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Indonesia told to end attacks on freedom of expression in Papua

May 8, 2015

Indonesia told to end attacks on freedom of expression in Papua

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Fri, May 08 2015, 11:03 AM – Amnesty International is calling on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to take immediate steps to end the Indonesian security forces’ increasing attacks on freedom of expression in the country’s Papuan region.

On the eve of the president’s visit to Papua, at least 264 political activists there have been arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Indonesian police over the last week, as part of a systematic clampdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said in statement on Friday.

Political activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and the People’s Regional Parliament (PRD) had planned peaceful protests around the 52nd anniversary of the handover of Papua to the Indonesian government by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on May 1, 1963.

In the West Papua province, the Manokwari district police arrested 12 KNPB activists on April 30 while they were distributing flyers about the planned demonstration in Manokwari city.

The following day, the police arrested more than 200 protesters who were on their way to a demonstration near the office of the Manokwari Papua Customary Council. Security forces, both police and military, also used excessive force to disperse a peaceful demonstration in Kaimana city on May 1 and arrested two KNPB activists.

In the Papua province, police arrested at least 15 KNPB and one PRD activist in Merauke on May 1 to prevent them from organizing a demonstration. Meanwhile, in Jayapura, the local district police arrested 30 KNPB activists on the same day as they were walking to the Papua Parliament’s office, the site of a planned demonstration. According to the police, the arrests took place as these groups did not have permission to undertake the protest.

While most activists have been released without charge, these arbitrary arrests highlight the on-going repressive environment faced by political activists in the Papuan region.

Amnesty International said it recognizes that the Indonesian government has the duty and the right to maintain public order on its territory. However, it added that the government must ensure that any restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are no more stringent than are permitted under international human rights law, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Indonesia is a party.

Furthermore, Amnesty pointed out, under Indonesian law groups organizing public protests are only required to inform the police, but these regulations are consistently ignored by the security forces in Papua who continue to unnecessarily restrict various form of protest against the state by students, political groups and non-governmental human rights organizations. In some cases, Amnesty said, security forces have used excessive force against peaceful protesters. (her)

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