Jakarta. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has demanded an end to what it calls the Indonesian security forces’ attacks on freedom of the expression in Papua, following the arrest and torture last month of two students for allegedly painting pro-independence graffiti.
“Recent attacks highlight the repressive environment faced by political activists and journalists in the area and the ongoing impunity for human rights violations by security forces there,” London-based Amnesty said in a statement on Saturday.
It cited the arrests of Robert Yelemaken, 16, and Oni Wea, a 21-year-old university student, for painting graffiti that included calls for an independence referendum for Papua. (Amnesty itself makes clear that it takes no position on the matter of Papuan independence.)
Robert and Oni, said to be activists for the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, which espouses greater autonomy for the region, were arrested in Manokwari district on Aug. 8 “and allegedly tortured or ill-treated” by police, Amnesty said.
“They were hit on the head and face with a rifle butt and kicked by the police. Both were forced to roll in a drain filled with dirty water and to drink paint. They were then taken to the Manokwari district police station where the beatings allegedly continued,” the organization said.
Robert was released 10 days later, but Oni remains in custody and has been charged with incitement under the Criminal Code, for which he could face up to six years in prison if convicted.
“The attacks on freedom of expression must end, and all prisoners of conscience — those, like university student Oni Wea, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression — must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Amnesty said.
The group also cited the arrests on Aug. 6 of French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat for alleged immigration violations.
The were reportedly making a documentary on the separatist movement, and remain in detention.
“Their arrests highlight the ongoing restrictions faced by international journalists, human rights organizations and other observers to access the provinces of Papua and West Papua,” Amnesty said.
It added that it had “long called for free and unimpeded access to the Papuan region for international journalists and human rights organizations and welcomed pledges by President-elect Joko Widodo in June 2014 that he would open up the region if elected.”