UN Human Rights Chief Zeid concern about denial of access to West Papua


Indonesia denies UN human rights office access to Papua

On 18th June 2018, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein raised concerns about the continued failure of the Indonesian government to honor its invitation for his office to visit West Papua. He made the remarks at the opening of the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

According to Human Rights Watch the Indonesian authorities have consistently blocked foreign journalists and rights monitors from visiting Papua. Those restrictions defy an announcement made in 2015 by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo that accredited foreign media would have unimpeded access to West Papua.

As previously documented by the CIVICUS Monitor security forces are responsible for a high level of repression in West Papua, in response to long-standing calls for independence. Hundreds have been detained or imprisoned for their peaceful pro-independence activism. 

Journalists at risk of violence and intimidation in Indonesia

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) press freedom is under serious threat in Indonesia. Despite the existence of laws that are supposed to protect journalists - such as Law No 39 of 1999 on Human Rights, and Law No 40 of 1999 on the Press – they continue to face violent attacks, the denial of access to information, threats and intimidation.

Data provided by Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia shows there were 60 cases of violence or intimidation against journalists in 2017. AJI also reports that there had been 81 such cases in 2016.

On 29th March 2018, two journalists were physically assaulted by a politician and his entourage. Sam Hatunia, a reporter for a local media outlet Rakyat Maluku in Ambon, Maluku province was attacked while photographing the incumbent governor and his team meeting with civil servants. Enlisting the support of civil servants during gubernatorial campaigning is prohibited in the country.

The governor allegedly ordered his aide to make Hatunia delete the photographs and hand over his smartphone. Abdul Kaim Angkotasan, chairman of AJI in Ambon, who was present at the same location, tried to intervene, but was reportedly punched in the face. According to AJI, a police spokesman for Maluku said that the case would be investigated.

Journalist dies in police custody

On 10th June, Indonesian journalist, Muhammad Yusuf died in police custody in the South Kalimantan Class II B Kotabaru detention centre. Yusuf, who worked for the online news portal, kemajuanrakyat.co.id, was detained in April 2018 after police arrested him on defamation charges for allegedly violating the Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (UU ITE). The charges related to a piece he wrote about a palm oil company. The case is currently ongoing at the Kotabaru District Court.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), on 10th June, Yusuf complained to guards of difficult breathing, chest pains and that he had vomited. He was taken to the Kotabaru Regional Public Hospital, but passed away within 30 minutes of his arrival.

The Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Independent Journalists Alliance or AJI) said:

"We…demand an investigation with the Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) into his death. We also raise questions as to why Yusuf was been charged until criminal legislation, which should not be used to resolve media disputes. The Press Law should always be used to resolve media disputes. Criminal proceedings can have negative implications for journalists, and their ability to report freely and without fear of retribution."

Peaceful assembly

West Papuan activists arrested during Solomon Islands delegation visit

Nine West Papuan activists were arrested by Indonesian police in Jayapura on 25th April 2018 for a protest over a visit by a Solomon Islands delegation. The protesters were arrested outside the provincial government headquarters where the delegation was scheduled to meet with Papua's acting Governor

Those demonstrating included students, activists and some staff from the secretariat of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

A spokesman for the demonstrators said their public action was a way of questioning why the delegation had come to Papua "silently", but also to thank the Solomon Islands for its support for West Papuan self-determination and human rights.

The government-led delegation travelled to Papua's provincial capital at the invitation of Indonesia's government. The delegation was led by Solomon Islands' Ambassador to Indonesia, Salana Kalu, and included the Solomons Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, John Teddie Usuramo, as well as a Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Rence Sore. Five representatives from Solomon Islands' civil society were also part of the delegation, including a representative of the country's West Papua solidarity network.

One person killed by police in land protest

At least one person was allegedly unlawfully killed by police during a protest on 25th April 2018, in East Nusa Tenggara province.

There had been an ongoing land dispute between villagers from Patiala Bawah in the sub-district of Lamboya with the Sutera Marosi company. On the day of the incident, the company had been conducting land measurements on the disputed land, together with the officials from the land agency and at least 50 anti-riot police. In one of the locations, the villagers began recording the activities on their phones. The police allegedly grabbed the phones and began beating the villagers.

As more villagers began to arrive to protest the beatings, police allegedly opened fire on them, killing 40-year-old Poro Dukka (pictured above) and injuring at least 10 others.

On 9th May 2018, Jakarta Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammad Iqbal said the East Nusa Tenggara Police were still investigating the shooting.

Lawyers defending protesters assaulted and forcibly removed from police station

On 1st May 2018, police officers of the Special Region of Yogyakarta Police Office arrested student activists participating in the International Labour Day rally and took them to the police station. The police had accused them of burning a police post near the Islamic State University of Yogyakarta.

When two lawyers arrived later that day to provide legal assistance they were denied access to the students by the police, stating they did not have "power of attorney". Subsequently another three lawyers from the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Yogyakarta were also denied access. A sixth lawyer then arrived with the "power of attorney" documentation but was told to wait as the students were going through an identification process.

Suddenly, police told the lawyers to leave the station. When they refused they were forcibly pushed out by police. One of the lawyers, Emanuel Gobay, was allegedly beaten repeatedly as they were removed. The CIVICUS Monitor is not aware of any investigation into their ill-treatment by the police.