INDONESIA: Stop unlawful deprivation of liberty against Indigenous Papuans

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the unlawful deprivation of liberty of Papuans which has occurred frequently of late. The AHRC has learned that the Indonesian Security Forces have been using excessive force and flaunting their authority to illegally arrest indigenous Papuans. They are simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and peaceful assembly.

For instance, take the case which took place on August 20, 2017. Police officers of the Fak-Fak Police Station (Polres Fak-Fak) arbitrarily arrested 24 indigenous Papuans. They are members of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB). The AHRC was informed that they were illegally arrested because they are registered to attend a meeting organized by KNPB in Fak-Fak Regency, West Papua Province.

Previously, the AHRC noted some similar cases faced by members of KNPB Papua. Consider the case of Mr. Yanto Waine, a member of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB). He was illegally detained in the Nabire Police Station (Polres Nabire) after distributing leaflets to the public. And 29 student activists, mostly Papuan students, were arbitrarily arrested in Yogyakarta Province. Additionally, 32 student activists in Jakarta and 46 student activists in Semarang were also arbitrarily detained.

Considering the massive unlawful deprivation of liberty against Indigenous Papuans, the AHRC strongly recommends the Government to re-evaluate its policy and the behaviour of its Security Forces’. The Government should ensure that there is no policy in practice that clearly violates or goes against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Indonesia became a State party to this Covenant by enacting Law No.12 of 2005.

Under Article 19 of the ICCPR, it states

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this Article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall
only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security, public order, and public health or morals.

Moreover, the Indonesian Constitution 1945 (UUD 1945) clearly guarantees such rights. Article 28 of the Constitutions, states: “the freedom to associate and to assemble, to express written and oral opinions, etc., shall be regulated by Law.” Further, Article 28 paragraph E states: “Every person shall have the right to the freedom to associate, to assemble and to express opinions.”

Under the Constitution, Indonesia has Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights. Article 24 paragraph 1 states: “Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association.” Article 6 paragraph 1, relating to Indigenous People states: “In the interests of upholding human rights, the differences and needs of Indigenous Peoples must be taken into consideration and protected by the Law, the Public and the Government.”

Let us look into the cases of human rights violations, in particular massive unlawful deprivation of liberty in Papua. It has been proven that the Government has failed to ensure that the Security Forces obey and respect the above-mentioned rights. Even security forces violate the Indonesian Criminal Procedure (KUHAP), which regulates steps and requirements of arrest and detention.

The Government should be aware that extreme restrictions against the right to freedom of opinion, expression and also peaceful assembly, should be conducted based on the Law. It is the National Law which regulates such restrictions and they should not violate or go against the ICCPR itself.

As stated in General Comments of the ICCPR No. 35 paragraph 12 “An arrest or detention may be authorized by domestic law and nonetheless be arbitrary. The notion of “arbitrariness” is not to be equated with “against the law”. It must be interpreted more broadly to include elements of inappropriateness, injustice, lack of predictability and due process of law, as well as elements of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality.”

Therefore, the AHRC calls for the Indonesian Government to stop any patterns and forms of unlawful deprivation of liberty against indigenous Papuans. The right to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly must be protected and respected. Furthermore, the Indonesian Security Forces should not subjectively interpret the Law and put an end to the stigmatization that all political activities conducted by Papuans are crimes. The AHRC urges the Government to release all those persons arrested with no criminal charges laid against them.