Jakarta – Human Rights lawyers Veronica Koman and Jennifer Robinson have sent a letter to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the United Nations Special Rapporteur asking them to urge the Indonesia government to release 63 political prisoners (tapol) indicted on charges of treason related to the free Papua movement.
Indonesian lawyer and rights activist Koman – who is residing in Australia and faces criminal charges of alleged incitement at home – claims that 56 out of the 63 names were given to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo when he visited Australia in February.
“So far however we have yet to received any kind of response, except for the Pak [Mr] Minister [for security Mahfud MD] saying that the data was ‘rubbish’. Therefore we are urging the UN and the Indonesian government to respond seriously to the matter of these tapols because their lives are on the line”, said Koman in a press release sent to CNN Indonesia on Thursday April 16.
Koman said that the call to release the political prisoners is crucial in the midst of the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic given that jails in Indonesia are already overcapacity and susceptible to the spread of corona.
“Indonesia, with the highest death rate in Asia, has already acknowledged the risk of the spread of Covid-19 in jails which are overcapacity by already releasing 30,000 prisoners. Yet these 63, who do not represent a threat to society, are still being held in jail”, she said.
The letter calling for the release of Papuan political prisoners was sent on the evening of Wednesday April 15 and accompanied with a 400 page document containing data on the political prisoners and details on the violations of international law which have been committed by the Indonesian government.
The 63 political prisoners comprise 56 indigenous Papuans, one non-Papuan Indonesian, five people from Maluku and one Polish national.
Koman revealed that included in the list of 63 political prisoners are Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) spokesperson Surya Anta Ginting, Polish national Jakub Skrzypski and Sayang Mandabayan, who was detained for bringing Morning Star independence flags through Manokwari airport.
She said that most of the political prisoners were arrested during the massive anti-racist protest actions in August and September 2019. They have been indicted under Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) and face a maximum jail sentence of 20 years. Only seven however have already been sentenced.
“There are some who were detained just for carrying the Morning Star or Benang Raja flag [of the Republic of South Maluku], or because they participated in peaceful actions, or were members of an organisation which supports the right to self determination, where all these activities are protected under international law”, she said. (dhf/wis)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Veronica Koman Surati PBB Desak Jokowi Bebaskan Tapol Papua”.]