Human rights defenders have documented nine further political arrests in West Papua throughout the past three weeks. Four indigenous Papuans were arrested in Timika Mimika Regency because the police suspected them of supplying members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB). In Jayapura, police officers arrested five students for launching a peaceful protest at the Jayapura University for Science and Technology (USTJ). The students expressed their support for a UN High Commissioner visit for Human Rights to West Papua.
The arrest of five students in Jayapura
On 22 March 2021, around 1.00 pm, students gathered inside the USTJ University Campus to hold a peaceful protest. The students brought banners and a morning star flag, a symbol of Papuan cultural identity and emblem of the West Papuan independence movement (see photo, source: Jubi). The protesters held orations and demanded the Indonesian Government to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua.
Approximately 15 minutes later, police forces entered the USTJ campus with police trucks, dispersed the peaceful assembly and arrested five protesters named Ernesto Matuan, Malvin Yobe, Apedo Doo, Devio Tekege, and Dese Dumupa. The five students were detained and questioned at the Jayapura Municipality Police Station. All were released later at 10.10 pm after lawyers of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) had provided legal support to the arrestees during the police interrogation.
USTJ representatives explained that the police dispersed the protest to enforce the COVID-19 health protocol. Public assemblies are not permitted in Jayapura as long as the number of COVID-19 infections has not yet significantly decreased.
Police arrests four Papuans in Timika
Police officers arrested four Papuans with the initials TJ, T, JJ and EK in Timika on 13 March 2021. The police claim that the arrestees are associated with a TPN PB group under TPN PB leader Joni Botak, who is responsible for multiple shootings in the Mimika Regency throughout the past years. According to the Mimika Police Chief, I Gusti Era Adhinata, the arrestees were arrested for supplying their comrades with food.
TPN PB spokesperson, Sebby Sambom, denied that the four arrestees were TPN PB members, stating that the four Papuans were civilians. According to Sambom, the police arrested the four men as they took rocks as building materials from a nearby river.