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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id rules Oman with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id. The sultan is a direct descendant of the l9th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The various Omani courts are subordinate to the Sultan and subject to his influence in practice. All judges are appointed by the Sultan and serve at his pleasure. The Sultan acts as a court of final appeal and intercedes in cases of particular interest, such as those concerning national security. However, there have been no reported instances in which the Sultan has overturned a decision of the magistrate courts or the commercial courts.

All courts are administered by the Ministry of Justice. The judiciary comprises the magistrate courts, which adjudicate misdemeanors and criminal matters; the Shari'a (Islamic law) courts, which adjudicate personal status cases such as divorce and inheritance; and the commercial courts. The Labor Welfare Board attempts to mediate disputes between employers and employees. If a settlement cannot be reached, the parties may seek recourse in the appropriate courts. The Rent Dispute Committee has been abolished; the courts of general jurisdiction may hear cases involving rent disputes.

The magistrate court system was established by royal decree in 1984 to take over all criminal cases from the Shari'a courts; it is not independent, and its president reports directly to the Sultan. Regional courts of first instance handle misdemeanor cases, which are heard by individual judges. All felonies are adjudicated at the Central Magistrate Court in Muscat by a panel made up of the President of the Magistrate Court and two judges. All rulings of the felony panel are final except for those in which the defendant is sentenced to death. The death penalty rarely is used, except in serious felonies such as murder, and the Sultan must approve death sentences. There is no provision for amputation.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Omani Government generally respected its citizens' human rights in some areas in 2001; however, its record was poor in other areas, particularly with respect to citizens' right to criticize the Government. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Police do not always follow procedures regarding arrest and detention, and in some instances police handling of arrest and detention constituted incommunicado detention. There are no publicly available codified procedures or legal provisions regarding conduct of a public trial. Due process was denied to persons tried in state security courts. Citizens must obtain permission from the Government to marry foreigners. The Government interferes with citizens' privacy rights. The Government restricted freedom of expression and association. The Government must approve the establishment of all associations, and human rights organizations are prohibited. The Government does not ensure full rights for women. The Government severely restricts workers rights. Foreign workers at times are placed in situations amounting to forced labor, and abuse of foreign domestic servants is a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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