Ongoing restrictions on freedom of opinion in West Papua - political activists subjected to arbitrary arrest and unfair trial

Law enforcement institutions in West Papua continue to strictly limit the freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, in an attempt to counteract aspirations for political independence. The independent news outlet ‘Suara Papua’ published an article according to which members of the Merauke District Police arbitrarily arrested 14 activists of the Papuan student movement GemapaR (Gerakan Mahasiswa Pemuda dan Rakyat) in the early morning hours of 9 August 2018 in the city of Merauke.

Yason Ngelia, the secretary of GempaR stated that the arrests took place in two different locations where the students intended to commemorate the ‘International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples’. Three male activists named Andi Kahol, Beatus and Ruben as well as one female activist named Ronelly were arrested at Libra at 9.17 am. The arrest of ten other activists was reported at Mangga Dua. The local head of police confirmed that four activists were arrested because they conducted a public oration without having a ‘permit’.



IMG-20180815-WA00011Two days earlier, on 7 August 2018, two members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) named Risal Pahabol and Misi Sowi Pahabol were sentenced at the Jayapura District Court Pengadilan Negeri Klas I A Jayapura to 1 year and five months imprisonment. Both activists were charged with article 170 paragraph (1) of the Indonesian Criminal Code KUHP for allegedly beating up a two men named Parno and Prakoso on 27 February 2018. The public prosecution had demanded a sentence of two years.

The Association of Human Rights Lawyers for Papua ‘PAHAM Papua’ considers the trial as an example of the ongoing injustice and discrimination against pro-independence activists in West Papua. PAHAM stated that there were inconsistencies in the charges as formulated by the public prosecution, according to which the defendants together with their friend Aderson Suhudiap (see image on top left) had collectively beaten two men named Parno and Prakoso. Both victims sustained bruises on the chin, the back and the arms as a result of the beating. The mob attack occurred after Mr Parno and Mr Prakoso had entered the yard in front of the KNPB secretariat in Sentani without asking permission.

The defandants said that they had only kicked a soccer ball at the victims. According to the defendants, the injuries on the victim’s chin, back and arms were not caused by them. PAHAM assessed the sentence of 17 months imprisonment as disproportionate to the offense committed by the defendants.