Urgent Appeal - Unlawful Mass Arrests of at least 1,783 West Papuans in April and May 2016

To the attention of:
Mr. Maina Kiai,
UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Mr. David Kaye
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression



A record high of mass arrests including the use of torture and ill-treatment of peaceful political protesters related to political aspirations for West Papua1 took place in early May in different parts of Indonesia, mostly in West Papua. This urgent appeal provides updated information on growing tensions in West Papua, which have resulted in an increase of cases of arbitrary arrest and torture, as described in a previous urgent appeal on the torture and extrajudicial execution of Arnold Alua in Wamena on April 24/25, 2016, submitted by Franciscans International on May 3, 2016. We are writing to you on behalf of the International Coalition of Papua (ICP), Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), Franciscans International (FI), Westpapua-Netzwerk (WPN), VIVAT International-Indonesia, Geneva For Human Rights (GHR) – Global Training, Jubi Association, Sekretariat Keadilan, Perdamaian dan Keutuhan Ciptaan Fransiskan Papua (SKPKC Papua), Aliansi Demokrasi Untuk Papua (ALDP), Jaringan Kerja Rakyat Papua (JERAT Papua), Jaringan HAM Perempuan Papua (TIKI), Papua Customary Council (DAP), Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG – Indonesia) in relation to the unlawful arrests of at least 1,783 persons, mostly indigenous West Papuans, between 25 April and 2 May 2016.

 West Papua, as one of the most isolated areas in the world, remains one of the last conflict regions within Indonesia. Local activists keep on reporting about cases of arbitrary arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings in West Papua. Most of the cases are committed by security force members from police and military. The cases mirror the widespread impunity enjoyed by security forces and the lack of effective mechanisms to prosecute such perpetrators. In the last few months, political tensions in Papua have raised due to increasing popularity for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP – a political organisation of West Papua outside Indonesia) amongst many Papuans. ULMWP intends to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). In response, the Government of Indonesia increased their surveillance of the Indigenous West Papuans in order to suppress political expression in support of ULMWP.

The most recent arrests are related to peaceful mass protests in all major Papuan cities (Jayapura, Merauke, Fakfak, Sorong and Wamena) and several other cities, such as Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Semarang (Central Java Province). The demonstrations were held in support of the ULMWP to be recognized as a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the commemoration of 1 May 1963 as Indonesia’s accession of West Papua, and to support the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) forum in London. United Kingdom, on May 3, 2016. Due to the high number of arrests, not all names of victims could be obtained, yet. Due to the high number of arrests, currently the names of 243 victims have already been obtained, while the documentation of further names is still in process (see Annex I).

LBH Jakarta released a report on the incidents, showing a total count of 1783 arbitrary arrests, stating that the information on 1,783 unlawful arrests has been verified and is consistent with its own telephone witness interviews. The report is based on testimonies collected on location by members of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat KNPB), Papuan Students Alliance (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua AMP) and United Liberation Movement for West Papua ULMWP. According to LBH Jakarta, in total, 1,735 people were unlawfully on 2 May 2016. The details are as follows: 1,449 people in Jayapura, 118 people in Merauke, 45 people in Semarang, 42 people in Makassar, 40 people in Fakfak, 27 people in Sorong and 14 people in Wamena2. The other arrests occurred prior to the demonstrations, when activists were registering demonstrations at the local police station or during distribution of leaflets.

Previously, on 15 April 2016, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) made a press statement3 condemning the reprisal against the members of KNPB. Within the 9 days the Indonesian security forces arrested at least 61 indigenous West Papua activists, including 15 activists in Timika on 5 April 2016, 5 activists in Yahukimo and 15 activists in Kaimana on 12 April 2016, 14 activists in Merauke, 3 activists in Sorong and 11 activists in Jayapura on 13 April 2016.

The unlawful mass arrests were accompanied by acts of intimidation and maltreatments against protesters during arrest and interrogation. In Jayapura, at least nine demonstrators and a journalist reported of being tortured by the Indonesian police officers. Violent acts against journalists also occurred in Fakfak. In both cities, the police obstructed journalists from conducting media coverage on the demonstrations. In Manado, North Sulawesi Province, the notification letter of the 2nd May demonstration  was rejected by the North Sulawesi Police without any clear legal basis.

We are deeply concerned about the increasing number of arbitrary arrests and torture of indigenous Papuan activists, peaceful protesters and journalists. The Government of Indonesia has severely limited the freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of information in West Papua due to the growing number of supporters for the ULMWP. As a result, the role of the police in West Papua has shifted from an institution protecting theses rights to an institution oppressing these freedoms through unlawful arrests, excessive use of force, torture, censorship and prohibition of demonstrations with political content.

Chronology of Events

April 25, 2016:
At 10.00, two KNPB Ha-Anim members delivered the 2 May demonstration’s notification letter to the Merauke police station and were unlawfully arrested.

April 27, 2016:
The notification letter of the 2 May demonstration submitted by KNPB Manado was rejected by the North Sulawesi Police without any clear legal basis.

