Police fail to respect freedom of peaceful assembly in West Papua – 13 protesters arrested, one injured by bullet during demonstration against Otsus II

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The controversial discussion about the continuation of special autonomy funding in West Papua remains unabated. On 27 October 2020, hundreds of protesters again gathered in Jayapura to peacefully voice their opposition to the government’s plan to prolong the special autonomy funding for the Indonesian provinces of Papua and Papua Barat. The protesters gathered at Expo Waena and near the Cenderawasih University campus in Perumnas III Waena residential area.

Victim Yakobus Guam 1Joint security forces dispersed the peaceful assembly with teargas and firearms. One protester named Matias Soo sustained a bullet injury in the upper right arm (see photo on top, source: Jubi) and was hospitalised at Dian Harapan Catholic Hospital in Waena, Jayapura. Yakobus Guam was severely beaten with a stick by police officers and sustained bleeding wounds and bruises on his forehead, both eyes, the mouth and the cheeks (see photo on the right, source: independent human rights defenders). According to the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), police officers arrested 13 protesters in Expo Waena, namely Apniel Doo, Doni Pekei, John F.Tebay, Yabet Lukas Degey, Meriko Kanak, Orgis Kanak, Charles Siep, Ones Sama, Yanias Mirin, Arkilaus Lokon, Kristianbus Degei, Laban Heluka, Ausilius Magai.

The director of LBH Papua, Emanuel Gobay, urged the police in West Papua to fulfil its obligation to protect and respect the freedom of expression as well as the freedom of peaceful assembly. Gobay also demanded local police chiefs in Papua Province to process the police officers who fired with life ammunition into the crowd, injuring one protester. Furthermore, he questioned the security policy of frequently deploying military forces to support the police during control operations against civilian protesters in West Papua. Emanuel Gobay emphasized that the deployment of military personnel in law enforcement operations is only legal under Indonesian law if the police files a formal written request through the legally stipulated process.