From our partners at Papuans Behind Bars, with additional reporting from West Papua Media and JPIC
17 November 2014
At the end of October 2014, there were at least 69 political prisoners in
At least 46 members of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) were arrested in Jayapura and Merauke this month for participating in peaceful demonstrations. The demonstrators were urging the Indonesian government to release two French journalists who faced trial for breaching immigration rules.
In likely reference to the Social Organisations Law (RUU Organisasi Kemasyarakatan, RUU Ormas), police claimed during the mass arrests that the KNPB is an illegal organisation as it is not registered with the Department of National Unity and Politics (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, Kesbangpol) and affiliated symbols or attributes are also therefore illegal. Last June, police conducted a mass arrest in Boven Digoel under the same auspices. Indonesian human rights group Imparsial challenged the shutting down of peaceful demonstrations in Jayapura and Merauke, stating that freedom of expression in Papua is the worst in Indonesia, particularly when it comes to the treatment of KNPB rallies. The criminalisation of peaceful demonstrations, often under the auspices of the Ormas Law, restricts democratic space and stigmatises Papuan civil society groups.
On 27 October, two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine
Bourrat, were released after 11 weeks in detention. However, Lanny Jaya
tribal leader Areki Wanimbo, who was arrested alongside the pair, still
faces charges of conspiracy to commit treason. Lawyers from the Democracy Alliance for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) have stated that the legal process for Wanimbo has been fraught with irregularities and that his case has been handled unprofessionally. Wanimbo faces charges different to those he was first accused of, and unsuitable evidence was used to build a case against him. The decision to impose a two-and-a-half-month prison sentence on the two journalists instead of acquitting them was a harsh blow for the campaign to open access to Papua. As noted by Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono, foreign journalists face a complex system of applying for visas to Papua, which requires the approval of 18 different government agencies – a process that severely restricts journalistic access. It remains to be seen whether Indonesian president Joko Widodo will make good on his promise of opening access to Papua.
In our July update we raised concerns regarding an incident which has come to be known as ‘Bloody Yotefa,’ that took place on 2 July at Yotefa market in Abepura. Early reports stated that three Papuan men were killed following a police raid on a gambling den at Yotefa market. At least four Papuan men from the Central Highlands were tortured and 40 people arrested according to a Report from the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Desk (Keadilan, Perdamaian dan Keutuhan Ciptaan, KPKC) of the Evangelical Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Injili, GKI). Following the raid on the market, police arrested and handed over two Papuans, including a 14-year-old boy, to a mob of non-indigenous Papuans who publicly tortured and beat them while police stood by, later continuing the job themselves at Bhayangkara Police Hospital. While police beatings, torture and killings of indigenous Papuans are not new phenomena, the public involvement of non-indigenous mobs to achieve this is a particular low point.
Bloody Yotefa challenges the government perspective that torture and killings are carried out by a rogue police in isolated cells, showing instead that these arbitrary violations are becoming social events in which the non-indigenous community can participate. This dynamic
perpetuates a culture of fear and domination in which indigenous Papuans are exposed to constant risk of public violence, even in traditionally ‘safe’ spaces such as hospitals and university campuses. Police discrimination and profiling of indigenous Papuans, especially those who come from the Central Highlands, makes them still more vulnerable to public torture, violence and arbitrary arrest.
You can read the full update here:
Papuans Behind Bars team