Police brutality continues in Papua, protests hindered, Indigenous Papuans ignored by govt: Amnesty

Indigenous Papuans
Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director, Usman Hamid - IST

Jayapura, Jubi – Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia made a joint press release to respond to the police’s action in dispersing a peaceful protest against the Papua expansion plan as well as Papua’s Special Autonomy (Otsus) in Jayapura City on Friday, June 3, 2022. Amnesty considers the police action reflects the Indonesian government’s attitude that keeps ignoring the aspirations of the Papuan people.

Amnesty recorded that police had repeatedly dispersed similar protests. “Indigenous Papuans have the right to peacefully protest government policies without fear of being arrested or receiving violence. These repeated incidents show that the state does not respect the voice of the Papuan Indigenous People,” said Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director, Usman Hamid.

According to Amnesty, protests against Otsus and the plan to create new autonomous regions in Papua have been held in various cities in Papua including Yahukimo, Paniai, Nabire, and Jayapura.

“Activists, human rights defenders, and indigenous Papuans have voiced their concern that the new province will become an excuse for the central government to send more troops to Papua as every province in Indonesia are required to have its own regional police and military command,” reads the press release.

Amnesty received reports that at least 11 protesters in Jayapura were injured after the police forcibly dispersed a protest in Waena Village. Two students bleed allegedly due to being beaten with rattan sticks by the police. Amnesty also recorded that 22 protesters were arrested by the police during a protest in Nabire on Friday.

Previously, on May 10, protesters were confronted by the police using batons and water cannons. At that time, seven Papuan activists, including KontraS Papua staff, were arrested despite later released without suspicion.

“However, the police said these activists were being investigated for alleged violations of Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law by spreading online invitations to join the protests,” said Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia in their press release.

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Amnesty also highlighted police brutality when dispersing a protest against the expansion of Papua and Otsus in Dekai, the capital of Yahukimo Regency, on March 15. Two protesters, Yakob Meklok and Esron Weipsa, died during the event.

“Today’s protest and police’s treatment against it are just one of many other incidents that show how the voices of Indigenous Papuans are not being heard let alone accommodated,” said Amnesty International Australia Director Sam Klintworth.

Repeated Violence

Amnesty said that repressive police actions had occurred repeatedly and continuously. “On July 14, 2021, at least four students were injured in Jayapura after clashes with security forces. Police reportedly beat protesters with their hands, firearms, and rubber batons. On July 15, 2021, police forcibly dispersed protesters in front of the House of Representatives building in Jakarta. At least 50 people were arrested that day. One protester recounted that he was beaten, stepped on, and received racist insults from security forces, before being pulled into a truck and taken to the Jakarta Police Headquarters. On August 16, 2021, during another protest in Jayapura, police also used water cannons and rubber batons to disperse protesters,” reads the joint press release of Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International Australia.

Usman Hamid criticized the Indonesian government for saying they want to develop and provide welfare for Indigenous Papuans but continued to constrain the freedom of expression of Indigenous Papuans. “How can Papuans prosper if their efforts to express their opinions and aspirations are met with violence?” Usman said.

Meanwhile, Sam Klintworth urged the police to stop dispersing peaceful protests. “We urge the Indonesian authorities to release all those detained for peacefully protesting. Police must also carry out prompt, independent, and impartial investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by its institution, and ensure that similar incidents do not recur,” Klintworth said. (*)

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