10 Aug 2017

Indonesia denies claims of Papuan rights restrictions

2:59 pm on 10 August 2017

The Indonesian government has again rejected claims that rights to the freedom of expression and assembly are restricted in Papua region.

Through its embassy in New Zealand, Indonesia has raised issue with reported comments by Vanuatu's government in United Nations forums that basic human rights of West Papuans are being infringed.

Vanuatu has repeatedly called for UN action on human rights violations by Indonesian security forces in Papua.

It has drawn particular attention to arrests of Papuans for participating in public demonstrations.

However, a Minister Counsellor at Indonesia's embassy, Wanton Saragih, denied that Papuans were being arrested for exercising their basic rights such as freedom of expression.

Mr Saragih disputed reports on RNZ and elsewhere that over a hundred Papuans were arrested and harshly treated by police last month in the Papuan city of Nabire.

"On 6 July dozens of people were brought into the police station in Nabire on allegations and complaints that they played a part in distributing brochures calling for unlawful actions," he said.

"The authorities determined that the group did not provide proper notification or hold a permit for holding protests."

Mr Saragih said the Papuans were treated with respect and dignity by police who released them by transporting them to where they had come from on the following day.

Indonesia's Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua

Indonesia's Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua Photo: RNZ

He explained that demonstrations were common events across many Indonesian cities.

"The rights of the public to peacefully voice their opinions are protected by the Law," the counsellor said, suggesting that representations by Vanuatu about Papua in international fora were unhelpful.

"Vanuatu should also be contributing positively to the progress and welfare of the people of Papua and West Papua."