 April 29, 2016:
At 17.00, 41 people were arrested at Mandala Field while distributing information leaflets on the 2nd May Demonstration.

Security forces came to the secretariat of KNPB and Parlemen Rakyat Daerah (PRD) and intimidated the members at around 12.00.

April 30, 2016:
One KNPB activist was unlawfully arrested near KNPB Wamena secretariat. The arrest was not told to anyone including the family.

May 1st, 2016:
Three KNPB activists came to Jayawijaya district police station to look for their friend named Ronal Hiluka and were  unlawfully arrested.

Police/ military forces came to the local KNPB secretariat at around 09.20 and intimidated the members. At 20.20, the security forces came again to the secretariat and arrested five people.

Local police ordered KNPB members to pull down all kind of flags. The head of Manokwari police, contacted via phone, and prohibited any demonstration with political content. After negotiations KNPB was finally allowed to hold a prayer devotion.

May 2nd, 2016:
Merauke district police conducted several waves of arrests in various locations. In total, 118 protesters were arrested and detained at Merauke District Police station. Almost all of the arrestees were released at 16.50. Kasimirus Mahuze remained in custody because he was allegedly carrying a kitchen knife. Ignasius Bifak is still arrested because he allegedly bet a police officer when the officers  requested him to strip off his traditional outfit.

Mass arrests were conducted in several locations. The first arrest took place in front of the new campus of Cenderawasih University in  Waena at around 09.00. 178 people were arrested and detained in Jayapura police station. At around 10.30, around 200 people were arrested at the Roundabout in Abepura. At 11.30, 203 people were arrested near Expo Waena. Around 50 people were arrested in front of the road junction at Lampu Merah Waena. Another 115 people were arrested at the Yapis bus station. Hundreds of arrestees were detained in various sub-district police station and the Jayapura district police station. Subsequently, all were transferred to the police mobile brigade (Brimob) headquarter  in Kota Raja, where the security forces delivered beatings, and forced arrestees to take off their shirts.  Journalists who gathered in front of the Brimob headquarter where stopped from media coverage and not allowed to enter the police complex. At around 18.45, all were released.

Journalist Ardi Bayage from the news platform Suara Papua was maltreated by police officers at the roundabout in Abepura and later tortured at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarter. Police officers from Abepura sub-district police approached Mr Bayage, forcefully took his mobile phone and his press id, smashed them on the ground and repeatedly stomped on both items, until the mobile phone was broken. Subsequently, Mr Bayage was detained at Abepura sub-district police station and later brought to the Brimob headquarter in Kota Raja. He was gathered with a large number of demonstrators for interrogation and forced to take off his shirt. During the interrogation one Brimob officer smacked Mr Bayage's right cheek three times and confiscated his flash drive (Annex II).4

Furthermore, at least 9 protesters stated that they were maltreated and tortured by police officers during arrest and interrogation at the Brimob headquarter in Kota Raja (names listed in table Annex I). Warpo Wetipo was punched on the ear by a police officer causing temporary loss of consciousness. As he woke up, blood came out of his ear. Moreover, police officers kicked him on the back and chest and hit his head repeatedly with a rifle butt. Arim Tabuni was arrested at the roundabout in Abepura. on the way to the police station, police officers repeatedly bet the him and other demonstrators. The arestees were ordered to lift their arms as they were in the police truck while police officers were punching them on the chest to ensure that the torture would not leave any traces. During the interrogation police officers threatened Arim Tabuni and three of his friends to kill them throw their bodies into the sea (Annex II).5

11 KNPB activists were arrested inside the KNPB office in Wamena around 10.00, before the demonstration was about to take place.

At around 08.00, 27 KNPB activists were arrested by joint police and military forces when they launched the protest in front of UKIP Malanu.

42 KNPB activists were detained at around 17.00. All protest’s properties were confiscated. All were released at around 16.00.

At around 09.45, 45 student members of AMP were arrested and detained in Semarang police station. They were all released at 13.00.

19 members of ULMWP were arrested in the secretariat around 17.00. A second wave of  arrests was conducted around 20.00, as people were gathering. Some of them are still children.

A police officer from Fakfak district police with the initials E.R. bet a journalist from Metro TV named Marten Kabes during coverage of the KNPB demonstration in Fakfak. According to Marten, the police officer threatened and hit him on the chin because he was wearing a hat inside the district police station. The beating was witnessed by other police officers without taking any steps of intervention.


We ask you to urge the Government of Indonesia:

1. to ensure freedom of information, freedom of peaceful assembly freedom of expression and freedom of opinion in West Papua.
2. to open access to West Papua for international human rights organisations, journalists and international observers.
3. to develop and enforce policies that ensure the role of the police as a protector of the right to peaceful assembly and expression of political opinions
4. to conduct human rights trainings for police institutions in Papua, focusing on the practical implementation of international human rights obligations for government agencies with regard to the freedom of information, freedom of peaceful assembly freedom of expression and freedom of opinion in West Papua.
5. decide the dates of the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, as it was agreed, and allow other UN special rapporteurs to visit West Papua.