Konradus Epa, Jakarta – Indonesian police have arrested at least 23 students staging a peaceful protest in Papua province, church and rights group said.
Some of those arrested were subjected to brutal assaults by police, they alleged on July 15.
The arrests took place on July 14 in the provincial capital Jayapura during a protest against the government extending special autonomy status in the restive province.
It wasn't clear how many people attended the protest.
Special autonomy status, first implemented in 2001, guaranteed Papuans the right to manage their own region politically, economically and culturally, but it was due to expire this year.
However, the move to extend it has met with opposition from Papuans who would prefer to have a referendum on independence.
The Papuan police chief ordered local police to break up the rally, who in turn used violence in doing so
At least 23 church and rights groups, including Jayapura Diocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, the Indonesian Christian Church in Tanah Papua and the Papua Legal Aid Institute, issued a statement on July 15 accusing police of using unnecessary force to break up the protest.
"The Papuan police chief ordered local police to break up the rally, who in turn used violence in doing so," they said.
Accusing police of rights abuses, the groups alleged that at least five people were beaten by officers.
"These officers need to be held to account and prosecuted," they said as they called for the immediate release of those arrested.