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OHCHR Statement to the Indonesian Government on the Protection of Rights and Freedom of Expression in the Current West Papua Situation

19 September, 2019

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have expressed their concern at the Indonesian government increasing the presence of police and military personnel in West Papua and continued crack down on human rights defenders using criminal law  over reporting on West Papua.

On Monday 16 September, the UN human rights special experts made an appeal to the Indonesian government for immediate measures to protect freedom of expression and stop the harassment, intimidation, restrictions and threats against those who report on the protests in West Papua. To the Indonesian Government, the UN special experts also noted that protests will not be stopped by the use of excessive force or the crackdown on access to information and  freedom of expression. 

Prominent Indonesian human rights lawyer working on West Papuan issues, Veronica Koman has been named as a suspect by the Indonesian Government. The Indonesian authorities had specified that they will revoke her passport, block her bank account and place her on the wanted list. The UN human rights experts expressed serious concern regarding these actions. Veronica Koman was due to report to the Indonesian police on 18 September. 

Lawyers are among those that are being targeted. Human rights advocate Haris Azhar said that the authorities have used criminalisation, intimidation and repression tactics against the lawyers that are representing West Papuans who have been arrested or targeted for arrest-the arrested or target of the arrest- West Papuans. Legal aid organisations such as LBH Jakarta, PBHI Bandung, LBH Surabaya and LBH Makassar, which have been defending West Papuan activists, have been targeted by nationalist mobs and called as traitors. 

Mass civilian anti-racism demonstrations have taken place in West Papuan since 19 August after an incident of racism against West Papuan students took place on 17 August in the Indonesian City of Surabaya. The Indonesian Government responded to mass civilian protests by sending additional police and military personnel to the area, blocked internet access and arrested people who were responsible for the mass protests in West Papua. More than 6,000 security forces personnel were deployed. Over one hundred people have been arrested in relation to demonstrations in various West Papuan cities. Various West Papuan National Committee leaders and members of the community are currently being held in police detention centres in West Papua. Arrests also took place in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. 

Read the full statement from UN OHCHR here: