13 Feb 2020

Amnesty calls for Indonesia to release Papuan political prisoners

6:25 am on 13 February 2020

Amnesty International is calling on Indonesia to release West Papuan political prisoners.

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Photo: RNZI

The number of Papuans detained and facing treason charges more than doubled in late 2019.

Fifty-seven people were arrested between 30 August and 1 December, amid widespread anti-racism and pro-independence protests by Papuans.

While most are awaiting trial in Papuan cities or towns, six are on trial in Jakarta.

Amnesty International Indonesia's executive director Usman Hamid said people were being criminalised for peacefully expressing their opinion, as was their right.

"We are calling on Indonesian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.

"So, we are hoping that as one of the largest democratic countries, Indonesia remains committed to not prosecute anyone expressing political opinion, including political solutions such as right to self-determination."

Indonesian authorities are also being urged to investigate the plight of West Papuan highlanders displaced by ongoing conflict.

West Papua Liberation Army fighters in Nduga regency.

West Papua Liberation Army fighters in Nduga regency. Photo: Supplied

The highlands regency of Nduga remains a focus of Indonesian military operations against the West Papua Liberation Army.

Operations intensified since the Liberation Army massacred at least 17 Indonesian road construction workers in December 2018.

Amnesty International Indonesia said that as a result of the operations, about 5000 villagers had been displaced.

That's according to data compiled by Papuan church representatives and researchers with the Foundation for Justice and Integrity of the Papuan People.

Mr Hamid said that as of the end of last month, over 240 Nduga residents had died - many from deprivations caused by displacement.

"We call on Indonesian authorities to launch an impartial and effective investigation into the allegations of deaths of IDPs (internally displaced people) in Nduga because of military operations or because of the lack of access to foods, water and sanitation for example."

Mr Hamid said the death toll and number of displaced people presented by the researchers might not neccessarily reflect the full extent of the problem.

Due to Papua's rugged terrain and the restrictions on access to the territory for outside humanitarian agencies and journalists, it remained as difficult to gauge the number of victims of conflict as it was for the number of troops being sent there.

"Unfortunately, there is no official source of information that can explain the number of the military being deployed in Papua," Mr Hamid said.

He has also called on Indonesia's government to allow an invitation for the UN Human Right's Commissioner's office to visit Papua to materialise.

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