Muscat: Amid Omani efforts to curb a growing drug menace in the country that affects mostly the youth, Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed has approved amendments to the Combating Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs law.

Qaboos issued on Monday a royal decree (number 34/2015) approving the amendments in the drug act.

The amendments introduce stiffer penalties, including the death penalty and life sentence, for drug peddlers and smugglers.

The previous law did include the death penalty but specified it for quantities over 50kg. The amendment doesn’t specify the quantity.

Article 43 of the amended law stipulates the death penalty or life in prison for drug dealers as well as a fine of more than 25,000 rials (Dh238,519). It also stipulates the death penalty for anyone who has a connection with international drug trafficking gangs.

Anyone who produces, imports or exports drugs will face either the death penalty or a life sentence, according to the article 43.

Law enforcement officers and government employees working in the anti-narcotic forces found to be involved in drug peddling and smuggling will face a life sentence.

Those who use minors to smuggle and peddle drugs will face the death penalty.

The amendments were recommended by the elected Consultative Council, the Majlis Al Shura, and State Council.

Article 56 stipulates that anyone who assaults drug enforcement staff will be jailed for a minimum of ten years and will be fined no less than 3,000 rials. It also stipulates the life sentence in cases of assault resulting in permanent disability. The death penalty will apply in case the assault results in death.

If a suspect refuses to provide the necessary samples for the detection of the narcotics, he or she will be jailed for six months at least and face a fine of 100 rials.

The first Omani Narcotic Law was issued by royal decree number 17/99 in 1999.

Observers believe that introducing such punishment will lead to a significant drop in drug-related crimes in Oman.

Muscat is working hard to tackle the drug menace by conducting intensive campaigns nationwide targeting the youth, the largest segment of drug users. The number of drug addicts stood at 5,000 in 2014, compared to 4,000 in 2013, according to the ministry’s figures.

Oman set up more than 12 rehabilitation centres in all governorates due to the increase in drug abuse in the country.

A source in the Royal Oman Police told Gulf News that the number of drug cases has been rising by more than ten per cent every year. The source added that applying the death penalty will definitely reduce drug cases in Oman.

An official at the Royal Oman Police (ROP), earlier told Gulf News that Oman’s geography, with its long coastline and proximity to some drug exporting countries, poses a major challenge in combatting drug trafficking.

He added that most of the drug traffickers who were arrested in Oman are expatriates. According to ROP figures, heroin is the number one drug seized by the ROP.

An official at the National Committee for Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances told Gulf News that there were death verdicts against only five drug smugglers and peddlers in the past 15 years.

Implementation of the death penalty was halted in Oman since 2004.