The government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. While the government increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, its efforts to criminally prosecute forced labor crimes remained weak. Oman’s 2008 anti-trafficking law criminalized labor and sex trafficking and prescribed punishments of three to seven years imprisonment and a fine between 5,000 and 100,000 Omani rial ($12,990-$259,740) for offenses involving adult victims and seven to 15 years imprisonment and a minimum fine of 10,000 Omani rial ($25,970) for offenses involving child victims. These punishments were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Ministry of Manpower (MoM) circular No.2/2006 prohibited employers from withholding migrant workers’ passports but did not specify penalties for noncompliance.
The government reported investigating nine alleged human trafficking cases—six sex trafficking and three for forced labor—as compared to only one sex trafficking case and one forced labor case investigated during the previous reporting period. It prosecuted three cases involving 12 defendants, all of whom reportedly faced trial; in 2016, the government prosecuted nine defendants whose verdicts were inconclusive at the close of the year. The government achieved 12 trafficking convictions—a marked increase from zero the previous two years. Officials sentenced three defendants to ten years imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 Omani rial ($25,970) for sex trafficking; the government convicted the remaining nine of labor trafficking, but all nine awaited sentencing at the end of the reporting period. In late 2017, the public prosecutor’s office created a specialized unit to handle all trafficking cases in order to expedite their processing and ensure the defendants were criminally prosecuted and sufficiently punished as traffickers; the government did not report whether this division led the prosecution of any cases. Although it made a notable improvement during the year, the government continued to treat some forced labor cases as labor law violations rather than criminal offenses. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. The MoM received roughly 4,500 cases of passport retention during the reporting year, in comparison to 332 cases in 2016; it did not investigate these cases as potential labor trafficking crimes but rather settled via dispute mediation.
During the reporting period, the government provided venues, catering, and in-kind support totaling approximately 25,000 Omani rial ($64,940) for numerous anti-trafficking training initiatives facilitated by an international organization and led by recognized trafficking experts, effectively reaching more than 420 government officials. The public prosecutor’s office provided analogous support totaling 5,000 Omani rial ($12,990) to offset the training costs supported by a foreign donor pertaining to trafficking prosecutions; this targeted training reached 51 prosecutors across three separate sessions during the reporting period. Justice officials added three courses to its curriculum related to trafficking and conducted one training during the year involving 25 judges and prosecutorial personnel, which cost roughly 1,000 Omani rial ($2,600). The Royal Oman Police continued to train all incoming cadets on the legal framework for trafficking and related crimes, victim identification, and mechanisms for transferring potential cases to court.