29 Oct 2019

International Lawyers calls for release of Papuan political prisoners

8:48 pm on 29 October 2019

An international lawyers group has called on Indonesia to free West Papuan prisoners held for peaceful expression of their political views.

Protest march in Jayapura against racism towards Papuans in Indonesia, 19 August 2019

Protest march in Jayapura against racism towards Papuans in Indonesia, 19 August 2019 Photo: Supplied

International Lawyers for West Papua has also raised concern that treason trials of six Papuan pro-independence activists have been moved to East Kalimantan.

The activists, who include leading members of the West Papua National Committee and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, were arrested during recent unrest. They are accused of stirring mass protests in the Papuan provinces during August and September.

Two executive members of the Committee, its chairman Agus Kossay and Steven Itlay, and the leader of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua's Legislative Committee, Buchtar Tabuni, were arrested last month in Jayapura.

Police said the trial, slated for December, was moved from Papua to East Kalimantan for security reasons. But International Lawyers for West Papua says the move hinders the activists' access to family and support, and will affect the fairness of the trial.

Buchtar Tabuni

Buchtar Tabuni Photo: Facebook/ Buchtar Tabuni

The international lawyers' network, which aims to help the indigenous people of West Papua exercise their right to self-determination under international law, said the six political prisoners must be moved back to Papua.

It also said that West Papuans held for peaceful expression of their political views should be released, or those charged with offenses recognised under international law, accorded a fair trial.

"Others should be promptly brought before a judge, charged with an offense recognised under international law," said ILWP in a statement.

"Lawyers are currently travelling to assist but as there is no funding to support these mounting expenses, continued legal representation is at risk."

Indonesia acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights thirteen years ago.

The lawyers body says Indonesia must adhere to the covenant's recognition of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and the right to due process and a fair trial, while prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention.

The ILWP said that fair treatment of political prisoners and activist leaders will help deescalate conflict and tension in the region.

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