Papuan human rights defender and director of the ‘Pauan Central Highlands Network for the Enforcement of Law and Human Rights’ (JAPH-HAM), Mr. Theo Hesegem, has been accused of using human rights advocacy to gain popularity. The chief of staff of the 1702 Jayawijaya military command in Wamena called Theo Hesegem on 8 July 2017 by phone after Mr. Hesegem had given a press conference and informed Indonesian Military Commander, Army General Gatot Nurmantyo by sms about the case, in order to advocate justice and seek remedies for Niko Hisage. Mr Hisage had been tortured by three military officers on 22 June 2017, due to a dispute over the sale of a cow to one of the military members. (More information on the case available here)
During the phone call the high ranking military officer repeatedly asked Theo Hesegem why he had reported the case to local media. He further requested that Mr Hesegem should stop speaking about the torture case in public because the military commander was already trying to mediate between Niko Hisage’s family and the perpetrators. Theo Hesegem understood the phone call as an attempt to intimidate him and discredit his work. The Asian Human Rights Commission has launched a urgent action letter campaign to support Theo Hesegem.
Human rights defenders in West Papua live in constant fear of being subjected to coercive measures, aiming to obstruct their work, including surveillance, criminalization, treason-stigmatization and threats to physical integrity. This restrictive environment for human rights defenders in West Papua is fueled by widespread impunity and the lack of adequate government policies protecting human rights defenders. Perpetrators responsible for acts of intimidation and threats are not held accountable by the respective government agencies.