INDONESIA: Freedom of expression and Assembly in West Papua

Date: June 10, 2014
Document id: ALRC-COS-26-17-2014

HRC section: Item 3, Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of expression and on Peaceful Assembly and Association
Speaker: Mr. Budi Tjahjono

A Joint Oral Statement to the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), Franciscans International (FI), International Coalition for Papua (ICP), Tapol, Vivat International, West Papua Netzwerk (WPN)

INDONESIA: Freedom of expression and Assembly in West Papua

Thank you Mr. President,

We, the International Coalition for Papua would like to draw the Council’s attention to the deterioration of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Papua, Indonesia. The area remains restricted to international human rights observers, foreign journalists and researchers. In 2013, the number of political arrests more than doubled, the number of reported cases of torture and ill treatment of detainees quadrupled, and the number of cases involving the denial of access to lawyers and unfair trials doubled during the previous year.[1]

The rise is due to an increase in widespread and coordinated peaceful political activity in West Papua, which has triggered a repressive police response, representing a consistent and severe attack on the right to peaceful assembly. In 2013, there were at least 19 cases of arrests aimed at preventing, dispersing or punishing peaceful demonstrations. The data shows a rise in the frequency of mass arrests.[2]

The possession of the Papuan Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan identity, was increasingly used as a reason for arrest and intimidation. Recent data also indicates that charges under Emergency Law 12/1951, which punishes the possession of sharp weapons, firearms and ammunition, are sometimes added to charges of treason to secure convictions against indigenous political activists in the absence of any credible evidence.[3] [4]

On 2 April 2014, two university students, Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda were arrested and tortured by police while calling for the release of political prisoners and the opening of democratic space in Papua during a peaceful demonstration. They were beaten, electrocuted, trampled on and denied adequate medical treatment.[5] Police also taunted the indigenous demonstrators with racist abuse, calling them “monkeys.”[6]

At the end of May 2014, there were at least 79 political prisoners in Papuan jails[7]. In 2013 there were at least 42 reported cases of intimidation of detainees.[8] The treatment of political detainees in Papua remains of serious concern, including denial of food[9], negligence of the duty to provide healthcare,[10] and intimidation of the families of detainees, including a reported assassination attempt.[11]

Local journalists confront immediate risks of arrest, threats and intimidation. According to the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, AJI) in Jayapura, in 2013, there were 20 cases of violence and intimidation against journalists in Papua, an increase from 12 reported cases in 2012.[12]

We recommend that the Indonesian government should:

Finalise the amendment of the Indonesian Criminal Code so that it complies with all human rights treaties, particularly criminalization and prohibition of torture and the annulment of Articles 106 and 110.
Review its policing policies in Papua and its training of security forces personnel to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the right not to be tortured and ill-treated are fully respected.
Order the unconditional release of West Papuan political prisoners as part of a comprehensive policy to end the punishment of free expression.
Fulfil its commitment to receive a visit from the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and facilitate free access to Papua.

Thank you.

Chapter 26 of Webcast:
[1] See data provided by the Papuans Behind Bars ( ,

[2] The number of mass arrests (arrests involving 10 or more individuals) in Papua rose from eight in 2012 to nine in 2013.

[3] For example, in the Depapre case in February 2013, the Biak 1 May case in May 2013, and the Timika treason case in 2012.

[4] Papuans commonly carry penknives, machetes and other sharp instruments for farming, fishing, and other daily tasks and this current application of the emergency law discriminates against indigenous Papuans and is an abuse of its intended purpose.

[5] See

[6] See 00

[7] See

[8] usually involving them being forced to sign fabricated police investigation reports, and/or those which presented the signature of a lawyer who had not actually been present during investigation.

[9] Denial of food was reported in the cases of Edison Kendi and Yan Piet Maniamboi, as well as Pithein Manggaprouw, arrested 19 October 2013.

[10] Inadequate healthcare or denied access to healthcare was reported in the cases of Ferdinand Pakage, Jefrai Murib and Filep Karma.

[11] In July 2013, human rights workers in Jayapura reported an alleged assassination attempt on the family of political prisoner Matan Klembiap.

[12] See

About ALRC

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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