Indonesia: Investigate Deaths of Papuan Protesters

REPORT from Human Rights WatchPublished on 07 Sep 2019 —View Original

Allow Access to UN, Foreign Journalists, Rights Monitors

(Sydney) – Indonesian authorities should impartially investigate the deaths of at least 10 Papuans during recent unrest in the easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, Human Rights Watch said today. Restrictions on access to Papua for foreign journalists and rights monitors and a partial internet shutdown have hindered reporting on the situation.

The Indonesian government should immediately allow unfettered access to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to travel to Papua to investigate the situation.

After video circulated of Indonesian militias racially abusing indigenous Papuan students outside their dormitory in Surabaya on August 17, 2019, Papuans demonstrated in at least 30 cities across Indonesia, including Jakarta. Rioting Papuans burned down the local parliament building in Manokwari and prisons in Sorong, West Papua province, and in Jayapura, Papua province.

“Indonesian police have a duty to avoid the use of force in response to Papuans who take their grievances to the streets,” said Elaine Pearson. “Any wrongful use of force needs to be investigated and those responsible held to account.”

The media have reported that Indonesian authorities have detained at least seven people in connection with raising the pro-Papuan independence Morning Star flag in Jakarta and Manokwari. Another 60 have been reportedly detained for allegedly damaging property during unrest in Papua. Those held for the peaceful expression of their political views should be released and any charges dropped, Human Rights Watch said. The rest of those detained should be promptly brought before a judge, charged with a recognizable offense, and have access to lawyers and family members.

Human Rights Watch urged prompt and impartial investigations into the following alleged incidents:

  • In Deiyai on August 28, video footage shows uniformed police shooting live ammunition into a crowd of Papuan protesters inside the Deiyai Regency office. The Secretariat of Peace and Justice, a Catholic human rights organization located in Paniai, Papua, reported that eight Papuans and one Indonesian soldier were killed and 39 Papuans were injured. The Deiyai regent, Ateng Edowai, said that “people in civilian clothes” were responsible for the shooting. No independent or foreign journalists have access to Deiyai to investigate the incident.
  • In Jayapura on September 1, video footage shows a mob of Indonesians, police, and soldiers armed with machetes surrounding a Papuan student dorm in the Abepura neighborhood. Indonesian militias began to attack the dormitory at about 2 a.m. Suara Papua, a local news website, reported that one Papuan student was stabbed to death and more than 20 were injured, of whom 13 were hospitalized.
  • A video taken in Fakfak, West Papua on August 20, shows a Papuan man who had been disemboweled and others were reportedly wounded.

On August 22, the Indonesian government shut down the internet in Papua and West Papua. On September 4, internet services were partially restored. Several places including Deiyai are still partially blocked, meaning it is not possible to share videos or photographs.

Local media reported that Indonesian militias in Jayapura attacked Papuans who had occupied the Papuan governor’s office and replaced the Indonesian flag with the Morning Star. The militia Paguyuban Nusantara(“Archipelago Community”) is a new alliance formed from several Indonesian ethnic groups, mostly from Java Island, who had settled in Papua and West Papua since the late 1970s under the government-sponsored transmigration program.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has condemned racist statements against Papuans and authorities have suspended four army officers for their racist remarks in Surabaya pending investigations. Authorities have charged one militia leader in Surabaya for spreading hate speech.

Since the demonstrations began, the government has granted limited access to several foreign journalists to visit specific Papuan cities, but they have been monitored and unable to travel beyond the cities where they were given entry permits. The Indonesian government has restricted access to foreign journalists since the 1960s because of suspicion of the motives of foreign nationals in a region racked by corruption, environmental degradation, public dissatisfaction with Jakarta, and a small pro-independence insurgency.

On August 31, police arrested six activists, including five Papuan students in Jakarta and Surya Anta Ginting, the coordinator of the Front Rakyat Indonesia on West Papua, a solidarity group among Indonesian activists. They were charged with treason for flying the Morning Star flag outside the State Palace.

On September 3, police arrested an activist, Sayang Mandabayan, at the Manokwari airport for traveling with 1,500 small Morning Star flags. She has been detained at the Manokwari police station.

On September 4, Surabaya police issued an arrest warrant for Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer with “spreading fake news and provoking unrest.” Koman has shared videos on her Twitter account of the recent unrest.

On September 4, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed concern about the violence in Papua and urged the Indonesian government “to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua on their aspirations and concerns.” Despite President Jokowi’s invitation to the UN human rights chief to visit Papua in February 2018, government officials have continued to delay the visit.

