Arnold Belau, Jayapura – The Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) reports that 63 people have been arrested over the last nine days in West Papua. Most of those arrested are activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and the Regional People Parliament (PRD).
Once again the government’s intentions in Papua are being questioned. The LBH Jakarta is strongly condemning the systematic arrest of activists in the lead up to simultaneous actions that took place in Papua on April 13.
The actions, which were led by the KNPB, were joined by around 5,000 Papuans who were supporting the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULWMP) becoming a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
“We suspect that the security forces will act repressively in Papua in the lead up to the huge actions on April 13. The KNPB is the organisation in Papua that is being most systematically criminalised at the moment. So on the day before [the actions] we along with 47 other organisations from various elements [of society], from students to workers, issued a solidarity statement calling on security forces not to act repressively. And it was proven. We have the names of all 61 [sic] people who have been arrested”, said LBH Jakarta director Alghiffari Aqsa in an email sent to Suara Papua on April 15.
The LBH Jakarta notes that 15 people were arrested in Timika on April 5 and on April 12 six people were arrested in Yahukimo and 15 in Kaimana. On April 13, thirteen people were arrested in Merauke, three people in Sorong and 11 people were arrested in Jayapura.
LBH Jakarta public defender Veronica Koman meanwhile said that in addition to this, some of those who were arrested were stripped naked, beaten with rifle butts, kicked and forced to stand in the sun.
“Certainly, those who’ve been arrested have now been released, except there are still two who are being detained in Timika. One of them has been charged with subversion (maker) even though the person concerned was only leading a prayer meeting on the grounds of a church that supports the ULWMP”, said Veronica.
In addition to this, the LBH Jakarta is currently investigating allegations that people were tortured in Dekai, Yahukimo.
“We received a report that six of the people arrested were hit in the head with hammers, kicked in the face with military boots, ordered to crawl [on the ground] and eat dirt, beaten in a cell until they were bruised and bleeding, as well as being ordered to sing Indonesia Raya [the national anthem] and eat money they had in their pockets”, she explained.
Veronica continued, “These incidents violate Article 28I of the Constitution, the convention against torture and Article 351 of the Criminal Code. Therefore the Mabes Polri [national police headquarters], specifically the Bareskrim [Criminal Investigation Bureau] and the Propam [Professionalism and Security Affairs Division] must investigate the matter. Perpetrators of torture, even though they are law enforcement officials, must be punished”, asserted Veronica.
The arrests, which began a day before the action, were carried out in order to prevent the demonstrations from going ahead. The legal articles used for these arrests are vague and completely fabricated.
In Yahukimo and Merauke, police were unable to explain which articles were used for the arrests. In Kaimana, police said that the arrests were made because the demonstration did not have a police permit.
“We were having an internal meeting to prepare for the action in our own offices weren’t we, what did we need a permit for?”, asked a LBH Jakarta source in Manokwari as quoted in the email received by Suara Papua.
Furthermore, police also prevented protesters from joining the action and carried out arrests during the action. Police also smashed the windows of a command vehicle in Jayapura even though there was no provocation by the protesters who were demonstrating peacefully.
“The string of incidents over these nine days again demonstrates that there has yet to be any change in the government’s attitude towards Papua, it’s still very repressive. [The people’s] constitutional rights to freedom of expression and opinion are violated repeatedly. The state’s presences in Papua is in the form of violence”, asserted Alghiffari.
The LBH Jakarta is therefore demanding that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo take action against the national police and the Papua regional police who have violated the constitutional rights of the Papuan people and order them to immediately release Yus Wenda and Steven Itlay who are still being detained in Timika.
“Our call to the Papuan people is that you are not alone. Continue [expressing] your aspirations!”, said Alghiffari.
[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was LBH Jakarta: 63 Orang Ditangkap Selama 9 Hari di Papua.]