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Papua pro-independence activist found dead after apparent drowning

November 1, 2022

Papua pro-independence activist found dead after apparent drowning

Victor Mambor and Nazarudin Latif
Jayapura, Indonesia, and Jakarta

Filep Karma, a prominent Papuan pro-independence activist and longtime former political prisoner of Indonesia, was found dead on a Jayapura beach Tuesday after apparently drowning during a diving trip, police said. He was 63.

Police and Filep’s family said they had no reason to believe that his death resulted from foul play. Filep had been released from an Indonesian prison in 2015 after serving nearly 11 years for raising the Morning Star flag of the Papuan separatist movement.

“I followed the post-mortem process and it was determined that my father died from drowning while diving,” Filep’s daughter, Andrefina Karma, told reporters.

The activist’s body was found early Tuesday at Base-G Beach in North Jayapura district.

Filep had made frequent diving trips to the area recently, his family and friends said. Last year he was found alive on Skouw Beach near the border with Papua New Guinea after a current swept him away during a dive.

Victor Makbon, the Jayapura city police chief, said Filep’s body showed no signs of violence, but he would not comment on a potential cause of death.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Filep Karma. Please don’t speculate,” Victor told BenarNews.

Papua, on the western side of New Guinea island, has been the scene of a low-level separatist insurgency since the mainly Melanesian region was incorporated into Indonesia in a United Nations-administered ballot in the late 1960s.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua – like Indonesia, a former Dutch colony – and annexed the region.

Only about 1,000 people voted in the U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1969, called a sham by locals and activists. The U.N. accepted the vote, essentially endorsing Jakarta’s rule.

Mourners line streets

On Tuesday, thousands of people filled the streets of Kotaraja in Jayapura to mourn for Filep as his body was transported back from the Bhayangkara Police Hospital.

“We have come to pay homage to the deceased and escort him to his home,” Jayapura resident Domi Lani said.

Markus Haluk, executive director of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said Filep’s death was a big loss for the Papuan people.

“Filep Karma was one of those who persevered in the fight for the liberation of Papua. His life was dedicated to the nation and people of Papua,” Haluk said. “He was even willing to live in prison for his fight for Papuan independence.”

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International in Indonesia, called for an investigation into the death “because many activists who have spoken out about Papua have become targets of violence.

“This is especially considering the deceased’s work in defending the human rights of indigenous Papuans,” he told BenarNews.

Taking a different view, Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), said Filep’s family said he had died from drowning and their statement “should be respected.”

Nonviolence advocate

Filep, a former civil servant and son of former Wamena Regent Andreas Karma, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after participating in the raising of the Morning Star flag on Dec. 1, 2004.

He was released in November 2015 after rejecting an offer of clemency from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“If I accepted it, it would mean that I admit guilt. I had expected to be released in 2019 because I refused all sentence cuts,” Filep told reporters at the time while attributing his release to international pressure on the government over treatment of political prisoners.

“They forced me out of prison because I didn’t want to accept clemency,” he said.

Filep was tortured and subjected to other degrading treatment while in prison, including being denied access to proper medical care, according to Amnesty International.

Before the flag incident, Filep led what started as a peaceful rally in Biak in 1998 to demand a referendum on self-determination, but it ended in violence when police used force to disband the protesters.

At least eight Papuans were killed, dozens were injured and three went missing, according to a 1999 investigation by Papuan human rights group Elsham.

“I heard stories that people were asked to board an Indonesian Navy ship. It was not clear where they were taken. Later there was news that mutilated bodies were thrown into the sea,” Filep told local media in 2020.

2) Amnesty International Indonesia is calling for investigation on the death of Filep Karma

A Google translate.
Original Bahasa link

The state needs to investigate the main cause of Filep Karma’s death

Responding to the death of former prisoner of conscience, Filep Karma, who was found dead at Base G Beach, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said:
“Today we mourn the passing of a Papuan human rights defender who has been known to be persistent in voicing justice and peace in Papua. We send our deepest condolences to the family."
“The struggle of the deceased has inspired many people, including young people, to be honest and dare to speak the truth. He was not afraid to face threats. We really lost.”
"On the discovery of the body of the deceased at Base G Beach, Jayapura, today, we urge the ranks of law enforcement and human rights institutions to investigate the cause of the death of the deceased."
“This investigation is important to answer whether there are indications of criminal acts or human rights violations behind the death of the deceased, because many vocal activists in Papua have become targets of violence. Especially considering the actions of the deceased as a role model in defending the human rights of indigenous Papuans.”

On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Filep Karma was found dead at Base G Beach, Jayapura. His body was found with his wetsuit torn apart, especially in parts such as his thighs and legs. His body was then taken to Bhayangkara Hospital, Jayapura.
According to credible information received by Amnesty, diving has been Filep’s regular activity for some time. However, given the pathetic condition of Filep’s body, Amnesty considers that there is a need for an investigation to determine the exact cause of his death.

Filep is noted to have held the status of prisoners of conscience from Amnesty International, which is based in London, United Kingdom. He was given this status after he was detained and sentenced to 15 years in prison for participating in a peaceful activity in the form of a Morning Star flag-raising ceremony on December 1, 2004. In November 2015, he was a breath of free air after spending more than a decade behind bars for his peaceful expression of politics. While in prison, Filep was subjected to torture and other degrading inhumane treatment, including not being given proper medical access.
Most of his life, Filep was a civil servant, following in the footsteps of his father, the former Regent of Wamena, Andreas Karma. Filep is active in expressing his political views peacefully.

Amnesty’s rationale for requesting an investigation refers to an investigation into potential extrajudicial deaths by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2016 (Minnesota Protocol). This protocol states that in the event of an individual or group death in an incident, the family should be involved and well informed about the identification process. In many cases, this is not only for identification purposes, but also increases the likelihood that the family will accept the process, which is an important part of the accountability process for investigating potential extrajudicial deaths.

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