Indo govt continues to pressure human rights defender Veronica Koman

The Indonesian Education Fund Management Institution (LPDP) is demanding the Indonesian human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman (see intro image), to reimburse funds that she received as part of a scholarship program for her studies abroad. Veronica Koman understood the claim as a new attempt by the Indonesian government to discourage her from advocacy activities on the human rights situation in West Papua. In the past years, unknown perpetrators launched smear campaigns on the internet against Koman. She decided to go into exile in Australia in 2019 after repeatedly receiving death threats and other forms of intimidation.

Veronica Koman studied law at the Australian National University (ANU) between 2016 and 2018 after the LPDP approved her scholarship for a Master's degree in Law. After finishing her studies, she returned to Indonesia in September 2018 and represented multiple Papuan political activists at court trials in Jayapura. In July 2019, Veronica Koman returned to Australia for the graduation ceremony. She has been staying in Australia since after receiving death threats and becoming the target of a criminalisation campaign by the Surabaya police.

The LPDP is pressuring her to reimburse and amount of IDR 773,876,918 (about € 44.144), arguing that Veronica Koman did not return to Indonesia as stipulated in the scholarship contract. Other observers say that there are many other cases in which the LPDP did not demand the reimbursement of scholarship funds, even though the graduates chose to accept a job outside of Indonesia. Amnesty International and the West Papua human rights community support Veronika Koman’s point of view that the reimbursement claims constitute an act of intimidation. They urged the Government to honour international human rights standards for the protection of human rights defenders. Amnesty International called upon the LPDP to withdraw the demands against Veronica Koman.

In September 2019, the police summoned Veronica Koman for alleged violation of article 160 of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP) on incitement. The Surabaya police claims that she disseminated false information about the racist attack against Papuan students in the city of Surabaya. Later, the police attempted to initiate an international prosecution through Interpol, because Veronica Koman refused to return to Indonesia. In response to the attempted criminalisation, a panel of United Nations experts urged the Indonesian Government to protect the rights of Veronica Koman as human rights defender.