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TAPOL’s Condolences upon the Death of Zode Hilapok

25 October, 2022

TAPOL expresses its sadness at the passing of Zode Hilapok, a West Papuan political prisoner, on 22nd October 2022. Zode was one of eight people accused of treason for raising the Morning Star flag above Cenderawasih Sports Centre in Jayapura on 1st December 2021.

Whilst the other defendants finished their 10 month prison sentences at the end of  September, Zode was yet to stand trial due to ill health. He was receiving treatment, as his health condition began to deteriorate.

Zode’s symptoms began to appear when he was detained by Papua’s Regional Police. At the time, he admitted feeling weak and experiencing acute onset of bowel problems, with blood and pus in his stools. He was admitted to Bhayangkara Hospital for three weeks, where he then tested positive for Covid-19.

At Bhayangkara Hospital, he was placed in an inadequate room. The area was only about nine square meters, poorly ventilated, there were only two simple folding beds, one of which was Zode's bed. The room was far from the toilet. According to one of Zode’s lawyers, Anum Siregar, this condition coupled with the stigma of being a treason suspect and neglecting his humanity, made not only his physical condition decline but also made him experience psychological disturbance. It is no wonder that Zode tried to escape and made a suicide attempt there.

Zode’s health condition worsened again one week after being transferred to Abepura Prison on 1st April 2022, where he began to suffer a fever and had trouble breathing. The detainees were then reportedly held in a special isolation room. Lawyers and Prison staff reported the health condition of the student of Fajar Timur Philosophy and Theology High School, requesting the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office to grant Zode access to health services but the request wasn’t fulfilled until 25th April 2022.

Zode was allowed to receive medicine in his family home in Sentani from 26th April until 10th May 2022, when the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office returned Zode to Abepura Prison. Not long afterwards, he was rushed to Jayapura Dok II General Hospital, where he received treatment for two weeks, with no access allowed for visitors.

Dok II General Hospital reportedly then allowed Zode home to be looked after by his family. However, his condition worsened again and he was rushed to Yowari General Hospital in Sentani. After some time of being treated there, Zode passed away on 22nd October 2022 at 00:15 Papua time.

There has been no official statement from any of the hospitals mentioned above regarding the illness Zode was suffering. Several lawyers and friends suspect Zode was suffering from tuberculosis or lung disease, meaning that his stamina continuously declined. His condition was suspected to have worsened due to the conditions in Papua Regional Police detention and Abepura Prison, which are poorly ventilated, as well as the delays in getting access to healthcare.

If Zode indeed suffered from Tuberculosis, there is a legal obligation for him to receive healthcare and to be detained in conditions appropriate for someone suffering from that illness. This is important, as defendants’ rights to healthcare are regulated according to Article 58 of Criminal Law Procedures Code and Health Ministry Regulation No. 67 of 2016, concerning the eradication of Tuberculosis. These regulations must be followed for those who have been determined as suspects, which would have applied while Zode was detained by Papua Regional Police and when he was detained in Abepura Prison under the custody of the Prosecutor.

This issue with detention facility conditions being too poor for Tuberculosis sufferers such as Zode is not new. The lawyer of political prisoner Victor Yeimo, Emmanuel Gobay, has previously complained about this issue when reviewing the detention facilities at Abepura Prison. According to Gobay, the detention room was very cramped, leading to prisoners being jammed together with minimum ventilation or access to sunlight, leading to unsafe conditions and increasing the risk of spreading disease. This is a frequent occurrence in West Papua.

Zode’s death raises a question. How far was the government, in particular the Prosecutor’s Office, really willing to go to look after and allow access to good health services to Zode as a political prisoner? As a defendant, Zode was under the authority and responsibility of the prosecutor, but the prosecutor delayed the provision of health services and facilities to him. The government must evaluate the condition of its detention facilities and healthcare provision for detainees, ensuring that what happened to Zode never happens again.