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Continued detention unconstitutional: Papuan activists must be released

20 July, 2007

Calls for the release of prisoners jailed under Indonesia’s draconian ‘hate-sowing’ laws, including Papuans Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, have been reiterated today by TAPOL, which promotes human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia.

The ‘hate-sowing’ laws, set out in articles 154 and 155 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code, were declared unconstitutional by the country’s Constitutional Court on 17 July because they restrict the right to freedom of expression set out in the Constitution.

The offending articles were originally introduced by the Dutch colonial power to stifle dissent. They criminalise ‘public expression of feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward the government’ and prohibit ‘the expression of such feelings or views through the public media’.

“The Court’s decision is a welcome endorsement of the fundamental right to free expression. It must now be implemented by releasing those languishing in jail for doing no more than expressing their peaceful political views,” said Carmel Budiardjo, director of TAPOL.

The injustice of using penal provisions to criminalise opposition to Jakarta and criticism of government policy is keenly felt in West Papua. In April 2005 Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were sentenced to 15 and 10 years imprisonment respectively for organising peaceful celebrations of West Papua’s national day and flying the Papuan Morning Star flag on 1 December 2004. They were charged under Article 154 and other provisions.

“The continued detention of the two men should not be tolerated in a democratic country,” said Budiardjo.

TAPOL urges the Indonesian authorities to release all prisoners jailed for their peaceful political views and activities and, in the spirit of the Constitutional Court ruling, to review all other outdated penal provisions that violate fundamental freedoms.