Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Unlawful Killings Point to Continued Human Rights Abuses in Papua: Amnesty

Nur Yasmin
June 8, 2020 | 10:30 pm
Activists protest human rights violations against indigenous Papuans on International Human Rights Day outside the US Embassy in Jakarta on Dec. 10, 2019. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Activists protest human rights violations against indigenous Papuans on International Human Rights Day outside the US Embassy in Jakarta on Dec. 10, 2019. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Jakarta. Amnesty International Indonesia has called out the Indonesian government for failing to address human rights abuses in Papua, including dozens of extra-judicial killings in the country's easternmost region, in a report titled "Civil and Political Rights' Violations in Papua and West Papua" released on Monday.

Amnesty said the people of Papua and West Papua have become the victims of massive human rights violations done by state actors.

The report questioned Indonesia's fulfillment of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

As a signatory to the resolution, Indonesia is obligated to protect the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty will also submit the report to the UN Human Rights Committee.


The report stated indigenous Papuans have been experiencing "extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes under international law and human rights violations" by police officers.

Papuans have not been able to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and association. Many of them have been arrested as political prisoners, not given a fair trial and forced to withstand inhumane conditions inside prisons.

The report also highlighted government restrictions on media coverage of human rights violations against Papuans. 

"Overacting security forces are still operating in Papua. People are silenced. They enjoy no freedom of expression and have to suffer racist abuses. The same has also been experienced by Papuans in other provinces," Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said on Monday. 

According to the organization, by June 8 there were at least 44 Papuans in Indonesian prisons facing treason and rebellion charges. 

Amnesty said all of them were arrested after taking part in peaceful protests and are not guilty of any crime.

The report mentioned at least 26 suspected unlawful killings of civilians in Papua by security forces between March 2018 and May 2020.

Human rights activists who have lent their voice and support to the Papuans' cause have also experienced intimidation, Usman said.

From April to June 2020, Amnesty noted 114 hacking and digital intimidation against human rights activists who have shown sympathy to the Papuans. 

"Recently, discrimination and intimidation against human rights activists advocating for Papuan issues have increased, also digitally. Last week, during a Jakarta District Court virtual session on internet throttling, a Zoom meeting was hacked with inappropriate pictures and noises," he said.

Amnesty's Zoom press briefing on Friday was also disrupted when unidentified accounts intruded on the video meeting by making noises. The speakers also received strings of simultaneous phone calls from international numbers.

"How could three speakers in the same discussion receive non-stop international calls and repetitive disruptions? We think this is a form of intimidation toward the fight for human rights in Papua and must be investigated," Usman said.

Racist Incidents in Surabaya and Malang 

The report also stated there are still prisoners of conscience – another term for political prisoners – from incidents of racism against Papuans in August and September 2019 in Surabaya and Malang.

Amnesty said at least 96 people had been arrested for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in connection with the racist incidents in the two cities in East Java. 

"Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all the remaining Prisoners of Conscience behind bars, who are now at heightened risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic," the report stated.

The issue was included in a human rights violations report that the organization had submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in late May.

In the incident, a group of people attacked a dorm where Papuan students were living in, accusing them of throwing an Indonesian national flag into a gutter nearby.

The racist incident sparked protests in cities all over the country, including in Papua. In some demonstrations, Papuan activists waved the Morning Star flag – a symbol of Papuan independence from Indonesia.

The police arrested six activists in Jakarta – five of them indigenous Papuans – during the series of protests. 

They were charged with treason for allegedly organizing a peaceful protest in front of the State Palace on Aug. 28 as a response to the earlier racist attacks against Papuans.

On Sept. 2 in Manokwari, West Papua, police arrested and charged an activist for treason after carrying 1,500 mini Morning Star Flags, allegedly to be used in a protest later that day. 

On Sept. 18, in Sorong, West Papua, the police also arrested four Papuan activists for treason, accusing them of producing and distributing a pamphlet with a Morning Star Flag image and for chanting "Referendum [for] Independent Papua" during a protest in the city.

Usman regretted the police's decision to charge all the activists with treason when all they did were peacefully expressing their freedom of speech.

"The police should have facilitated the peaceful protests. If demonstrators violate the rules or become anarchic, the security forces' responses should be proportional and non-violent," Usman said.

Papuan Lives Matter

In light of the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, the United States, Usman pointed out that discrimination and intimidation also happen regularly to indigenous Papuans in Indonesia.

"The murder of George Floyd by a police officer should raise the alarm for the Indonesian government who until today still fails to protect and ensure the rights of Papuan people. The security officers are immune to the law whenever they do something violent, and they have never been taken to court," Usman said.

On June 3, the Jakarta District Court ruled that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the Minister of Communication and Information Technology Johnny G. Plate had violated the law for blocking the internet and throttling internet bandwidth in Papua and West Papua during protests against human rights violations in the region in August and September 2019.

The lawsuit was filed by a number of non-government organizations, including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SafeNet).

Usman said now is the time for the government to reflect on the court decision and ensure no human rights violations would happen again in Papua or against Papuans.

"The ruling is a rare victory for Papuans who were subjected to an arbitrary and unlawful internet blackout – only the latest in a litany of abuses they face at the hands of the Indonesian authorities," Usman said.

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