Joint security forces arrest six activists and disperse worship ceremony at KNPB office in Timika

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Human rights defenders and  local media outlets have reported another repressive act against the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), a political movement that promotes the right to political self-determination for West Papua through a referendum. The organisation facilitates worships and peaceful demonstrations through its Indonesian-wide network and is among the Papuan civil society  groups which face a high level of criminalization and political persecution by Indonesian law enforcement institutions. On 31 December 2018, joint security forces raided the KNPB office in Timika and arrested the six KNPB activists Mr. Ruben Kogoya, Ms. Johanna Songgonau, Mr. Elius Wenda, Mr. Edo Dogopia, dan Mr. Vincent Gobay and local KNPB chairman Yanto Awerkion (30 years). Mr. Yanto Awerkion, Mr. Ruben Kogoya, and Ms. Johanna Songgonau were beaten during the arrest. Ms. Songgonau’s shirt was severely torn such that it exposed her breasts. A large number of participants had come to the office and attended the new year worship ceremony. At 8.10 pm, approximately 200 joint security force members armed with machine guns circled the KNPB office and forcefully dispersed the peaceful assembly.

Wall KNBP TimikaThe security forces took off banners, seized KNPB symbols (see intro image), documents and searched the office as well as the worship participants. Police officers allegedly broke some windows on the top floor and destroyed a concrete monument in front of the office carrying the symbol of the ‘Mambruk’ Bird (see image on the right)– a symbol of cultural identity in West Papua that is also used by the independence movement. The police chief of Mimika District Police, Mr Agung Marlianto, reportedly attached an Indonesian flag on the office front and declared that the KNPB office will be closed down in 2019.