TEMPO/Subekti

Indonesia: Immediately release Papuans charged with treason for peaceful expression of opinions

Indonesian authorities should immediately release three Papuans who have been charged with treason by police for peacefully expressing their opinions, following crackdowns on a series of peaceful protests in the lead-up to and on 1 December, Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia said today.

“Papuans have the right to peacefully express their opinions and criticize the central government’s policies without any fear of violence, threats or arrests,” said Amnesty International Indonesia deputy director Wirya Adiwena. “These repeated crackdowns serve as proof that the state lacks commitment to fully protect the rights of the Papuans.”

Police often arrest Papuans for peaceful political expression on the days leading up to and on 1 December, which is a date that many Papuans consider their National Day. In a series of protests this year, at least 25 people were arrested, 16 were injured, and three were charged with treason under Article 106 of the Criminal Code.

Protesters who peacefully expressed opinions in protests held from 27 November to 1 December 2022 have been met with obstructions and excessive use of force by both state and non-state actors in cities across Indonesia.

“No one should be detained for peacefully expressing their political views or joining protests. The Police must stop targeting Papuans solely because they express dissents against the Indonesian government,” Wirya said.

On 27 November 2022, at least 15 peaceful protesters in Manokwari, West Papua, were arbitrarily arrested by joint military-police officers. At least three were named suspects and charged with treason by the police under Article 106 of the Criminal Code (KUHP).

In Sorong, West Papua, the police forbid all protesters from bringing attributes displaying the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, on 29 November 2022. Two people were briefly arrested and injured on 1 December.

The police and the military also ramped up security measures in West Papua in anticipation of protests on 1 December. For instance, on 1 November, 250 joint police-military personnel were on standby in Maybrat regency, Southwest Papua Province, to crack down on those deemed to be “promoting disintegration”

At least eight protesters were arrested in a peaceful demonstration protesting the central government’s policies on Papua in Ternate City, North Maluku, on 1 December. They were also allegedly forced to sign a statement saying that they will stop calling for a referendum on independence on 1 December.

Also on 1 December in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara Province, 14 protesters in Widya Mandira Catholic University were injured after suffering from beatings by a group of people claiming to be members of a local organization. Ten of them were arrested for hours.

On 1 December, in Jakarta, protesters were subjected to heavy presence of Indonesian security forces amounting to intimidation. Meanwhile in Mataram, Lombok Province, Papuan students were subjected to harassing surveillance throughout the day. 

BACKGROUND

Article 106 of the Criminal Code authorizes the courts to sentence a person “to life imprisonment or a maximum of twenty years imprisonment for treason with the intent to bring the territory of the state in whole or in part under foreign domination or to separate part thereof.” The Indonesian authorities have used this criminal code provision to persecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua over the last decade.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Indonesia has ratified through Law No. 12/2005, explicitly guarantees the right of any person to hold opinions without interference. Freedom of peaceful assembly is also guaranteed under Article 21 of the ICCPR. The restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression imposed under Articles 106 of the Criminal Code go beyond the permissible limitations allowed under the ICCPR, to which Indonesia is a state party.Amnesty International does not take on any position regarding political status within Indonesia, including calls for independence. However, the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression also includes expression of political nature.