Muscat: Making a complaint to the Oman Human Rights Commission has been simplified by the addition of a WhatsApp message service.
An announcement by the commission stated: “Citizens and residents can communicate via WhatsApp with the Monitoring and Complaints Department of the Oman Human Rights Commission and submit their reports to the phone number 72221966.” This new ability to communicate directly with the commission will make it easier for people to send their complaints.
Ahmed Al Rashdi, Director of the Monitoring and Complaints Department at OHRC told Times of Oman why this service was created: “We added the new service to facilitate receiving people’s reports and complaints and also to be in line with technological developments in the country.”
“After receiving a report, we determine how well the content matches with the purpose of the commission and ask the complainant for the case documents, then we carry out a preliminary study of the complaint. After seeking the opinion of the Department of Legal Affairs, we follow-up with the competent authorities, receive their responses, express an opinion, then inform the owner of the case of its status,” Al Rashdi added, explaining the procedure of work with regard to complaints.
According to the commission’s annual report, the number of cases received by the Oman Human Rights Commission increased from 19 in 2017 to 50 in 2018. During that period, most problems were related to the rights of residency, work, personal freedom, and social security.
The increase in the number of complaints indicates that more people know who to contact when they face a situation where they need help.
Al Rashdi said: “The increase of the number of complaints is the result of a number of educational programmes implemented by OHRC to raise awareness about the national mechanisms through which our rights are guaranteed by law.”
He added: “Since the beginning of the commission’s work, the processes for receiving complaints have been developed through a series of updates, starting from taking the reports to the commission’s office in person. Then we designated a mailbox for complaints, then a telephone hot number and an electronic reporting service on our website. Now we’ve applied a WhatsApp number.
In 2018, the commission received 30 reports related to economic and cultural rights, compared to 10 in the year before. The commission defines these economic and cultural rights as the rights related to adequate housing and healthcare, family care, social security, employment, job placement, transportation, and education.
The commission also received 20 complaints regarding civil and political rights in 2018 compared to six the year before.
Civil and political rights are defined as the rights of residence and citizenship, equality, tolerance and the freedom to practice religious rites, personal freedom, litigation and the right to participate in political and public life as well as the freedom of thought and expression, the right to gather and create associations, and the right to information. They also protect people from torture and sedition, as well as forced disappearance.
The Omani Commission for Human Rights monitors violations of rights and fundamental freedoms within the Sultanate, whether for citizens, residents or others staying in the country.