TAPOL calls for the release of West Papuan activist

30 Oct 2007

On 18 October, members of the anti-terrorist squad, Detachment 88 arrested Iwanggin Sabar Olif, a human rights activist in Jayapura. A few days later, he was moved to Jakarta where he is now being held at police headquarters. The involvement of Detachment 88 in his arrest raises fears that he may be subjected to mal-treatment and is likely to face serious charges.

Iwanggin Sabar Olif is a respected lawyer who works for the well-known human rights organization, ELSHAM in West Papua.

Although there has been no explanation about whether he will be charged, it is understood that he was taken into custody for having sent an SMS text message to several contacts and to his brother. Moreover, since the SMS message made reference to the Indonesian president, press reports suggest that he may even face the charge of defamation of the head of state, although the crime of defamation was removed from Criminal Code last December by decision of the Constitution Court.

The events leading to his arrest suggest that the authorities are intercepting SMS communications between human rights activists which is a worrisome indication of censorship.

His arrest is in a violation of his freedom of expression and his freedom to engage in communication with friends and relatives. It comes at a time when human rights activists in West Papua have been subjected to insidious intimidation and the arrest appears to be intended to reinforce the atmosphere of intimidation and fear, conveying a warning to other human rights activists involved in legitimate activities in West Papua.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said: 'The arrest of Iwanggin sends a message to human rights activists in West Papua that their activities are being closely monitored and is intended as a warning to them to refrain from exercising their democratic rights.'

TAPOL strongly protests against the arrest of Iwanggin Sabar Olif and calls for his immediate release. TAPOL takes this opportunity to call upon the authorities in West Papua to act with all speed to end the atmosphere of intimidation in West Papua. The right of human rights activists in West Papua to engage in legitimate activities must be preserve at all costs.