Amnesty calls for history of restrictions in Papua to end
Amnesty International hopeful its calls for Indonesian authorities to ease restrictions on freedom of expression are heeded.
Amnesty International has called on the Indonesian government to stop attacking freedom of expression in Papua.
That comes after a number of arrests of pro-independence activists as well as two French journalists who were making a documentary on the independence movement.
Amnesty is also demanding justice for the murder of West Papuan pro-independence activist, Martinus Yohame, who was allegedly kidnapped by Indonesian security forces.
Amnesty's Josef Benedict told Koro Vaka'uta there is a history of rights violations in the region.
JOSEF BENEDICT: What we have seen are restrictions on freedom of expression there where peaceful, political activists are not allowed to organise and to gather to express their views. We often have seen a very strong response from the security forces and often the use of excessive force and also the issues around criminalisation of activists. In the instance, we saw two students who basically just express themselves through pro-independence graphically who were arrested, detained, ill-treated. We also have highlighted the case of a traditional council leader who met some journalists in Papua who is now being arrested for rebellion.
KORO VAKA'UTA: I know Amnesty International has talked about the Criminal Code and possible changes to that. How is the law used to clamp down in Papua?
JB: There are several laws that have been used. Particularly this rebellion law or what has been known as crimes against the security of the state, have been used quite arbitrarily in the last couple of years to imprison dozens of political activists, for as simple things as possession of the pro-independence Papuan flag or for raising it or for peaceful protest and so forth. Amnesty obviously considers them as prisoners of conscience, people that express themselves peacefully, and have called for their release. Some are in prison for as long as 15 years, you know. Not just Amnesty but even a working group on arbitrary detention of the United Nations have also raised their concerns about the usage of these laws in the Papuan region.
KV: The two French journalists who seem to be doing a documentary of sorts and they have been detained. Have you heard about the state or anything about their detention?
JB: What we've heard so far is that they've had access to lawyers who are currently working out with them their case and I think they will brought before, be charged and tried pretty soon for immigration violations. Their case highlights a larger issue with the issue of access to the Papuan region. Various foreign journalists have been denied access there over the years, including human rights organisations. If there is no major conflict in the region, we don't see the need to restrict independent observers there. Amnesty International have consistently called for all those who have been detained for their peaceful political activism or for freedom of expression to be immediately and unconditionally be released. But I think more importantly. what we need is independent investigations. We've seen in numerous cases where incidences of human rights violations occur in the province where investigations are not carried out by independent bodies but by the police themselves. And this in practice rarely leads to any form of prosecution and this has contributed to a culture of impunity in Papua where the security forces can get away with many things.
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