Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders says that thousands of human rights (HAM) activists advocating Papuan issues have been victims of violence under the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. There have been at least 72 cases of legal violations and violence against them.
These violations have taken the form of threats, persecution, arbitrary arrests, mistreatment, physical violence and criminalisation.
"During President Joko Widodo's administration, there have been at least 72 cases of violations and violence against Papuan HAM defenders, with the number of HAM defenders falling victim in the thousands", said Ardi Manto, a researcher from Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), one of the non-government organisations (NGOs) in the Coalition during a virtual discussion on Tuesday June 16.
The Coalition believes that the violence experienced by Papuan human rights defenders originates from their stigmatisation as supporters of separatism or as rebels.
As a consequence of this stigmatisation, it is as if these actions that demean human dignity and violate legal stipulations, which are committed by government officials as well as civilians, can be justified in cases of Papuan political prisoners and human rights defenders.
"One of the practices of violence and stigmatisation is discrimination and racism against the Papuan people", said Manto.
The Coalition notes that over the last two years many human rights defenders, civil society activists and student groups in Papua who have held peaceful protest action have been arrested and jail on charges of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion).
Yet this represents a form of expression that is protected under Indonesia's constitution.
"This discriminatory and even racially bias behaviour is reinforced by the government through the practice of impunity which takes place in case of violence that befall HAM defenders in Papua", he said.
National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) Commissioner Beka Ulung took the opportunity to say that under a democratic state, activists and human rights defenders should be afforded space so they can speak out about human rights violations in Indonesia.
"It also has to be understood that it's not just in Papua, but when we speak about the issue of HAM defenders, the situation is almost identical in other parts of the country", said Ulung.
However, said Ulung, up until now the state's commitment to protecting human rights defenders has been weak. Komnas HAM has recorded many policies or laws which can be used a hold for activists and human rights defenders.
"In my view if indeed there is an opportunity to revise the laws on HAM, there are special articles that speak about the issue of HAM defenders. It is important to ask what is the context of HAM defenders under specific laws which regulate HAM in Indonesia", said Ulung.
Speaking separately, President Widodo's special staff member for Papua, Lenis Kagoya, was reluctant to comment on the Coalition's remarks. According to Kagoya, it is up to law enforcement officials to respond to the issue. (yoa/pmg)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ribuan Pembela HAM Papua Jadi Korban 72 Kasus Era Jokowi".]