Asian human rights group condemns ‘illegal arrests’ of Papuans

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West Papuan protesters with the Morning Star flag ... call for release of 15 arrested at Mimika, Papua. Image: West Papua Media

The Asian Human Rights Commission has condemned the forced dispersal of peaceful Papuan protesters and their illegal arrest in Kampung Bhintuka-SP13 field in Mimika, Timika district, this week.

“We have been informed that 12 protesters were taken into police custody in Kuala Kencana for further investigation and questioning,” the AHRC said in a statement.

“Prior to the protest, the indigenous Papuans had informed the police of their intention to call for an end to rampant human rights violations in Papua.

“Despite this, the police suddenly forcibly dispersed the demonstration, with the claim that one of the protesters called for a referendum in his speech for indigenous Papuans who suffer from rampant violations conducted by the Indonesian security forces.”

The AHRC said it had also learned that the police had warned and intimidated local religious leaders to avoid political activities and speaking about human rights violations and referendums in churches.

“Over the last year, countless cases of forced dissolution of protesters in Papua and West Papua province have been observed. In all of these cases, the police have not taken the responsibility to examine whether or not the use of excessive force was lawful.”

At the same time, civilians did not have effective complaint mechanisms to challenge the police’s use of excessive force and abuse of power, said the AHRC.

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Protection obligation
“As state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with the promulgation of National Law No. 11 of 2005, the Indonesian government is obliged to ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and assembly is protected, as noted in Article 21 of the Covenant:

“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The government should take the forced dissolution of protests and police excessive use of force seriously, particularly as a National Commission on Human Rights report states that the highest number of human rights violations in Indonesia, including Papua, are conducted by the police, said AHRC.

“Besides the failure of police reform, the government is also failing to evaluate its policy upon Papua and West Papua, despite the protection of indigenous Papuans being a priority of President Joko Widodo’s administration.”

The AHRC noted with concern that the law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system in Papua and West Papua provinces had themselves become part of the problem.

“As a result of the judicial mechanism failing to fulfill the right to justice for indigenous Papuans, Papuan people do not see that their rights are fulfilled and respected in the manner of Indonesian citizens by the government,” said AHRC.

“Rather, the presence of state security forces in the region has led to routine violence and the restriction of their freedom of opinion, assembly and thought.

‘Release all detainees’
“The government of Indonesia should therefore take immediate action to release all detained protesters who took part in peaceful demonstrations, and guarantee that any future peaceful protest is protected by the law and similar violations will not recur.

“The government should further evaluate the presence of the Indonesian security forces in Papua and West Papua province, particularly as the proportion of the forces is not equal to that of the local indigenous Papuans, and far from protection, their presence has only resulted in rampant human rights violations against the Papuans.

“Lastly, the government should be more consistent in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and show its seriousness by enforcing the law based upon fair trial principles.”

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