Katharina Reny Lestari – A human rights organization in Indonesia's restive Papua province came under attack from an unknown assailant who threw what was thought to be Molotov cocktails at its offices.
A man wearing a hat, black sweater and face mask was seen fleeing the offices of the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) in provincial capital Jayapura on a motorcycle just before a fire engulfed a motorcycle and scorched a car parked in the office's garage.
Nobody was reported hurt in the incident early on May 9.
LBH Papua director Emanuel Gobay told UCA News on May 10 that a wick and a plastic bag containing gasoline were found at the scene following the attack.
"We believe they were used by the perpetrator who knew the right time to attack – when things were pretty quiet," he said, adding the fire was extinguished very quickly before it had a chance to spread.
He said the attack was likely linked to rights cases involving the victimization of workers, students, tribal groups and activists his organization was working on.
"The incident also highlights the need for the government to improve protection for human rights defenders, particularly in Papua province where there are many rights violations"
"These cases include illegal logging and gun ownership. We assume that one of these cases was the motive behind the attack. But I cannot be sure," Gobay said.
"Obviously, we want the police to get to the bottom of what happened, arrest the perpetrator and tell us why we were targeted. The incident also highlights the need for the government to improve protection for human rights defenders, particularly in Papua province where there are many rights violations."
A similar attack in September 2021 targeted the Legal Aid Institute's Yogyakarta office.
The Humanity Coalition for Papua, an umbrella group of rights organizations including the Papua Franciscans' Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), condemned the attack, calling it "an assault against democracy."
"The government must not brush this under the carpet. The government promised to deal with issues in Papua immediately, including human rights violations," the group said.
"If it is ignored, such intimidation will create a situation in which human rights defenders will always live in fear while a feeling of insecurity will pervade among the Papuan people."
Yuliana Langowuyo, executive director of the JPIC, said the incident has put her organization on full alert.
"It's not the first such attack against human rights defenders in Papua. Last year a journalist's car was badly damaged," she told UCA News.
Papua police spokesman Senior Commissioner Ahmad Mustofa Kamal called on people to stay calm and not be provoked by those looking to create chaos in the province.