Special Feature

The Omani Constitution: Five Things to Know

Being at the top of the hierarchy of laws and regulations in Oman, familiarizing yourself with the Basic Statute of the State, i.e. the constitution, is very critical. This document sets the foundational legal framework that defines the principles, structure, and governance of Oman. Without knowledge of the Basic Statute of the State, no lawyer can reasonably interpret laws effectively, contribute to the legal system, uphold rights and freedoms, or engage in legal discussions. This blog post outlines five key points that everybody needs to know about the Basic Statute of the State.

The Basic Statute of the State has been amended twice.

Sultan Qaboos promulgated the Basic Statute of the State in 1996, and in 2011, following the Arab Spring, he promulgated the first-ever amendment to it primarily to strengthen the powers of the Council of Oman. In 2021, Sultan Haitham promulgated a revised version of the Basic Statute of the State with brand new provisions including establishing the position of the crown prince to ensure a smoother power transition and to reduce uncertainty. The Basic Statute of the State of 2021 also introduced new measures for government accountability, such as evaluating ministerial performance and enhancing financial and administrative oversight.

It outlines the guiding principles of state policy.

The Basic Statute of the State encompasses important principles that guide the political, economic, social, cultural, and security aspects of the country. These principles include preserving independence, sovereignty, and security; promoting cooperation and friendly relations with other nations; establishing a Shura system; fostering a just and free economy; ensuring equality, equal opportunities, and social support for citizens; promoting education and cultural development; and prioritising peace, national defence, and citizen security. 

It defines the parameters of the separation of powers.

The Basic Statute of the State provides a framework for the separation of powers in Oman among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government, whereby the Council of Ministers acts as the executive branch of the government, the Council of Oman which is made up of the elected house (Majlis Al-Shura) and an appointed house (Majlis Oman) play the role of the legislative branch of the government while also holding accountable the executive branch of the government, and the Supreme Judicial Council acting as the judicial branch that is totally independent of both the executive and legislative branches.

It also addresses succession of the title to the throne

Prior to the revised amendment by Sultan Haitham in 2021, the Royal Family Council was responsible for selecting a successor to the Sultan when the throne becomes vacant within a three-day timeframe, and if they fail to reach consensus, the person designated by the Sultan in his secret letter would be appointed as a successor. Under the 2021 amendment, the person entitled to the throne will be appointed as the crown prince through a royal order and the Royal Family Council no longer has a say in who the successor is and there is no secret letter to be opened.

… And it also regulates tax

The Basic Statute of the State stipulates that the imposition, amendment, and abolition of public taxes can only be done through laws, and no one is exempted from paying all taxes or part thereof except in the circumstances prescribed in the law. This can be understood to mean that no individual minister, or even the Council of Ministers, can exempt any person from the payment of any tax.

These are merely some of the key provisions that I found worthy of noting in this blog post, and I highly recommend that everyone reads the Basic Statute of the State in full.