Continued detention of Papuan prisoners violates basic rights

23 Dec 2010

Despite persistent calls for their release, two Papuan political prisoners face another Christmas and New Year in detention for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The two men, Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, also face criminal charges arising from a riot at Abepura prison on 3 December, which resulted in their transfer with three others from prison to police custody. Since then, they have had limited or no contact with their lawyers and families in contravention of international standards on the treatment of prisoners and persons in detention.

“There can be no justification for the harsh punishment of peaceful activists in this way,” said Carmel Budiardjo on behalf of TAPOL, an organisation that promote human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia.

TAPOL calls for the release of the two men and all others jailed for peacefully expressing their political views. It urges the Indonesian authorities to investigate the disturbances at Abepura prison and for the prisoners to be given proper access to their lawyers to contest their transfer to police detention and prepare a defence to any charges against them. The investigation should include a consideration of the conditions at the prison and the events leading up to the disturbances on 3 December, said TAPOL.

The disturbances followed the fatal shooting of Miron Wetipo, who had escaped from the prison. Reliable reports indicate that Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, alarmed at the consequences of the disturbances for all the prisoners, tried hard to calm down their fellow prisoners. According to a report in the local daily, ‘Bintang Papua’, on 14 December, the director of the prison, Berthy Sitinjak, and 14 of his staff were responsible for acts of violence and abuse of prisoners.

“Anyone in authority responsible for violence against the prisoners and other offences, including the killing of Miron Wetipo, should be vigorously prosecuted if the evidence indicates that crimes were committed,” said Carmel Budiardjo.

KontraS Papua, the Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence, and a team of lawyers representing the prisoners have suggested that the conditions at the prison may have led to the prison escape and earlier ones.

Filep Karma, 51, is serving a 15-year sentence for taking part in a peaceful demonstration at which the Papuan national flag, the Morning Star, was hoisted in 2004. He was charged with ‘makar’ or treason, an offence used over the years against scores of Papuans involved in raising the flag.

Buchtar Tabuni, 31, is serving a three-year sentence for his involvement in a public event to welcome the launch in October 2008 of International Parliamentarian for West Papua. He was due to be conditionally released at the time of his arrest on criminal charges.

The three other men in police detention facing charges arising from the disturbances on 3 December are Alex Elopere, Dominggus Pulalo and Danny Lopez Karubaba.


Contact: Paul Barber on +44 1420 80153 or +44 7747 301 739