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Papua violence mars Indonesian elections

9 April, 2009

At a time when the international media is focussing on today’s Indonesian elections, little attention had been paid to the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua. TAPOL is calling for an end to the violence and for the Papuans’ democratic rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly to be guaranteed.

Papuans have been arrested for attending mass gatherings, and three men are to be charged with subversion. Most alarming of all are police shootings of demonstrators and raids on offices of the Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council) involving notorious Brimob police special forces.

In campaigning for the elections, several Indonesian political parties have held rallies attended by tens of thousands of people in a number of cities in West Papua. These rallies have proceeded without interference.

But last week, Papua police chief, Drs Bagus Edokanto, issued a warning against the staging of mass meetings that were critical of the elections and were calling for a boycott. He mentioned in particular the National Alliance of the People of West Papua (KANRPB) as likely to be ‘dealt with’ by the police.

Regardless of these threats, a few days ago hundreds of people attended a rally in Nabire convened by the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB). Speakers at the rally expressed support for a newly-established organisation, the International Lawyers for West Papua. The police opened fire on the rally and nine people were injured, including a 10-year old boy. Fifteen people attending the rally were arrested and later subjected to ‘intense interrogation’ according to the local daily, Cenderawasih Pos.

The police had earlier raided the office of the KNPB. Banners and Morning Star flags were confiscated and the police alleged that they had discovered firearms.

On 3 April, according to a report by the Gereja Kristen Injili (GKI - Evangelical Church), several police units, including Brimob raided the Dewan Adat Papua (DAP) office in Jayapura. During the raid, a computer was destroyed after the hard disk had been removed. A number of documents were seized and other office equipment was trashed. The police claim to have confiscated two firearms from the office, accusing two women there of being the owners of the firearms.

According to the GKI, one of those arrested was Dina Wandikbo. She described how she had been held at gunpoint in the street by a man while on her way from the DAP office to buy food. He told her to return to the building and fetch a bag lying under a table. Fearing for her life she did so, but because the bag was heavy, she asked her sister to help her carry it out. After leaving the office, the two women were accosted by a Brimob officer who threatened them at gunpoint and told them to let go of the bag.

With their hands bound, the women were taken to police headquarters along with 13 others from the office and held overnight. They were later released and ordered to report regularly to the police. They were accused of possessing the firearms that had been found in the DAP office.

Many arrests have been made at meetings and rallies organised by West Papuan organisations. While most have been released, three men are now ‘suspects’ and will face serious charges: Mako Tabuni (also known as Musa Tabuni), Serafin Diaz, and Yance Motte.

The three men will face charges under Article 106 of the Penal Code of makar (subversion), for which the maximum penalty is twenty years imprisonment, and under Article 160 for incitement. They are accused of pursing the aim of separating part of the territory of Indonesia.

Police chief Bagus Ekodanto said the men had been arrested for their involvement in a demonstration at several locations in Abepura and outside the provincial assembly building (DPRP) in Jayapura on 10 March 2009. The men had reportedly called for a referendum in West Papua and urged Papuans not to vote in the forthcoming elections.

TAPOL is deeply concerned at these developments, which represent serious violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The raid on the offices of the DAP, along with the accusations of firearms offences, is a clear attempt to undermine the DAP’s long-proclaimed commitment to the ‘Papua Land of Peace’ initiative.

TAPOL calls for:

• The Papuan people to be guaranteed their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
• The immediate and unconditional release of Mako Tabuni, Serafin Diaz, Yonce Motte and any other Papuans who have been arrested for attending peaceful rallies or meeting.
• The Indonesian authorities in West Papua to apologise to the Dewan Adat Papua for raiding its office, to compensate the organisation for the damage caused to its premises, and to allow it to function without interference.
• The police to lift the restrictions imposed on Dina Wandikbo and her sister.
• The repeal of the 2007 presidential regulation that makes it illegal for Papuans to unfurl the Morning Star flag.
• The chief of police to lift his restrictions on the right of Papuan organisations to organise meetings and rallies.