Jakarta – The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) believes that the police have failed to look at the context when they declared Veronica Koman and Surya Anta suspects. Komnas HAM Deputy Chairperson Sandrayati Moniaga said that both are included in the ranks of human rights defenders.
According to Moniaga, it is important to ensure that they are provided with protection and a special approach is used in dealing with these cases.
“Human rights defenders under the mechanisms of the UN must receive more protection from the state. The state must see that they play a unique role”, said Moniaga during a discussion at the Komnas HAM offices in Jakarta on Friday September 6.
“They play a role in the advancement of human rights. These human rights defenders provide a great deal of help to farmers, traditional communities and others”, she continued.
Moniaga said that the two activists also have a track record as legal advocates for marginal groups.
“In this case, Surya and Vero, since they were with the Jakarta LBH [Legal Aid Foundation] were lawyers for our Papuan friends. So their position has to be seen as human rights defenders”, said Moniaga.
The East Java regional police have indicted Koman under several articles of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (UU ITE) and the Criminal Code (KHUP).
The rights lawyer who has often assisted Papuan has been charged with incitement and accused of provoking the riots in Papua by disseminating a video of an attack on a Papuan student dormitory in the East Java city of Surabaya.
Surya Anta meanwhile has been indicted on charges of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion). The Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) spokesperson along with five Papuan students have been charged in relation to the flying of the Morning Star flag during a rally in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on August 28.
Moniaga is of the view that police must review the use of these articles against the two activists, particularly as the article being used are still vague.
She also warned the police that they should be open in handling the conflict in Papua. According Moniaga, actions by law enforcement officials must not violate regulations on the implication of human rights the principles and standards in carrying out the police’s duties.
“Indonesia is in the process of nominating itself as a member of the [UN] Human Rights Council. If law enforcement officials do not understand the principles of human rights, how could Indonesia be chosen. If it is chosen it will be a bonus [for the government]. But this will actually be a smear [on the council]”, she said.
Press Council appeal
The Press Council is asking the mass media not to be too quick in believing claims made by the government and security forces in relation to the conflict in Papua and West Papua.
Press Council Deputy Chairperson Hendri Bangun says that the press must go out into the field, not just quote from claims by members of the government elite.
“We appeal [to the mass media], if you want to make a report check on the ground [first]. Don’t just talk-talk. Because, if you ask the TNI [Indonesian military], [they’ll say] ‘Oh its safe right, its conducive’, but every 10 metres there are [soldiers] on guard”, said Bangun at the Press Council offices in Jakarta on Friday.
Bangun said that media companies should send their journalists to Papua so they can report in detail about the situation on the ground.
He gave as an example the mass media being able to expose the situation being faced by communities who have been impacted upon by demonstrations. Also the recovery process.
He warned journalists however not to include reports on Papua about sensitive issues such as conflicts between indigenous Papuans and migrants. “There is social envy. This social envy is vulnerable to triggering [unrest]”, he said.
The situation in Papua and West Papua provinces have been heating up since the racist incident in Surabaya on August 16 when a group of people besieged a Papuan student dormitory taunted the students with insults such as “monkey”.
The incident triggered protest actions by Papuans although more recently these protests have also taken up calls for a referendum aimed at West Papua becoming independent from Indonesia. (ika/pmg)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Komnas HAM Kritik Penersangkaan Veronica Koman dan Surya Anta”.]