Accused of supporting Papua, two protesters arrested at IWD rally in Makassar

CNN Indonesia – March 11, 2021
Women activists commemorate IWD in front of provincial parliament in Makassar – March 8, 2021 (Sindo News)

Jakarta – The director of the Makassar Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), Muhammad Haedir, has revealed that two participants of an action commemorating International Women's Day (IWD) in Makassar, South Sulawesi, were detained by the Makassar metropolitan district police for 24 hours.

Haedir said that the arrests happened when the demonstrators were protesting against several different women's issues on Monday March 8. As they were preparing to disperse, continued Haedir, an ormas (social or mass organisation) suddenly arrived and accused the demonstrators of supporting Papuan issues.

"Suddenly there was an ormas and then they were shouting at our friends that this was an action supporting Papua. Now, soon afterwards, one of the protesters was arrested", said Haedir when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Wednesday March 10.

"After being arrested, his friend documented it. It was videoed. Then the one taking the video was also arrested. They said he was their friend, [so he was] arrested too", he added.

The two protesters who were arrested were Akbar and Halim. But Haedir said that eyewitnesses did not know for sure whether Akbar and Halim were arrested by the police or members of the ormas.

He did confirm however that the two were taken away in a Jatanras car – one of the Makassar metropolitan district police criminal investigation units. Akbar and Halim were then taken to the Makassar metropolitan district police station and held for a day.

Haedir continued saying that the LBH has not been given an explanation for the arrests and according to Haedir, the police's actions were not in accordance with prevailing laws.

"Cases such as this have happened before in Makassar. This is the second case. Police do nothing when an ormas harasses protesters. Then the police give their approval by forcibly arresting people who are then detained at the police station", said Haedir.

When sought separately for confirmation, Makassar district municipal police criminal investigation unit chief Senior Commissioner Agus Khaerul denied that police detained Akbar and Halim. He justified this on the ground that the two were held for less than 24 hours.

"They weren't detained. The time was less than 24 hours", Khaerul told CNN Indonesia in an SMS message.

Khaerul explained that Akbar and Halim were arrested because there was a brawl during the protest action. He also claimed that they found writing stating that the action was to support Papua issues. Khaerul did not however explain any further about the writing.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) records reveal that human rights violations during arrests by police are often found in Indonesia.

YLBHI found 88 cases of human rights violations in the form of arbitrary arrests, 56 cases of violations of freedom involving torture and 36 cases of criminalisation and counter attacks against efforts to seek justice. Scores of such cases were recorded across 16 provinces in 2019.

"This data shows that arbitrary arrests are still happening which also end up as being arbitrary detentions. Arrests are often used as an instrument of 'initial punishment' for suspects before there is a final and conclusive legal ruling", wrote the YLBHI on its official website. (fey/nma)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Dituding Dukung Papua, 2 Peserta Aksi Makassar Sempat Ditahan".]