GENEVA (15 December 2021) – Indonesia must immediately stop threats, intimidation and reprisals against human rights defender Veronica Koman and her family, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said today.
Koman, a human and minority rights lawyer, is in self-imposed exile in Australia. However, she still faces several charges in Indonesia for alleged incitement, spreading fake news, displaying race-based hatred and disseminating information aimed at inflicting ethnic hatred. The charges were believed to have been brought against her in retaliation to her work advocating for human rights in West Papua.
Koman was among five other human rights defenders mentioned in the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 annual report on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. She has faced threats, harassment and intimidation for her reporting on West Papua and Papua provinces, for providing reports to UN human rights mechanisms, and for attending UN meetings, for which she was questioned by security forces.
“This case highlights how human rights defenders are often targeted for their cooperation with the United Nations, which is fundamental to their peaceful and legitimate work in the protection and promotion of human rights,” Lawlor said.
Acts of intimidation and threats against Koman’s family have also been reported this year, most recently on 7 November, when unidentified individuals threw two small explosive boxes inside the garage of her parents’ home in West Jakarta.
The boxes reportedly contained threatening messages, including one stating “we will scorch the earth of wherever you hide and of your protectors.” Another box addressed to Koman, delivered to the home of a family member, contained a dead chicken and a message saying that anyone hiding her “will end up like this.”
“I am extremely concerned at the use of threats, intimidation and acts of reprisal against Veronica Koman and her family, which seek to undermine the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the legitimate work of human rights lawyers,” Lawlor said.
“I urge the Indonesian government to drop the charges against her and investigate the threats and acts of intimidation in a prompt an impartial manner and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Lawlor said. “Impunity for violations against human rights defenders has a chilling effect on civil society as a whole.”
The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor the case and is in contact with the Indonesian authorities on the matter.
Mary Lawlor’s call was endorsed by: Prof. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
Ms. Mary Lawlor is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Ms. Lawlor is currently Associate Professor of Business and Human Rights at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) at Trinity College Dublin Business School. In 2001 she founded Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to focus on human rights defenders at risk. As Executive Director between 2001 and 2016, Ms. Lawlor represented Front Line Defenders and played a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors in 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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