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Incitement charges against rights lawyer intended to create climate of fear

Kompas.com - September 4, 2019

Devina Halim, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid is of the view that the naming of Veronica Koman as a suspect could create fear among the public about speaking out on issues related to human rights (HAM) violations in Papua.

"Criminalising Veronica Koman will make other people afraid to talk about or use social media to reveal any form of human HAM violations related to Papua", said Hamid is a press release on Wednesday September 4.

According to Hamid, the police should respect freedom of expression, including on social media by not being so quick to indict those who speak out.

"The Indonesian police must ensure that all officers respect freedom of expression in public, also on social media and not be so quick in the future to conduct an investigation if there is a report related to freedom of expression", said Hamid.

In addition to this, Hamid also questioned the charges laid against Koman of provoking the Papuan people.

Because if Koman is charged with incitement, the police must be able to prove who were the victims of the incitement and what was the impact.

"If the police accusation is that Veronica committed incitement, then the question that the police must answer is who was provoked to violate the law as a consequence of Veronica's postings on Twitter?", asked Hamid.

Amnesty is also of the view that the police should have first sought clarification if they have found that Koman posted inaccurate information.

Earlier, on Wednesday afternoon, East Java regional police Special Crimes Detective Directorate detectives declared Koman a suspect for allegedly committing incitement though social media about the Papua issue.

East Java regional police chief Inspector General Luki Hermawan said that during the protests against the vandalism of the red-and-white national flag at the Papuan student dormitory in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, Koman was overseas.

"The person concerned was not at the location during the protest actions over the flag at the Papuan dormitory on August 16. At the time she was reportedly overseas", explained Hermawan.

Although she was not at the location, Koman through her social media account actively uploaded statements and photographs of a provocative nature. Some of the uploads were in English.

Hermawan said that several of the postings had a provocative tone, for example on August 18, "Mobilise the monkeys [referring to the racist slurs used against Papuans] to take to the streets of Jayapura tomorrow" and "The moment when police began firing [tear gas] at the Papua dormitory. A total of 23 canisters of teargas fired".

In addition to this, there was a posting, "Children have not eaten for 24 hours, thirsty and shut in they were order out into the sea of protesters".

Then, "43 Papuan students arrested without clear grounds, 5 injured, 1 hit by teargas [canister]".

Koman has been charged under articles from four different laws, namely the Electronic Transaction and Information Law (UU ITE), Law Number 1/1946, Article 160 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) and Law Number 40/2008.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Veronica Tersangka, Masyarakat Dinilai Jadi Takut Bersuara soal Papua".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2019/09/04/20195101/veronica-tersangka-masyarakat-dinilai-jadi-takut-bersuara-soal-papua