New Ormas Law used to back police repression in Papua
New Ormas Law used to back police repression in
July 15, 2014
At the end of June 2014, there
were at least 76 political prisoners in
The West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), a Papuan pro-independence activist organisation, was heavily targeted by Indonesian security forces this month. There were at least 24 arrests of KNPB members across Papua in Boven Digoel, Timika and Merauke. Police performed a mass arrest of 20 KNPB members in Boven Digoel under the auspices of the Social Organisations Law (RUU Organisasi Kemasyarakatan, RUU Ormas), claiming that the KNPB was an illegal organisation as it was not registered with the Department of National Unity and Politics (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, Kesbangpol). The police also stated that any KNPB attributes such as flags and symbols were thus also considered illegal. The use of the Ormas Law to de-legitimise and control indigenous civil society groups, especially ahead of planned demonstrations or
commemorative events, continues to place unacceptable limitations on freedom of assembly and expression in Papua.
The timing of crackdowns on KNPB members this month suggests that Indonesian authorities used arrests and raids to prevent activists holding events commemorating 1 July, a date Papuans consider to be their national day. There was also an election-related political arrest, following a common pattern during election periods in Papua, where pro-independence activists call for election boycotts, and are subsequently arrested.
This month in Merauke, police
arrested one activist and surrounded the
KNPB Secretariat, claiming that the activists planned a socialisation event to boycott the 2014 Indonesian Presidential elections on 9 July 2014.
Papuans Behind Bars has documented similar arrests in Bokondini
in 2004 and in Nabire in 2009.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands,
Iskandar Bwefar, a Dutch Papuan, was
arrested in the Hague for peacefully waving a Morning Star flag during a
procession celebrating Dutch Veterans Day. Dutch civil society groups
reported that the flag, a symbol of Papuan identity, was banned from the
parade procession by the Dutch House of Representatives following pressure
from the Indonesian authorities. This arrest echoes that of three Papua
New Guinea nationals in December 2013 when the Morning Star flag was
raised during an event in Port Moresby.
The willingness of foreign governments to
legitimise the criminalisation of the Morning Star symbol,in
contravention of international law and reports and opinions
issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, is of
particular concern. At a broad level, this development
indicates that Indonesia is becoming increasingly pro-active
in its efforts to quash support for Papuan
independence among exile communities.