Intimidation of Papuan students in Surabaya – female student activist sexually assaulted by police officer

A government official and joint security forces have again intimidated Papuan students in the city of Surabaya, East Java Province. A similar case had already occurred six days earlier on 1 July 2018 in the Javanese city Malang. On 6 July 2018, more than 100 security force officers, some of them fully equipped with automatic rifles, and the head of Tambaksari sub-district, Mr. Ridwan Mubarun, came to the Papuan student dormitory. The security forces were allegedly accompanied by members of nationalist mass movements. Mr. Ridwan Mubarun initiated the police operation to disperse the peaceful assembly, which the students organised to commemorate the 20. anniversary of the ‘Biak Massacre’. As the students and a lawyer from the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute (LBH Surabaya) requested the warrant, a heated argument followed. Police officers forcefully dragged several students away from the crowd. According to information from LBH Surabaya, a female student was sexually harassed during the police operation.

Case Narrative

In the afternoon of 6 July 2018, a group of Papuan students gathered inside the Papuan student dormitory in Kalasan Road 10, Sub-district Tambaksari. Members of the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) organized a discussion for the commemoration of the 20. Anniversary of the Biak massacre. The students wanted to watch a documentary about the massacre and discuss the incident with friends and activists.

At 07.00 pm, more than 100 security force personnel consisting of officers from the police unit for the enforcement of public order (SATPOL PP), district police and military members gathered in front of the dormitory. The security forces had allegedly been called by the head of Tambaksari sub-district, Mr Ridwan Mubarun, who intended to disperse the peaceful student assembly. Being concerned about the large number of security forces in front of the dormitory, one of the students called Mohamad Soleh, a lawyer of Surabaya Legal Aid Institute (LBH Surabaya), and asked him to support the students at the dormitory.  

Suara PapuaAround 20.30 pm, a group of Papuan students accompanied by the LBH lawyer, and Anindya Joediono, a law student of Narotama University and activist of the National Student Front (FMN), went outside to meet with Mr. Mubarun. The head of Tambaksari sub-district stated that he and the police officers had come to the dormitory to disperse the assembly because he suspected the students to discuss about the political independence of West Papua. The government official allegedly intended to check the students’ identities, arguing that the dispersal was a law enforcement operation. When the LBH lawyer and Anindya Joediono asked Mr. Mubarun to show the warrant, the police officers did not show any document authorising the dispersal. A heated discussion between the head of sub-district and the students began (see image above).

The situation escalated when a police officer rudely shouted at Anindya Joediono. Thereupon, police officers tried to forcefully drag Anindya’s friend Isabella and LBH lawyer Mohamad Soleh away from the students. One police officer indecently touched Anindya’s breasts and pulled her shirt until one of the buttons was ripped off. Meanwhile, several police officers attempted to drag Anindya to a police vehicle. Several police officers began to check on the Papuan students' motorcycles alleging them of having stolen the bikes.

At 11.00 pm the security forces left the Papuan student dormitory without entering the building. The students fear that racist sentiments and negative media publicity could trigger horizontal conflicts between Papuans and non-Papuans, since similar incidents have frequently occurred in multiple cities of Indonesia. Anindya Joediono stated in an interview with the  Papuan media outlet ‘Suara Papua’ that the AMP had allegedly received racist comments through social media calling the Papuan students ‘monyets’, ‘negros’, ‘niggers’ after the incident.

After the incident, LBH Surabaya published a press release in which the human rights organisation emphasized that freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of association are guaranteed under international law and national law through article 28 E (3) of the Indonesian Constitution of 1945, and article 24 (1) of  Law 39/ 1999 on human rights.  LBH Surabaya called on the President of Indonesia, the head of the East Jawa Regional Police (POLDA Jawa Timur) and the municipal government of Surabaya to ensure that no discriminative measures against Papuan students will occur again and that the previously mentioned rights will be respected and protected. Moreover, police officers who were involved in offenses against students shall be prosecuted in accordance with the law.