Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Media release Free all West Papuan political Prisoners

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

Media release 1 April  2014

Free all West Papuan political Prisoners

On the 2nd April West Papuan solidarity groups are holding  a day of action calling on the Indonesian Government to free all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally. Rallies are being held in various cities around the world. AWPA has written to the Indonesian President calling for the release of the more than 70 Papuan political prisoners incarcerated  in West Papua.

Joe Collins of AWPA said  "It is of great concern that the human rights situation in West Papua is deteriorating as the increase in political prisoners indicate. Papuans Behind Bars in their January 2013 update stated that  “At the end of January 2013 there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails.” In its February 2014 update it stated that, “there were at least 76 political prisoners in Papuan jails”
AWPA is calling on the Indonesian Government to release all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people. A number of articles in the Indonesian Criminal Code such as article 106 is used to stigmatize West Papuans as separatists when in fact all they are doing is using their democratic right to freedom of expression.   We  call on the Indonesian Government to amend or repeal those articles of the Indonesian Criminal Code that have been used to imprison West Papuans for their legitimate peaceful activities.

AWPA will also write to the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs urging that she raise the plight of West Papuan political prisoners with the Indonesian Government urging their unconditionally.




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Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088

Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono 
President of the Republic of Indonesia 
Istana Merdeka, Jakarta 10110
Indonesia

1 April 2014

Dear President Yudhoyono ,  

   
On behalf of the Australia West Papua Association in Sydney I am writing to you concerning the large number of political prisoners incarcerated  in West Papua. AWPA uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea. 

It is of great concern that the human rights situation in West Papua is deteriorating as the increase in political prisoners indicate. Papuans Behind Bars in their January 2013 update stated that  “At the end of January 2013 there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails.” In its February 2014 update it stated that, “there were at least 76 political prisoners in Papuan jails”.  Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together with Indonesian and International organisations which focuses on the plight of political prisoners in West Papua.

Throughout the past year the security forces in West Papua have been cracking down on peaceful rallies called by civil society organisations to celebrate days of significant in their history and to bring attention to the worsening human rights situation in the territory.  Many of the rallies called by civil society groups were banned by the security forces although permits had been applied for permission to hold the rallies.  It is unfortunate that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) does not appear to apply in West Papua.

As recently as the 11 February 2014, the district court of Biak sentenced five Papuans to jail terms of between 20 months and three years simply because they were involved in a rally on the 1 May 2013 where the Morning Star flag was raised. A number of peaceful rallies were called on the 1 May 2013 to commemorate the tragic event of 50 years ago when West Papua was handed over by UNTEA to Indonesian administration. During the rallies on the 1 May two people were killed and three seriously wounded in the town of Sorong.  The police shot and killed two protesters on the 30 April as they prepared to mark the 50th anniversary of the handover. Another activist who was also shot died of her wounds in hospital on the 6 May.   In Timika fifteen people were arrested for simply raising their national flag, The Morning Star and six were arrested in Biak. In the town of Fakfak, the police hauled down the Morning Star flag which had been raised in a local school. Local people were also intimidated by the security forces during these rallies.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay expressed concern in relation to the crackdown on the demonstrations stating   “These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua,” and. “I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.” and
“There has not been sufficient transparency in addressing serious human rights violations in Papua,” she said, urging Indonesia to allow international journalists into Papua and to facilitate visits by the Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council.

One of the most well known Papuan political prisoner internationally is Filep Karma. Filep was one of the organisers of a peaceful rally in December 2004 where the Morning Star flag was raised.  He was arrested and sentenced to   fifteen years in jail. Amnesty International considers Filep Karma to be a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We congratulate the Indonesian Government on the great progress it has made towards democracy. However, the oppression of the West Papuan people is being noted by the international community. Since the beginning of the year security sweeps have occurred in various regions including the Yapen Islands and Puncak Jaya regions causing fear in the local people.

AWPA urges the Indonesian Government to release all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people.

We also note that a number of articles in the Indonesian Criminal Code such as article 106 is used to stigmatize West Papuans as separatists when in fact all they are doing is using their democratic right to freedom of expression. We urge  the Indonesian Government to amend or repeal those articles of the Indonesian Criminal Code that have been used to imprison West Papuans for their legitimate peaceful activities.

Yours sincerely
Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)


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