Human Rights Watch Press Release on Papua

Human Rights Watch takes no position on Papuan claims to self-determination

Human Rights Watch (HRW) supports the right of all individuals in the world, including in Indonesia. All Papuan should understand that such supports from HRW is not for self determination. In contrast it is a support for liberating individual expression. In Western countries, liberal ideology is well established and unlikely mislead to a physical conflict. In other countries, (for example Indonesia) physical conflict is a potential power to burst at any time. That is why, prevention by law is vital to maintain peace among people. Unfortunately the law sometimes in opposite to liberal ideology.

Rights of freedom of expression and assembly are recognized by Indonesian government. However, some groups need more and more room for their own interest. Freedom is a beautiful word that all Indonesian agree to live with since its independence. The main and only reasonable reason why Indonesian government should prevent such action like raising separatist flags is to prevent more conflicts and casualties.

Indonesia once takes a wrong way of authoritarianism and militarism. But now Indonesia is moving forward for democracy and respect to human rights. A very careful strategies to protect the people should be taken and it can not satisfy all elements in the name of liberal ideology.

It comes back to each of us to see the problem in Indonesian objectively. We should not pressing Papuan local democratic government and Indonesian central government by supporting pro-independence. We should support the upholding of the democratic law in Papua and the peaceful development of Papua.

Human Rights Watch Press Release: 

Indonesia: Free Peaceful Protesters in Papua

Activists Face Charges for Nonviolent Expression
(London, March 19, 2008) – The Indonesian government should order the immediate release of nine Papua activists arrested for displaying the Papuan Morning Star flag, Human Rights Watch said today. All charges against them should be dropped.

On March 13, police arrested nine people in Manokwari, West Papua, during a demonstration against a 2007 law banning the display of separatist symbols, including the Morning Star Flag. One of the nine in custody is reported to be a 16-year-old boy. Indonesia’s arrest and detention of peaceful activists violates the internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

“Raising a flag at a demonstration is a nonviolent act, but in Indonesia it can land you in prison,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If Indonesia wants recognition as a rights-respecting nation, it should stop imprisoning people for acts of peaceful expression.”

In July 2007, Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling of the Indonesian Constitutional Court declaring unconstitutional certain provisions in Indonesia’s criminal code prohibiting free expression. Despite the ruling, several Indonesian laws continue to restrict freedom of expression in violation of international law, including article 6 of Government Regulation 77/2007, which prohibits the display of the Morning Star Flag in Papua, the South Maluku Republic Benang Raja flag in Ambon and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh.

“Crucial Indonesian legal reforms on free expression have no bearing on events in Papua,” said Pearson. “Unfortunately, once again there is a different set of rules for Papua and other areas with separatist sympathies than for the rest of Indonesia.”

Human Rights Watch is also concerned that the nine individuals facing trial for breaching Regulation 77/2007 will also be charged with makar, which translates into English as “rebellion.” In the past, Papuan activists openly supporting separatism have been sentenced to a 20-year prison term for the peaceful expression of their political views. On March 12, two pro-independence demonstrators in the province of Maluku were sentenced to 15 and 17 years in prison for possession of the South Maluku Republic Benang Raja flag.

Human Rights Watch takes no position on Papuan claims to self-determination, but it supports the right of all individuals, including independence supporters, to express their political views peacefully without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisal.

Peaceful campaigning for self-determination is a right protected by international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in February 2006.

“Committing to the human rights treaties Indonesia recently ratified means more than signing on the dotted line,”said Pearson. “It means stop punishing people for peaceful acts of expression.”

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