Papuan rights should be at the forefront of EU-Indonesia dialogue

2 May 2012

Tomorrow’s EU-Indonesia human rights dialogue should address systematic rights violations in Papua, which remain an ugly stain on the country’s record as a burgeoning democracy, says TAPOL.

While Indonesia holds bilateral human rights dialogues with various individual countries, the EU-Indonesia dialogue is the most significant, bringing together 28 states to talk about human rights in Indonesia. Although the dialogue, which is entering its third year, is an encouraging sign of Indonesia’s willingness to discuss sensitive issues, observers will be asking whether the process can really lead to improvements on the ground.

“The EU and Indonesia should be looking to make substantive progress in the protection of those most vulnerable to rights violations”, said Paul Barber, Coordinator of TAPOL. “The situation in Papua should be high on the meeting agenda if the dialogue is to be seen as a meaningful process.”

While Indonesia has made significant progress in its transition to democracy, Papua has yet to benefit from the transition. Despite heavy government restrictions on foreign journalists and international human rights organisations in the region, serious human rights violations are reported with alarming regularity and impunity for the perpetrators continues.

Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Papua continue to be severely restricted by the use of repressive legislation and by the labelling of political activity and defence of human rights as ‘treasonous’. Human rights defenders who campaign for rights or represent those accused of treason are branded as separatists and subjected to surveillance and harassment.

Articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code on treason (makar) are used to arbitrarily detain and punish peaceful actions, such as raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag and expressing political aspirations at demonstrations and public events.

According to data collected by TAPOL, at least 82 Papuans have been detained and charged with treason in the past four years. Those convicted have been sentenced to between 10 months and six years imprisonment. There are currently at least 32 Papuans in jail for treason, some of whom are serving sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The prisoners include Forkorus Yaboisembut and four others convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment for statements made at the Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress in October 2011 and Filep Karma who is serving a prison sentence of 15 years.

In November 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions determined that Mr Karma’s detention was arbitrary and called for him to be released. It further reminded Indonesia of its duties not to subject persons to arbitrary detention. Mr Karma remains in jail.

Indonesia is also failing in its obligation to meet minimum international standards concerning the treatment of prisoners. Funds for urgent medical treatment are being denied or delayed in a number of cases, including that of Mr Karma who requires treatment on a suspected tumour of the colon. The result is that prisoners are being forced to raise their own funds for treatment or continue to suffer.

In tomorrow’s dialogue, the EU should urge Indonesia to order the unconditional release of all those detained in Papua for peaceful political activities, as part of a comprehensive policy to end the punishment of free expression. It should also ensure that human rights defenders are protected and that victims of arbitrary detention and their families receive adequate reparations and assistance to access services needed for recovery and rehabilitation.

“The dialogue must be a robust process with Indonesia demonstrating an honest commitment to improving the situation on the ground in Papua and the EU pressing it to address the very serious problems that exist there,” said Barber.


Contact: Paul Barber on +44 7747 301 739.