London, 10 May 2023
With the ink now drying on the laws creating the new provinces in West Papua, claimed by Jakarta to have support from Papuans, TAPOL’s new report, 'West Papua 2022: Freedom Of Expression And Freedom Of Assembly', shows a picture of increasing incidents, including arrests, dispersals, intimidation and killings for expressing dissent. This belies a declining situation of Freedom of Assembly and Expression in West Papua. The report highlights that: “...the continued worsening trend, despite new initiatives, promises and approaches by the government, shows that it is not working to actively improve the state of Freedom of Expression and Assembly in West Papua”.
These actions, combined with the passing of the new Criminal Code, the suspicious death of Papuan ex-political prisoner Filep Karma and the not guilty verdict for an officer tried for involvement in the Paniai Massacre in 2014, show that these events are taking place against a background of suppression of rights through the law. This is the case in clamping down on the Freedom of Expression and Assembly, but also security of the person and a sense of justice after violations have been committed.
The report highlights and covers in detail the background and incidents that have taken place over the year, as well as how 2022 fits into wider trends during over the last four years. Steve Alston, TAPOL's chairperson, said: "We have seen worsening trends in all types of incidents. Compared to 2021, we have seen at least 801 arrests, a 19.4 per cent increase, and a 25 per cent increase in Intimidation and Harrassment incidents, including torture and killings. The security forces, with paramilitary groups, are continuing to create a chilling climate for people exercising their freedoms to express their opinions on West Papua, far from the image Indonesia wishes to portray to the world in fora such as the Universal Periodic Review at the UN, or its presidency of the G20.”
The report also points to the escalating role of the police, especially in violating freedoms of expression and association. This phenomenon shows a continued strategy and intolerance by the police in West Papua and in Indonesia, on West Papuan-related activities. The increase of arbitrary arrests has been a twin phenomenon, both increasing numbers of incidents of mass arrests, as well as targeted arrests of those in a leadership role within pro-independence organisations.
The increasing prevalence of attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs) and the media, as well as internet-related incidents, have also been noted with concern. The Indonesian government, in only wishing to protect what it sees as ‘legitimate’ actors, has criminalised HRDs and the independent media often preventing it from carrying out its role of holding to account those in power for their actions. This has enabled non-state actors who have attacked and targeted activists and organisations carrying out this vital role, amidst the worsening situation.
For media enquiries contact: Ian Moore, TAPOL Campaigns, firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look at our full report here.