Concerned governments should call on the Indonesian government to:

  • Promptly and impartially investigate unrest-related deaths and injuries and appropriately prosecute those responsible for wrongdoing.
  • Immediately restore full access to the internet, which is vital for emergency communications and basic information in times of crisis.
  • Lift restrictions on access for foreign journalists and rights monitors in line with previous statements by the Indonesian president.
  • Allow the UN human rights office immediate unfettered access to Papua.
  • Drop charges and release all those detained for peaceful acts of free expression including Sayang Mandabayan. Drop the case against Veronica Koman.

Police should cease using unnecessary or excessive force against the protesters, Human Rights Watch said. While some protester action may warrant police use of force, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that all security forces shall, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means before resorting to force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, the authorities must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Law enforcement officials should not use firearms against people except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

“Governments concerned about the unrest and violence in Papua should press the Indonesian government to take prompt action to end the bloodshed, protect the rights of all, and allow full and open reporting of the situation,” Pearson said.Human Rights Watch:© Copyright, Human Rights Watch – 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

SOurce HERE

Australians rally in support of Papua protesters as Human Rights Watch decries Indonesian violence

A rally supporting the Papuan protesters has been held in Sydney’s Indonesian heartland.

Rallies are being held across Australia on Saturday in solidarity with the mass protests underway in Papua.

Indonesia’s eastern Papua provinces have been marred by weeks of protests, sparked by anger over racism and fresh calls for self-rule, countered by a military crackdown.

Under the tagline of “Papua merdeka“, or “independent Papua”, rallies are being held in most Australian capital cities throughout Saturday.

A rally was held in Sydney's Kingsford on Saturday morning.

A rally was held in Sydney’s Kingsford on Saturday morning.Supplied

Dozens of people gathered in Sydney’s Indonesian heartland of Kingsford to condemn a recent spike in “violence and discrimination” against Papuans in Indonesia and call for self-determination.

The group also slammed the media and internet blackouts imposed by the Indonesian government on the area.

The rally in Sydney on Saturday.

The rally in Sydney on Saturday.Supplied

Bridget Harilaou, an activist from the Anti-Colonial Asian Alliance, voiced concern about the “ongoing occupation” of the provinces by Indonesia.

“The Indonesian government refuses to allow a referendum for independence, [it] continues to have transmigration programs moving other Indonesians into the area and there’s a constant military and police presence,” they said.

A few dozen people gathered in Sydney's Kingsford on Saturday.

A few dozen people gathered in Sydney’s Kingsford on Saturday.Supplied

The activist is Indonesian-Australian and said, “most of the organisers for this action are Indonesian diaspora”.

“We thought it was really important to show there are Indonesians who support independence and freedom for West Papua and who condemn the violence from the Indonesian government.”

“We’re trying to make a statement to the Indonesian community here … as well as the Australian government.”

Australians have rallied in support of the Papuan protesters.

Australians have rallied in support of the Papuan protesters.Supplied

The protests come as advocacy groups around the world ratchet up pressure on Indonesia.

On Saturday, Human Rights Watch said Indonesia must “impartially investigate” the deaths of Papuans killed during the recent unrest.

Officially, five civilians and a soldier have been killed in the chaos, but activists say the death toll is higher.READ MORE

A recent protest in Jakarta and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

UN human rights chief ‘disturbed’ by escalating violence in Papua

Australia director at Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson said, “Indonesian police have a duty to avoid the use of force in response to Papuans who take their grievances to the streets”.

“Any wrongful use of force needs to be investigated and those responsible held to account,” she said in a statement. 

“Governments concerned about the unrest and violence in Papua should press the Indonesian government to take prompt action to end the bloodshed, protect the rights of all, and allow full and open reporting of the situation.”

A protester march turns violent in Jayapura, Papua.

A protester march turns violent in Jayapura, Papua.AAP

On Friday, the exiled leader of Papua’s independence movement again called for “a free and democratic referendum” backed by the UN.

“We need the UN to intervene,” Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, told AFP from Britain.READ MORE

Papuan activists scuffle with police and soldiers during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The history behind West Papua’s resurgent political dissent

“What’s happening right now is worrying. It’s the next East Timor,” Mr Wenda, a former rebel granted asylum in Britain after a 2002 escape from jail in Indonesia where he faced murder and arson charges linked to an attack on a police post, said.

“We don’t want to see a massacre and then the world reacts … We won’t win a war with the Indonesian military.”

“Our weapon is a peaceful one – a referendum.”

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 August 2019.

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 August 2019.EPA

A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades in Papua, a former Dutch colony after Jakarta took over the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A vote to stay within the archipelago was widely viewed as rigged.

This week, Indonesia repeated its position that a new independence vote was a non-starter, and pointed its finger at Mr Wenda for stoking unrest.

A firestorm of riots and protests broke across the Southeast Asian archipelago nation after the arrest last month of dozens of Papuan students – who were also pelted with racial abuse – in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya.

Additional reporting: AFP

Human Rights Watch calls for Indonesia to investigate Papua killings

Human Rights Watch is demanding Indonesia urgently investigate the deaths of Papuans killed during protests across the country.

Police blockade the protest in Jayapura. Photo: Whens Tebay
Police blockade the protest in Jayapura. Photo: Whens Tebay

At least 10 people have been killed in the worst unrest to hit Papua in years, as thousands have taken part in anti-racism rallies.

Human Rights Watch’s Australia Director, Elaine Pearson, says the deaths need to be investigated, including a bloody clash in Deiyai regency.

Indonesian police said at least five people and a soldier were killed in Deiyai when security forces were attacked during a riot on August 28.

A former Deiyai resident, John Pakage, said he and hundreds of others have fled the regency.

“The situation in Deiyai until now [is] tense. And then many military Indonesians come to West Papua, also Deiyai and many violence.”

John Pakage said eight civilians were killed in Deiyai when soldiers opened fire on what he says was a peaceful demonstration. The claims are consistent with how the incident has been described by rights groups and activists.

A government-imposed internet blackout across Papua which has only been gradually lifted has made verifying information difficult.

A police spokesperson, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, was quoted by local media as saying 14 people have been named suspects in connection with the Deiyai riot for crimes including unlawfully possessing firearms, opposing authorities and incitement.

News outlet Suara Papua reported on Thursday the West Papuan suspects are still undergoing treatment at a local hospital after they were injured in the clash.

Source: RNZ

NZ ‘deeply concerned’ by West Papua violence

New Zealand’s government says it’s “deeply concerned” by recent violence in Indonesia’s West Papua during protests which have rocked the country.

At least 10 people have been killed in separate clashes between Papuan demonstrators, security forces and vigilante mobs.

Dozens of protestors and activists have been arrested by Indonesian police, which have deployed thousands of extra personnel to the region.

New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry said it was closely monitoring the security situation and has raised concerns with Indonesian authorities.

It said it has encouraged Indonesia to facilitate a visit to Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reiterating a call from the Pacific Islands Forum.

“We have urged Indonesia to respect and protect the human rights of all its citizens,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

“New Zealand recognises Papua as part of Indonesia’s sovereign territory. We continue to encourage Indonesia to promote peaceful social and economic development in Papua.”

Source: RNZ


UN rights chief unable to secure West Papua visit

The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet says her office has so far been unable to secure a trip to Indonesia’s West Papua.

In January, Indonesia agreed in principle to allow a visit by the rights chief, but this has not yet eventuated, despite international backing for it.

Amid violent unrest which has rocked Papua since mid-August, Ms Bachelet last week urged Jakarta to enter a dialogue with Papuans.

Her statement on Wednesday didn’t directly address a visit by her office to the region.

But in previously unreported comments made after a public talk in Geneva, Ms Bachelet said it hadn’t moved forward.

“We have been working with the authorities, but we haven’t been able to progress it. But we will continue to talk to them because they promised to my predecessor the visit to West Papua but afterward we try to make it work and it hasn’t worked yet but I hope it will work.”

“The [Indonesian government] have told me that they’re looking forward to it,” she added.

West Papuans involved in deadly clash named

Meanwhile, Indonesian police have reportedly named more than a dozen West Papuans as suspects in a deadly clash in the central highlands.

Authorities said at least five people and a soldier were killed when security forces were attacked during a riot in Deiyai regency on 28 August.

But rights groups, activists and witnesses said eight civilians were shot dead by soldiers during a peaceful demonstration.

A police spokesperson, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, said 14 people have been named suspects in connection with the riot in Deiyai.

He told local media the people are suspected of unlawfully possessing firearms, opposing authorities and incitement.

News outlet Suara Papua reported the Papuan suspects are still undergoing treatment at a local hospital after they were injured in the clash.

Source: RNZ