‘Papuans treated unfairly’

  • Indonesia
  • Thursday, 25 Jun 2020

HUMAN rights activists have slammed the government for what they deem the misuse of treason charges to prosecute Papuans, thereby threatening their freedom of speech and right to assembly.

The activists highlighted the recent imprisonment of seven Papuans following their arrest during anti-racism protests in Jayapura, Papua, in August last year.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said people could exercise their freedom of expression legitimately if it was expressed without any violence, as was done by many Papuans during the protest.

“However, the state generalises all kinds of expression by Papuans as treason, even peaceful protests, due to its fear over an imagined threat to the country’s sovereignty,” Usman said during a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute chairperson Asfinawati agreed, saying physical assault was necessary for charging someone with treason.

“The treason article itself (in the Criminal Code inherited from the Dutch colonial era) is problematic due to its chronic errors in translation and use,” she said.

She said the fact that Cenderawasih University student union head Ferry Kombo and other defendants were handed prison sentences of less than one year showed that they should never have been arrested in the first place.“If they were truly guilty of treason, they should have been sentenced to at least two-thirds of the initial demand of five to 17 years’ imprisonment,” she added.

Yorrys Raweyai, the head of the Papua and West Papua legislative council members forum, said the state’s attitude toward the freedom of expression in the country’s easternmost provinces was discriminatory, even though such rights were guaranteed in the Constitution.

“The judicial process against Papuans is deemed discriminatory as well,” Yorrys added, highlighting a case when law enforcement officials arrested MG, a Papuan child suspected of premeditated murder.

Police transferred him from Wamena to Jakarta, while he did not speak Indonesian and was not accompanied by legal representatives during the investigation. He was later acquitted of all charges.

“The absence of justice by the state in many cases often causes trauma among Papuans,” Yorrys said.On the other hand, Usman said, the perpetrators of racism against Papuans in many cases were sentenced to less than one year of imprisonment.

“Systemic racism in this country is reflected in unfair trials of Papuans,” Usman said.

The Law and Human Rights Ministry’s director general of human rights, Mualimin Abdi, argued that the problem lay with the law’s misinterpretation by law enforcement authorities, who interpreted the norms differently from the government’s initial intent upon formulating it. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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