Amnesty International has called on the Omani authorities to rein in their security forces after at least two people were reported to have been killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters over the weekend.
The call came as demonstrators began another protest in the northern city of Sohar today calling for more jobs, an end to corruption and for government officials to be sacked. Demonstrations also took place in the southern town of Salalah.
Student Abdullah al-Ghamalasi was killed yesterday when police opened fire with rubber bullets on about 2,000 protesters gathered at a roundabout outside a police station in Sohar. Another man is said to have died while undergoing surgery for injuries sustained during the same protest.
Oman’s Minister of Health is reported to have acknowledged that one person had been killed by a rubber bullet but denied reports of other killings. Unconfirmed press reports have suggested that as many as six people may have been killed in Sohar. The police are reported to have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators some of whom threw stones at the police. Later on Sunday, masked men were said to have set fire to cars and buildings.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:
"The Omani security forces appear to have used excessive force against protestors, resulting in at least one death.
"We urge the government to order an immediate independent investigation to determine whether the force used by the police was excessive, as it appears was the case, and to ensure accountability.
“The government must respect the right of people to engage in peaceful protest and ensure that they can do so without fear or threat. To that end, the authorities must ensure that the security forces comply fully with international standards on the use of force and firearms.”
At least a dozen people were injured and around 40 people were reported to have been arrested following the protests in Sohar. They were released the same day on the orders of Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id.
Sultan Qaboos has also ordered the creation of 50,000 jobs and 150 Omani riyals-a-month (approximately US$390) in benefits for the unemployed in response to protesters’ demands. He also said he would consider granting some legislative powers to the elected Shura council which currently acts as an advisory body to the sultanate.
However, the protesters have said that they will not move from the area in Sohar until all of their 30 demands are met. These demands include the dismissal of the current government and action against senior officials and former officials, including the current Inspector General of police.