Open letter Foundation Pro Papua about the recent events in Papua to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs
The minister of Foreign Affairs
Drs. F.C.G.M. Timmermans
2500 EB The Hague
12 August 2014
Open letter about the recent events in Papua
Dear minister Timmermans,
I am writing to you on behalf of Foundation Pro Papua concerning recent troubling events in West Papua. There has been a crackdown by the security forces on civil society groups in West Papua and in particular on the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). Below are just a few of the incidents that occurred in the territory since the beginning of July. If the security forces continue to crackdown on peaceful civil society groups it will only lead to an increase in already heightened tension in the region.
Leading up to the presidential election on the 9 July, civil society groups had called for a peaceful boycott of the election. However, the security forces arrested many West Papuan activists simply because there were peacefully distributing literature calling for a boycott of the election as is their democratic right.
Six KNPB activists were arrested, beaten and taken to the Jayapura Police Station on the 3 July because they were distributing leaflets calling for a boycott and in Timika on the 4 July seven KNPB activists were also arrested and beaten for handing out leaflets. A woman was arrested in Kaimana on the 5 of July for the same reason.
Arrests in August
In Manokwari two members of KNPB, Robert Yelemaken and Oni Weya, who are students were arrested and beaten on the 8 August. The incident occurred after a number of KNPB members were painting on walls calling for a boycott of Indonesian Independence Day celebrations (17 August) in the city of Manokwari. Amnesty International has released an urgent action in relation to the incident. Amnesty believes the two students are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally. They were arrested and remain in detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
Two French journalists were arrested on the 7 August because they were covering events in West Papua. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were working for the Franco-German television channel Arte when they were detained. These journalists were simply doing their job reporting on events in the territory. According to the provincial police spokesperson, Sulityo Pudjo Hartono, the authorities were concerned that the French nationals were part of a plan to create insecurity and instability in Papua. Dandois’ fixer and interpreter were also arrested.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Indonesian authorities to release Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat immediately. "These arrests serve as a flagrant reminder that the Indonesian government continues to restrict journalists from reporting on sensitive areas of the country," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. "Indonesian authorities should release Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat immediately." Reporters Without Borders has also raised concerns and regards their continuing detention as illegal.
Papua Police arrested 21 alleged members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) on the 10 August. According to police, the 21 suspects were among 60 people who had just been sworn in as members of the OPM. These arrests are of concern as the police routinely use torture to gain confessions.
On the 11 August up to ten members of the KNPB were arrested because they were involved in the planning of a KNPB secretariat office in the Asmat region.
Other incidents included clashes between the security forces and armed groups in the territory.
We are concerned that if civil society groups continue to call for a boycott of any celebrations of Indonesian Independence Day, there may be more cases of arrests and torture of peaceful activists.
We urge you to raise our concerns about the crackdown on peaceful civil society groups in West Papua by the security forces with the Indonesian Government.
We urge you to call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in West Papua and also call for the immediately release of the two French Journalists.
We also urge you to raise our concerns and the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua with Indonesia’s President-elect Joko Widodo.
With kind regards,
Foundation Pro Papua.