Update on trials and detentions after racist assaults on Papuan students and subsequent anti-racism riots in West Papua

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Three months have passed since a large number of demonstrations were held across West Papua and other parts of Indonesia to protest against multiple acts of racism against Papuan students in the Javanese cities of Malang and Surabaya. Some of the rallies turned violent and resulted in the destruction of Government offices, public facilities and stores. The riots were followed by a wave of criminalisation and legal prosecutions against Papuans who participated in the protests, but also against human rights defenders and political activists. While most of the protesters and activists are still detained for further police investigation, the first trials have been initiated in early November. Hereinafter is a brief update on the first court trials and detentions.

Trial against alleged perpetrator of hate speech in Surabaya
A trial against the alleged perpetrator of hate speech, Tri Susanti, was launched at the District Court in Surabaya on 27 November 2019. She is accused of spreading false information regarding the involvement of Papuan students in the destruction of a flagpole with the Indonesian flag, which resulted in the racist mob assaults against Papuan students at the Surabaya student dormitory. Susanti has been charged with article 28 (2) Jo. article 45A (2) of Law No. 19 /2016 about the amendment of Law No. 11/2008 on Electronic Information and Transaction, punished with a maximum of four years imprisonment.

The police listed three further suspects in relation to the incidents, namely Syamsul Arif, Andria Ardiansyah as well as Indonesian lawyer and human rights defender Veronica Koman. While Syamsul Arif and Andria Ardiansyah are acused of disseminating false information and hate speech against the Papuan students, Veronica Koman criticised the use of excessive force and negligent behaviour of security force members via Twitter. On 16 August 2019, a mob of nationalist mass organisations and military members gathered in front of the Papuan student dormitory shouting death threats and racist insults like ‘monkey’ and ‘pigs’. A police SWAT team forced their way into the Papuan student dormitory and arrested 43 students instead of dispersing the violent mob in front of the dormitory.

The pressure on Veronica Koman, currently residing in Australia, is growing. The police issued an international warrant for her. Moreover, the new coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, stated in a public interview with CNN Indonesia on 19 November, that he has entered into communication with the Australian Government, demanding the extradition of Veronica Koman. She has been charged with “incitement” under provisions from the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE Law), Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code and the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Law.

Trials in relation to Jayapura riots launched
On 6 November 2019, the trial against the four defendants Dorti Kawena (18 years), Yali Loho (22 years), Pandra Wenda (19 years) and Wilem Walilio in relation to the anti-racism riots in Jayapura on 29 August 2019 was launched at the Jayapura District Court. The students Dorti Kawena, Pandra Wenda and Yali Loho have been charged with article 170 KUHP of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on participation in collective violence against persons or objects. Loho was also charged with article 187 KUHP on causing deliberate arson, flooding or explosion, with a maximum penalty of twelve years imprisonment. Wilem Walilo carried a knife as police officers arrested him. He is accused of violating article 2 of Emergency Law No. 12/1951 on the possession or use of stabbing, striking and slashing weapons.

A second trial against twelve further defendants began on 7 November 2019. They are Yoda Tabuni, Ferius Entamon, Imanuel Hubi, Agustinus Izak Mohi, Elo Huby, Ari Asso, Ruvinus Tambonop, Ronal Wandik, Yusuf Marthen Muai, Johny Weya, Persiapan Kogoya and Mikha Asso. The main charge in this trial is article 170 KUHP on participation in collective violence against persons or objects. On 20 November 2019, the panel of judges decided to stop the criminal proceeding against Imanuel Hubi. The lawyers argued that he was not yet 18 years old. The decision was ruled against the public prosecution’s objection, claiming that dental and other medical examinations indicated that Imanuel Hubi’s biological age was older than 18 years.

Non-procedural transfer of political detainees to East Kalimantan
On 4 October 2019, the police transferred the Papuan activists from Jayapura City to Balikpapan without informing the defendants’ lawyers. The police later stated that the security situation in West Papua would not allow a smooth legal proceeding of the cases. ULMWP member Buchtar Tabuni, the KNPB members Agus Kosay, Fery Gombo, Alexander Gobay, Steven Itlay, Hengki Hilapok and Irwanus Uropmabin were charged with articles 106 and 110 KUHP on treasonous acts and are currently awaiting trial.

In mid-October 2019, a group of lawyers filed a complaint against the transfer of seven detained Papuan activists from Papua to East Kalimantan, because the transfer constitutes a violation of article 85 of the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP). According to Article 85, the transfer of suspects can only be proposed by the Head of District Court or Head of District Attorney and needs to be assessed and approved by the Supreme Court and the Ministry for Law and Human Rights Affairs.

