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AI/Papua: Freedom of Expression Suppressed as Third Peaceful Protester Dies

May 10, 2013

May 9, 2013

Amnesty International

photo: Possession of the Morning Star flags, a symbol of Papuan
independence, is prohibited under a 2007 government regulation in
Indonesia. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The death of an activist after she participated in a peaceful protest
in Papua, Indonesia, is a tragic reminder of the precarious state of
freedom of expression and assembly in the region, Amnesty
International said.

Salomina Kalaibin died in hospital on 6 May due to gunshot wounds she
received six days earlier at a peaceful commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the handover of Papua to the Indonesian government by
the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority.

Two other people were killed and at least seven other protesters were
wounded during the event. At least 22 individuals are currently
detained for having participated in the peaceful activities. Many
allege the security forces were responsible for the violence.

“The death of the three political activists is a stark reminder that
in Papua, speaking out comes with a high price,” said Isabelle
Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“It is imperative that authorities in Indonesia urgently set up a
comprehensive and independent investigation into allegations of
unnecessary use of firearms by security forces during the protests,
make the results available to the public, and bring those responsible
to justice.”

“Failure to take action will send a message that the security forces
in Papua operate above the law.”

On 30 April, police and soldiers opened fire on a group of people who
had peacefully gathered in Aimas District, in the city of Sorong, to
organize commemorative activities the following day. Two men, Abner
Malagawak and Thomas Blesia, were killed on the spot while Salomina
Kalaibin, a woman, died six days later due to gunshot wounds to her
stomach and shoulder.

Two others also suffered gunshot wounds during the incident. Police
claim the shootings were done in self-defence.

At least six people have since been arrested and charged with
“rebellion” for possession of the Morning Star flags, a symbol of
Papuan independence which is prohibited under a 2007 government

On 1 May 2013 police opened fire into the air to forcibly disperse
hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered at a market complex
in Kwamki Baru, Timika and allegedly shot five people. At least 10
protesters were taken to Mimika District police station and charged
with “rebellion”.

That same day, at least one person was shot in the city of Biak when
security forces opened fire at a group of at least 50 people who had
gathered to raise the Morning Star flag.

Article 6 of Indonesia’s Government Regulation No. 77/2007 prohibits
the display of separatist logos or flags and Articles 106 and 110 of
the Criminal Code prescribe heavy punishment for “rebellion”.

“The fact that Indonesian law is being used to criminalize freedom
of expression, coupled with a situation in which abuses by security
forces are rarely brought to civilian courts is a dangerous situation
for peaceful political activists and human rights defenders in
Papua,” said Arradon.

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