Indonesia: Government must agree programme for UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

4 Jun 2013
TAPOL, KontraS, The International Coalition Human Rights and Peace for Papua and Franciscans International

The Indonesian government must respond to a statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression at the UN Human Rights Council on 3 June asking the government to agree the programme for his official visit, say KontraS, The International Coalition for Human Rights and Peace for Papua, Franciscans International and TAPOL.

The government had invited the Special Raporteur to visit Indonesia in January 2013, but the visit was postponed for reasons that have not been officially explained. The government made a commitment to the visit during the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia in March 2012.

The visit of the Special Rapporteur is urgent because of the critical situation of freedom of expression in Indonesia. Plans to enact Bills on Mass Organizations and State Secrecy threaten civil liberties. Ongoing violence and accusations of criminal defamation against journalists and human rights defender are evidence of the threats to freedom of expression. 

Of greatest concern is the situation in Papua, where efforts to suppress freedom of expression intensified on 1 May 2013 during events to commemorate the administrative transfer of Papua to Indonesia. According to the ‘Papuan Behind Bars’ website, two people were shot and killed by the security forces and another person died later in hospital, 36 people were arbitrary arrested, and 30 of them are still in detention and at risk of torture. At the end of May 2013, 76 political prisoners were in various prisons in Papua. There are also a number of Moluccan political prisoners. Furthermore, the government still keeps Papua closed to the international community to monitor the human rights situation.

We are again reminded that Papua is one of the priority areas to be visited by the UN Special Rapporteur. This UN special mechanism is an international procedure which has to be followed by Indonesia as a member of the UN. It is also applicable to other UN member states. It is important for the government to demonstrate its commitment to the right of freedom of expression in Papua in order to establish a dialogue for peace. Opening international access to Papua can be a positive sign of the government’s willingness.