Drop charges against lawyer for Papuan political activists

Responding to the East Java police’s decision to bring charges against human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said:

“Veronica Koman is a human rights defender who has provided legal aid to many Papuan political activists and documented human rights violations in Papua. She is now being persecuted for tweeting about a violent attack on a Papuan student’s dormitory on August 17, in which police fired tear gas.

“This is an appalling attack on the right to freedom of expression in Indonesia, and a brazen attempt to silence a brave activist. These charges are clearly intended to deter others from speaking out against human rights violations related to Papua.

“The charges against Veronica Koman must be immediately dropped. Authorities in Indonesia must also repeal or amend the draconian articles in the Criminal Code and the ITE Law, which are being used to criminalize the right to freedom of expression.”

In the past two years, Veronica Koman has faced harassment, intimidation and threats, including death and rape threats, for her work exposing allegations of human rights violations in Papua.

Police today charged Veronica Koman with “incitement” under provisions from the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE Law), Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code and the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Law, for tweets which they said “hoax” news. Amnesty International has analyzed the tweets, which document human rights violations against Papuans, and concluded that charging Veronica Koman under these provisions represents a travesty and gross misuse of the law.

Background

On August 17, a group of people from local organizations attacked a dormitory of Papuan students accusing them of destroying the national flag of Indonesia. They verbally attacked Papuan students and hurled racist insults at them. Some members of the military allegedly took part.  Instead of dispersing the crowd who had besieged the dormitory, the police also surrounded the building and asked the Papuan students to turn themselves in. The stand-off continued the following day, with police firing tear gas before arresting 43 Papuan students. The police took them in for questioning but released them the next day after finding no evidence that they had destroyed an Indonesian flag.