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Human rights watchdog blasts arrests of Papuan group of protesters

Tempo - April 12, 2023

Fajar Pebrianto, Jakarta – Human rights watchdog Amnesty International Indonesia has openly protested the arrest made by police against 76 activists in Jayapura, Papua as the people were spreading leaflets demanding the release of Victor Yeimo who was accused by authorities of committing treason.

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid urged the police to immediately release all detained activists without exception.

According to the human rights watchdog's data, at least 76 West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists were arrested by police on April 10 in Jayapura and taken to the Abepura Police Sector (15 people), Heram Police (45 people), and Jayapura Police (16 people). This also refers to data from legal aid (LBH) Papua.

Victor – who is the spokesperson of KNPB – is currently undergoing trial at the Jayapura District Court over treason charges after litigation was officially produced on April 11.

No room for freedom of expression

Usman claims the silencing of peaceful protests in Papua happens nearly every week and asserted that restricting room for public expression is deeply worrying.

"These mass arrests prove that security forces and law enforcement have not appreciated the peaceful activism of Papuans," said Usman.

He believes the arbitrary arrests by law enforcers must be ended immediately.

"The use of force which include arrests should be a last resort measure. Even so, that must be done under strict standards and not as the immediate response in facing those expressing their mind," Usman elaborates.

Usman emphasized that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is guaranteed and protected by various legal instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the country's 1945 Constitution.

Amnesty International clarified that it does not take any position on the political status of any province or territory in Indonesia, or any state, including calls for independence. However, the human rights watchdog believes that the right to freedom of expression also includes expressions of a political nature.

The national police had included Victor Yeimo in its most wanted list in 2019 after he is suspected of committing treason and/or broadcasting news which then caused an uproar within the community. A series of riots broke across Papua in 2019 which was the aftermath of a racism case that occurred against Papuan students in Surabaya.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1714192/human-rights-watchdog-blasts-arrests-of-papuan-group-of-protester