had not done enough to check human-trafficking.

The newly-established ‘National Commission for Human Rights’ will be an autonomous body attached to the State Council, regarded as the upper chamber of Oman’s parliament, according to a decree issued by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

The commission, to be headquartered in Muscat, will have its own constitution and “be independent in practicing its duties,” the decree said.

Meanwhile, Oman has hailed a decision by the US president to drop its name from a State Department report, published earlier this year, that listed the Gulf state for the second consecutive year among countries across the world that did not make any effort to curb trafficking in humans.

The new move is a “step in the right direction,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The Sultanate had strongly rejected the US State Department report soon after it was released in June. It said the faulty report “doesn’t tell the truth” and demonstrated the “short sightedness of the other party,” also adding that it did not reflect the real situation experienced by Omani citizens and expatriates living in the country.

And in a rare gesture, the Foreign Ministry handed an official protest note to the US Ambassador to Oman rejecting the “misleading information and incorrect allegations” contained in the report.

The report also generated widespread public anger in Oman with both the government and society leaders vehemently rejecting it as biased and unfounded, while the Majlis Ash’shura, the lower house, protested and condemned the State Department’s findings.

On Saturday, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte received a written message from Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry, welcoming the president’s decision. It was delivered to Negroponte by Oman’s Ambassador in Washington Haneenah bint Sultan Al Mughaireyah.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said the new US stance was a “step in the right direction” and met the remarks and objections raised by the Sultanate to the report.He pledged the country would continue its “constructive cooperation” with the international community to combat human-trafficking and “shoulder its responsibilities within the framework of international law and UN protocol on prevention, crackdown and punishment of human-trafficking, which was ratified by the Sultanate in 2005.”
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