The Head of the Ombudsman Representative Office in Papua, Iwanggin Sabar Olif, assessed the situation and concluded that the Papua Regional Police did not conduct the transfer in accordance with procedural requirements. He further explained that the police should comply with highest standards of transparency and accountability in order to ensure sense of justice for all parties. However, the seven political activists continue to be detained in East Kalimantan, far from media attention, relatives and lawyers.

Non-procedural transfer of suspects in relation to crackdown in Deiyai
The police pressed criminal charges against nine protesters who participated in the anti-racism protest in Waghete, Deiyai Regency, on 23 August 2019. The criminal charges varied from article 160 KUHP on incitement, to article 212 KUHP on assault of state officials carrying out their legitimate duty and Emergency Law No. 12/1955 on the possession or use of sharp weapons. The first court session for six of the suspects was scheduled for 20 November 2019 at the Nabire District Court, but was later postponed and has not been launched yet.

Between 3 and 5 November 2019, the nine suspects Juven Pekei, Melianus Mote, Andreas Douw, Stepanus Goo, Alex Pakage, Steven Pigai, Mikael Bukega, Yos Iyai and Simon Petrus Ukago have been transferred to the Jayapura District Police detention facility. Again, the police did not inform the relatives and lawyers about the transfer. The lawyers understood the transfer as an attempt to prevent the detainees from accessing legal aid. Human rights organisations have protested against the prosecution of the nine protesters. All of them were severely injured by bullets as security force members opened fire at the crowd, causing the death of at least eight protesters. Later the police took nine of the fifty injured protesters into custody, while they were still undergoing medical treatment at the public hospital.

Pre-trial hearing of treason activists again postponed
A group of non-profit lawyers have filed a pre-trial against the Jakarta Regional Police (Polda Metro Jaya) to the South Jakarta District Court in relation to the arrest of Indonesian political activist Surya Anta Ginting (see intro image) and the five Papuan students. The lawyers argue that police officers violated criminal procedures and showed unprofessional behavior. They criticised a variety of breaches, among them conducting the arrests without showing a warrant, obstructing the defendants’ lawyers and intimidating defendant’s family members. The pre-trial hearing was supposed to start on 11 November 2019, but has been postponed twice because representatives of Polda Metro Jaya did not appear in court. The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 2 December 2019.

The absence of the police appears to be part of a strategy to stop the pre-trial before it even begins. According to Indonesian criminal procedure, the possibility of a pre-trial will lapse once all legally required documents have been submitted to the court. Surya Anta Ginting, Charles Kossay, Dano Tabuni, Issay Wenda, Ambrosius Mulait and Ariana Lokbere have been charged with articles 106 and 110 KUHP on treason for raising the morning star flag during a peaceful protest outside the State Palace in Jakarta on 28 August 2019.

Concerns over health conditions of suspects during custody
A team of lawyers have expressed concerns regarding the detention conditions of 13 students who had been detained on 23 September 2019, as a demonstration by Papuan students in Jayapura’s suburb of Waena was cracked down by police forces. According to the lawyers, the detention facility at the Papua Regional Police has only six compartments for sleeping which are currently used by more than 70 detainees. The lack of space forces the detainees to sleep in shifts. The lawyers fear that the lack of sleep over a longer period of time may impact the detainees’ health condition.

The lawyers demanded the public prosecution to transfer Abraham Dote, Yogi Wenda, Jembrif Kogoya, Elimus Bayage, Yandu Kogoya, Maya Kamarigi, Bedira Tabuni, Biko Kogoya, Alpon Meku, Pailes Jigibalon, Tenak Waker and Abua Yikwa to the larger Abepura detention facility. Their case files have been submitted to the court. Another detainee named Assa Asso is still being investigated.

Trial against Papuan activist in Manokwari launched
A trial against Papuan activist Septi Meidodga was launched at the Manokwari District court on 26 November 2019. Septi Meidoga is charged with article 28 (2) Jo. article 45A (2) of Law No. 19 /2016 about the amendment of Law No. 11/2008 on Electronic Information and Transaction for posting content of hate speech in response to the racist assault against the Papuan students on his Facebook account. The violation of the article is punishable with up to four years imprisonment. According to media sources, the court hearing was accompanied by a large number of fully armed police mobile brigade members. The trial will proceed on 3 December 2019.

Update on law enforcement process in relation to anti-racism riots in Timika and Wamena
Four suspects, two in Timika and two in Wamena, have been released from custody because their age was still below 18 years. The minors had been arrested in relation to anti-racism riots in the Papuan towns of Timika and Wamena. While lawyers were able to process the release of the minors in Timika quickly, the two minors in Wamena had to remain in custody for five weeks, due to protracted communications with the Wamena district police.