Human Rights Watch Condemns Conviction of Papua Activists, Govt Responds
The Jakarta Globe
Friday, March 16, 2012
New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned the Indonesian
government for allowing the conviction of five Papuan independence
activists on Friday, saying the convictions went against
constitutional freedom of expression.
The Jayapura District Court convicted five men and sentenced them to
three years in prison for pro-independence statements made at the
Third Papuan People’s Congress in the subdistrict of Abepura in
October of last year.
The five men are Selpius Bobii, a social media activist, August
Sananay Kraar, a civil servant, Dominikus Sorabut, a filmmaker, Edison
Waromi, a former political prisoner, and Forkorus Yaboisembut, a
Papuan tribal leader.
A crackdown by Indonesian security officers during the peaceful
October protest left three dead and 90 others injured.
“Human Rights Watch takes no position on claims to self-determination
in Papua,” HRW said in a press statement on Friday.
“Consistent with international law, however, Human Rights Watch
supports the right of everyone, including independence supporters, to
express their political views peacefully without fear of arrest or
other forms of reprisal.”
The group suggested an amendment to Indonesia’s Criminal Code “to
ensure that no one is prosecuted for treason for exercising their
rights to peaceful protest protected under the Indonesian constitution
and international law.”
It also criticized the lack of sanctions on 17 police officers
allegedly involved in the violent crackdown, saying they had only been
given written warnings, with no further action taken against them for
possible misuse of force.
“Human Rights Watch renewed its call for the Indonesian government to
release all political prisoners and allow human rights organizations
and foreign journalists unimpeded access to Papua,” it added.
Responding to the rebuke, Indonesian presidential spokesman Teuku
Faizasyah said the central government would not intervene in the legal
process in Papua, saying that the five convicts might appeal to a
higher court if dissatisfied with the verdict.
“Our political system today fully respects trias politica and the
ongoing legal process. There remains room for the convicts to ask for
a lighter sentence, or freedom; the existing legal mechanism allows
for it,” he said in a phone interview with The Jakarta Globe.
Faizasyah added that freedom of speech does not apply to separatist
activities, citing member states of the European Union who classify
separatism as a form of terrorism.
“Any expression of separatism in the EU is thus considered an act of terrorism.”
Faizasyah said that security officers proven guilty of the violent
October crackdown had in fact received proper sanctions. He said the
termination of the officer’s employment was a sufficient social
punishment by denying them their right to income.
“That will be a good lesson for our other security officers to respect
human rights, as it has now become part of our military curriculum,”