Five West Papuan Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned
Five political prisoners were found guilty of treason and imprisoned for three years on 16 March 2012 in West Papua, Indonesia. Franciscans International together with TAPOL, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Faith Based Network on West Papua (FBN) and West Papua Netzwerk published a press release stating they: “regret the verdict and question the fairness of the trial proceedings. The verdict is another example of the severe restrictions by the Indonesian authorities on the right to freedom of expression of the Papuans.”
The right to freedom in West Papua is a serious human rights concern as civilian activities are harshly monitored by the military. This latest event is a setback in relations between the Government of Indonesia and West Papuans as they: “see arrest and detention as the best ways to respond to expressions of Papuan aspirations.”
Three of the five men were arrested in October 2011 for their roles in the Third Papuan People’s Congress. This was a peaceful gathering at which the leaders declared that Papua has been independent since 1961. As the gathering began to disperse, security forces fired shots into the crowd and carried out mass arrests and beatings. Three people were shot dead.
While the leaders of the Congress now face three years in jail for their peaceful actions, those responsible for the violent response to the Congress have received a small warning and investigations to determine who was responsible for the killings have led to neither justice nor accountability.
There are serious doubts about the fairness of the trial proceedings. Armed members of the security forces maintained a heavy presence during the trial sessions. One of the senior lawyers for the defence is being threatened with prosecution, in violation of his right under Indonesian law and international standards to carry out his professional duties in defending clients in court. The independence of the judges is also questioned as reportedly they were visited by senior military, police and government officials just one hour before the trial began.
According to TAPOL’s data, the five men will join at least 27 other Papuan political prisoners currently in jail for treason. The denial made by the Coordinating Minister for Law and Human Rights of any political prisoners therefore does not hold.
FI calls for all those detained for peaceful political activities to be immediately and unconditionally released.
Read press release>>