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Mass arrests and forced dispersals in West Papua on Human Rights Day

Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia condemn the repression used against the people in West Papua when they were commemorating Human Rights Day on December 10, which marks the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Indonesian authorities made 116 arrests and caused injury to at least 17 people during multiple forced dispersals of rallies in the lead up to and during December 10 in four regencies across West Papua. 

“We are appalled to hear about these mass arrests. Many were arrested when the rally had not even started. This shows Indonesian authorities’ utter disregard of West Papuans’ right to peaceful assembly,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director, Usman Hamid, said.

“Criminalising them for simply peacefully exercising such right will only breed further resentment and distrust. That discriminatory treatment against them has to stop,” says Usman.

“People all over the globe commemorated Human Rights Day yesterday. The fact that West Papuan people could not enjoy the same right, shows that there is a human rights emergency in West Papua. Australia needs to demand accountability from Indonesian authorities, especially as they are recipients of so much Australian aid,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said.

BACKGROUND

On 8 December, 23 people in Wamena were arrested for several hours when they were distributing leaflets for people to join the Human Rights Day rally.

On December 10, forced dispersals and mass arrests took place in Wamena and Jayapura. In Jayapura, 56 people were arrested and at least sixteen people were known to be injured during forced dispersals in multiple locations. In Wamena, 37 people were arrested and at least one person was injured when the multiple rallies were forcibly dispersed.

Also on 10 December, the rally in Sorong was forcibly dispersed, and the protest in Manokwari was blocked by police.

Most of the protesters were members of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat – KNPB), a peaceful grassroot organisation campaigning for right to self-determination.

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. 

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 includes the right to peacefully advocate for independence referenda, or other political positions.