Oman says rights report on maids ‘unrealistic’

Government-backed human rights commission says information obtained from absconding maids violated the law

Gulf News

Muscat: Oman’s government-backed National Human Rights Commission has said the methodology used by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in compiling its report which criticised the treatment of maids in the country raises several questions.

“The National Human Rights Commission would appreciate Human Rights Watch (HRW) team’s efforts if they provide the commission with details of cases in which they alleged violations against housemaids in the country,” it said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

It said HRW has ignored the commission’s role in the settlement of complaints in accordance with procedure 1503 set by the World Human Rights Council, which defines the role of national human rights institutions, it said.

The HRW has ignored the 1503 procedure under which the complainant has to exhaust all legal channels for addressing the grievances available in that particular country. Omani law guarantees the worker’s right to file a lawsuit and get legal advice without paying any fees, it said.

The commission affirmed that it is keen to meet with HRW officials and discuss with them the conditions of the housemaids in the country. In fact, it had already met with the organisation’s top officials in June.

The [HRW] team tried to highlight the domestic workers’ conditions without employing a proper methodology, it said, adding that the team obtained information from domestic workers who had absconded from their sponsors.

The absconding maids have violated Omani Labour Law, which gives them the right to sue the sponsor in case of any violation of his or her rights.

“The report is unrealistic and is not sufficient to call it a phenomenon as they interviewed only 59 maids, who constitute only 0.0005 per cent of at least 130,000 maids in the country during the period covered by the report,” the commission further said.

The commission believes that the rights of all individuals, whether they are Omanis or non-Omanis, are important and must be protected.

The HRW report is biased due to the defect in the approach used, the commission reiterated.

The selection of the title ‘Sold me’ by HRW for its report belies the serious nature of reports prepared by the organisations concerned with the protection of human rights, the commission said.

Furthermore, slavery is outlawed by domestic legislation, the government and Omani people, said the commission.

The report clearly overlooked the fact that some maids had trampled the employer’s rights and breached the contract agreements. An Omani has to pay not less than 800 rials at least to hire a housemaid from outside the country, the commission explained.

It also referred to the Expat Insider Report 2015 that ranked Oman 13th globally for its acceptance of expatriates and the ease of living provided to them.

There are 144,700 housemaids in Oman now, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

Omanis spend at least 27 million rials every month as salaries for the housemaids, according to the centre.

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