AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: End criminalization of peaceful political activities in Maluku

Public statement

AI Index: ASA 21/017/2010
19 August 2010

INDONESIA: End criminalization of peaceful political activities in Maluku

The decision to charge at least 22 political activists in Maluku for “rebellion” once again highlights the failure of the Indonesian government to distinguish between armed groups and peaceful political activists. Amnesty International urges the Indonesian government to release immediately and unconditionally the activists, who are all men, if they have been arrested solely for their peaceful political activities.

On 13 August 2010 the Maluku police announced that they were planning to charge the political activists with “rebellion” against the state (makar) under Articles 106 and 110 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KUHP, Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana). The police pointed to evidence which included possession of dozens of “Benang Raja” flags, a symbol of the South Maluku independence; Republic of South Maluku (RMS) membership cards; and photos and stickers of the independence flag.

According to local sources, the activists were planning to use the visit of Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to Maluku in early August as an opportunity to disseminate materials related to alleged human rights violations there, including posters calling for the release of political prisoners in Maluku arrested for their peaceful political activism.

Amnesty International is also concerned about their safety in custody, as detained political activists are known to have been tortured and ill-treated in Maluku. The authorities must ensure that the men are allowed access to legal counsel of their choosing, their families and any medical treatment that they may require.


The Republic of South Maluku (RMS), an armed pro-independence movement, officially ended in Maluku with the execution of its leader by the Indonesian authorities in 1966. However, some villagers continue to raise the “Benang Raja” flag there as a peaceful political act of protest against the central government.

Amnesty International has documented dozens of arrests in past years of political activists who have peacefully called for independence, particularly in areas where there has been a history of pro-independence movements such as Maluku and Papua.

Amnesty International takes no position whatsoever on the political status of any province of Indonesia, including calls for independence. However the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate referendums, independence or other political solutions.

The rights to free expression, opinion and peaceful assembly are guaranteed under the Indonesian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party. While the Indonesian government has the duty and the right to protect life and to maintain public order within its jurisdiction, it must ensure that any restrictions to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are no more than is permitted under international human rights law.

In June 2007, 22 political activists in Maluku province were arrested for unfurling the “Benang Raja” flag while performing a traditional “Cakalele” dance in front of the President. After their performance, the police, particularly the anti-terrorist unit Detachment-88, detained all 22 of the dancers. They were tortured or otherwise ill-treated, charged with “rebellion” under Articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesia Criminal Code and are serving sentences of between seven and 20 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience. A twenty-third dancer, also a prisoner of conscience, was arrested in June 2008 and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in March 2009.


Public Document
For more information please contact Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or

Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW,
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News from Papua: Filep Karma refuses offer of remission; Census time: huge increase in population of Papua

Articles from Bintang Papua, 17 August 2010
Abridged in translation

While prisoners everywhere will await anxiously for the moment when they
may receive remission of their sentence, this is not the case with a
prisoner charged with ‘makar’ (treason).

Filep Karma (who is serving a 15-year sentence) has once again rejected
the government’s offer of a remission. He made his decision known in a
two-page letter addressed to the minister for law and human rights,
Patrialis Akhar.

At a place in the prison where he was able to make contact with
journalists, he said that he rejects all offers of remission.

‘I consider that I am not guilty of anything. The mere expression of my
democratic rights is not allowed. Yet, in Jakarta, when someone sticks a
photo of the president on the backside of a buffalo, this is not
considered to be a crime.’

He said he would also refuse any offer of clemency.

In the opening paragraph of his letter copies of which are addressed to
26 other addressees including the Indonesian president and Amnesty
International, he said:

‘I, the undersigned, declare in full consciousness of what I am doing
and free from any pressure from any quarter, that I have rejected the
efforts by the government since 2005 to grant me remission by the
department of law and human rights and I shall do so into the
foreseeable future for as long as I continue to have the status of
political prisoner conferred by the Republic of Indonesia.’

He went on to say that this was being done as an act of protect against
all manner of actions by the authoritiesof the Republic of Indonesia in
violation of the Pancasila philosophy and the 1945 Constitution.

As is known, the national day 17 August is always an occasion for the
authorities to grant remission, and on this occasion, it included the
release of fourteen convicted prisoners being held in Abepura Prison
while 115 prisoners were granted remissions of between two and six months.

The remissions were granted in a ceremony led by the law and human
rights minister and the deputy governor of Papua, Alex Hasegam when the
remission letter was given to each of the prisoners in question.

On the same occasion, one prisoner, Filep Karma, who was neatly
dressed, managed to come forward holding a morning star flag in his
hand. But this had nothing to do with being granted remission; it was to
move a sack of garbage to a truck.


Huge increase in population of Papua

The population of the province of Papua has now reached 2,851,999, which
represents a far greater percentage increase than the national increase
of 1.49 percent.

[The report in BPapua refers throughout to the ‘province of Papua’,
presumably meaning this this does not include what is now the province
of West Papua.]

This was announced by the head of the Statistics Bureau of the province
of Papua who said that this was still a provisional announcement
because there would be further announcements about the composition of
the population including ethnicity, migration as well as the number of
births and deaths.

Another official of the bureau said that the huge increase was partly
due to having started from a low base, so the percentage increase
appears to be very high. In addition, he said, the census in 2000 was
far from being complete because the political situation at the time was
very tense, with on-going demands for a referendum and independence for
Papua, with the result that some districts were unable to carry out the

He said that the number of males was in excess of the number of females,
with a recorded difference of 13 percent.

The place with the greatest densisty is Jayapura with 278 persons per
square kilometre followed by Biak with 58 persons per square kilometre..
Mamberamo has the lowest density of all, with only one person per square

[Comment: We can only await the promise of more detailed information
about the ethnic composition of the population, bearing in mind the
reported regular arrival of in-migrants from other parts of Indonesia.
It could very well be that the point has been reached at which Papuans
now account for a minority of the inhabitants, a trend that can only
increase with the recent launch of the MIFEE project in Merauke. TAPOL]

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