ETAN calls for an end to Indonesia's silencing of West Papuan protesters; condemns mass arrests

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JUNE 7, 2016- The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) condemns ongoing violations of the rights of West Papuans to freedom of expression and calls for an end to Indonesia's attacks against Papuan protesters.

"Indonesia's continued repression of West Papuan protests is unacceptable," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Indonesia must end the arrests, provide permits for demonstrations, and -- most importantly -- respond positively to the protesters' demands for self-determination."

On Monday, May 30, in a pre-emptive move, Indonesian police rounded up hundreds of West Papuans as they prepared to protest in Jayapura. Dozens of others were also seized inWamena and in the Northern Sulawesi city of Manado. On May 2, 1724 were arrested as they marched or prepared to march in towns throughout the region. Police have made clear that they will continue to suppress pro-independence expression in West Papua.On May 30, Papuans rallied to express support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the release of political prisoners. Led by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), the protesters' applications for permits were ignored by the police. Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has said he supports the release of political prisoners.

After the early May arrests, police separated the protest leaders and beat them with rifle butts and stomped on their bodies. Others were made to strip and sit outside in the heat of the tropical sun. These protests were commemorating the United Nations transfer of control of West Papua to Indonesia on May 1, 1963.

"President Widodo has improve human rights in West Papua  However, what we see is the same old brutal repression and denial of rights," said Miller. "The security forces on the ground either haven't received the message or are deliberately undermining the policy," he added.


Police arrested a total of 2175 West Papuan protesters in April and May. Some were detained while attempting to deliver the required notifications of planned protests to the police.
West Papuans are guaranteed the right to freedom of expression by the Indonesian Constitution and international accords that Indonesia is a party to, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

In October, more than 3,500 people signed an ETAN petition to urge US President Barack Obama "to condition U.S. support for the Indonesian security forces on concrete improvements in human rights." 

West Papua consists of the western half of the island of New Guinea and is home to more than 250 tribes of Melanesian descent. A former Dutch colony, the First West Papuan People's Congress declared independence on December 1, 1961. Since May 1963, West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia with U.S. government support and encouragement. In 1969, Indonesia formally annexed the territory in a widely-disputed UN-endorsed vote involving only a tiny percentage of the population. Over the course of five decades, West Papuans have suffered mass killings, torture, rape, and the loss of their culture and lands rights. 

Indonesia regularly represses peaceful demonstrations. Reverend Benny Giay, a well-known advocate for West Papua, wrote in response to the early May arrests, "Every protest and negotiation effort by indigenous people is met with brutal responses and security operations. In talking about West Papua, the Indonesian government often uses language that obscures past abuses. Papua's relationship with the outside world is heavily controlled."The ULMWP, a broad coalition of leading pro-independence groups in West Papua, seeks full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a regional group of countries and territories, and internationally-mediated talks with Jakarta. 

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-917-690-491;