Jakarta – Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today called for calm and an immediate cessation of violence from all sides following reports of clashes between protesters and security forces in at least two locations across Papua.Efforts over recent weeks of the Indonesian authorities to address the grievances and unrest have failed to quell tensions, and in some cases, may be fuelling further protests, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) warned.
"To avoid the situation from spiraling out of control and more people paying a deadly cost, protesters and the Indonesian security forces must all refrain from using violence," said Walden Bello, APHR Member, and former Philippine MP.
"The Indonesian government's decision to restrict data communication again will do nothing to ease the situation, but only hinders all parties from getting reliable information to ensure their safety."
APHR noted the Indonesian government's concerns regarding the use of social media to spread false or incendiary information allegedly intended to stoke violence against the authorities. But by imposing blanket Internet shutdowns and arbitrarily detaining peaceful activists, the Indonesian authorities are sanctioning the whole Papuan population rather than distinguishing between violent and peaceful activists, fueling a sense of injustice, APHR said.
While security forces and authorities have a legitimate responsibility to maintain law and order, they must respond in a proportionate manner in line with international human rights laws, including by upholding the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
The Indonesian authorities must immediately initiate genuine efforts to restore peace and stability through dialogue. For this to happen, peaceful activists and protestors must be able to safely voice their opinions. Instead, the Indonesian government has arbitrarily detained a number of human rights defenders and political activists including human rights lawyer Veronica Komen and Surya Anta Ginting from the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua. APHR calls for their immediate release and for charges against them to be dropped.
"Protestors have been demonstrating for weeks now but are still not being heard. Indonesia cannot claim to be resolving the unrest by jailing human rights defenders and political activists. Those who are peacefully expressing their political views must be protected from any forms of harassment, retaliation, and intimidation," said Charles Santiago, Malaysian Member of Parliament and APHR Chair.
"Protestors have been demonstrating for weeks now but are still not being heard. Indonesia cannot claim to be resolving the unrest by jailing human rights defenders and political activists."
As unrest dramatically intensified on Monday morning in Jayapura and Wamena, Papua, media outlets report that more than 30 people have been killed and about 70 people critically injured on both sides. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has reimposed Internet restrictions in both cities to arguably curb the spread of disinformation and restore security and order.
Mass demonstrations have been held in Papua and West Papua since mid-August over alleged racism and discrimination, as well as calls for independence. From 30 August to 1 September, five Papuan student activists and Surya Anta Ginting were arrested for "rebellion" under Articles 106 and 110 of Indonesia's Criminal Code solely for peacefully exercising their rights. Most of the activists were arrested by the Jakarta Regional Police Force without showing an arrest warrant, and are all currently being held in detention in Depok, West Java. If found guilty, they could face life imprisonment.