The Jakarta Globe
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Free Imprisoned Indonesian Activists, Amnesty Says
Representatives from Amnesty International met with the coordinating
minister for legal, political and security affairs on Tuesday, urging
him to free political prisoners incarcerated for peacefully expressing
At least 90 people are in prison in Papua and Maluku for peaceful
pro-independence activities, including Filep Karma, a Papuan
independence leader currently serving a 15-year sentence in Abepura,
Papua. Filep’s case has received special attention by the human rights
“The Indonesian government should free all those who are detained in
Papua and Maluku for peacefully expressing their views, including
through raising or waving the prohibited pro-independence flags, and
distinguish between peaceful and violent political activists,” Amnesty
said in a statement.
On Dec. 1, 2004, Filep organized a peaceful demonstration in Abepura
in which the banned Morning Star flag was raised. Filep was
subsequently sentenced in May 2005 for treason and stoking unrest.
Washington-based Freedom Now said Filep, 51, would become one of 13
political prisoners around the world for whom it was currently
campaigning, joining the likes of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner
Liu Xiaobo. The organization is also known for having worked for the
release of now-free Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
Amnesty said the government had the duty and the right to maintain
public order, but in some cases the restrictions on freedom of
expression and peaceful assembly had violated the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently initiated discussions with
Papuan activists and established a special task force to enhance
economic development in Papua.
Papua and its neighboring province, West Papua, have enjoyed more
economic independence under the 2001 Special Autonomy Law, but the
absence of implementing regulations have been blamed for rampant
corruption and widespread poverty.
Amnesty said it supported Indonesia’s efforts to implement special
autonomy but stressed the need to set up a human rights court and a
truth and reconciliation commission to investigate cases of human
rights violations that had gone on since Indonesia annexed Papua in
The minister, Djoko Suyanto, has expressed the government’s commitment
to ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed by security
However, Amnesty criticized the use of lenient administrative
penalties and closed-door trials in response to rights violations
involving members of the security forces.
This year, security forces have been criticized for using excessive
force during the disbanding of the Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura
on Oct. 19.
The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said at least
six congress participants died during the brutal crackdown and
hundreds more were injured or subject to degrading treatment.
The National Police punished seven officers with between seven to 14
days detention and reprimanded 10 others.
Amnesty called on the minister to allow international observers,
nongovernmental organizations and journalists unrestricted and ongoing
access to the provinces of Papua and West Papua.