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Election arrests signal lack of democratic rights in Papua

July 2014: Election arrests signal lack of democratic rights in Papua

Aug 12, 2014

At the end of July 2014, there were at least 69 political prisoners in Papuan jails.

The number of political prisoners decreased this month following the release of 17 prisoners in three separate cases: the Third Papua Congress case, 26 November arrests and Nabire civilian accused as OPM case. 16 of these 17 releases were due to a completion of prison sentences. Meanwhile, there were at least 70 political arrests this month, the highest recorded number so far this year. These arrests included the mass arrest of 25 people in Timika at a peaceful demonstration, including at least five women and four children aged one to two years. Most people arrested this month faced ill-treatment on arrest or in detention. Bilim Wenda, one of the 25 demonstrators in Timika, faced torture and cruel and degrading treatment in detention.

Many of the arrests related to the recent Presidential Elections on 9 July 2014. At least 36 political arrests were related to peaceful calls for an election boycott by Papuan activists, following peaceful demonstrations and distributing of flyers. The freedom to not participate in a democratic process, or to campaign for a boycott, is an undeniable element of democratic freedoms. The criminalisation of these actions in Papua has also been documented by Papuans Behind Bars in relation to elections in 2004 and 2009.

The arrest and subsequent release of six people in relation to internal disagreements between students and authorities at Cenderawasih University (Universitas Cenderawasih, UNCEN) were the latest development in a deteriorating situation which began in mid-2012. There has been a move towards greater involvement of police and other security forces in response to student organising and demonstrations relating to human rights, democratic freedoms and internal campus issues. This has been accompanied by a decrease in the university’s role in effectively protecting students and their rights to free expression and assembly.

An incident at Youtefa market in Jayapura on 2 July triggered by the murder of a police officer who demanded bribes resulted in the killing of three men by security forces and a number of arrests. The reported involvement of non-Papuan immigrants in the arbitrary arrest, public torture and beatings of indigenous highlanders – at the invitation of police – is an alarming development. This incident, involving excessive use of force, unprocedural use of firearms and extrajudicial killings as collective punishment of indigenous Papuans represents a serious indictment of police conduct in Papua. It also demonstrates that at the local level, Indonesia’s ongoing climate of impunity is being extended by security forces to further groups whom they view as allies.


Scores of activists arrested for peaceful boycott of 9 July Presidential elections

At least 36 people were arrested in Jayapura, Timika, Fak-Fak and Wamena during July 2014 for their peaceful involvement in calling for a boycott of the Indonesian Presidential Elections on 9 July. Local human rights activists reported that Papuans in these areas faced intimidation from police who attempted to force them to vote in the elections.


On 3 July, six activists from the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) were arrested in front of the campus of Cenderawasih University (Universitas Cenderawasih, UNCEN) for giving out flyers calling for an election boycott. The six men – Ono Balingga, Hakul Kobak, Yandri Heselo, Gesman Tabuni, Ronal Wenda and another unnamed man – were beaten on arrest and interrogated at Jayapura Regional police station. They have since been released without charge.


On 4 July, seven KNPB members were arrested for distributing flyers calling for an election boycott. The seven men – Ruben Kayun, Deky Akum, Kaitanus Siminak, Apollos Simare, Yanuarius Enakat, Gerson Banam and Anthon Damkokor – were arrested by military officers before being handed over to Timika Regional police. With the exception of Kayun, all were released without charge after a few hours in detention. The KNPB reported that Kayun was initially charged with Article 160 for incitement but was later released on 16 July. It is not clear whether the charges have been dropped or not. Testimony from Kayun about his time in detention states that he faced ill-treatment from Timika police. Upon release police also followed him back to his house where they took pictures of his home in a bid to intimidate him.


On 5 July, Mama Umi Safisa was arrested by police for distributing flyers calling for a boycott of the 9 July elections. KNPB members gathered outside Kaimana Regional police station where Mama Safisa was detained and attempted to negotiate for her release, however they were forcibly dispersed by police. KNPB Kaimana leader Ruben Furay, who was amongst those protesting against her detention, was reportedly beaten by police.


A report received via email from local activists reported a total number of 22 boycott related arrests, with nine people remaining in detention. On 9 July, 18 people were arrested in Wamena for their involvement in the distribution of flyers calling for an election boycott. Out of the 18 people arrested, 13 have already been released from Jayawijaya Regional police station. The five still detained are reported to be Yosep Siep, Ibrahim Marian, Marsel Marian, Yance Walilo and Yosasam Serabut. On 14 July, a further four people were arrested by security forces, reportedly because they chose not to vote in the Presidential Elections. The four men – Sudi Wetipo, Elius Elosak, Domi Wetipo and Agus Doga – are reportedly still in detention at Jayawijaya Regional police station.


A report received from a human rights investigator described harassment and threats against village leaders in villages Tomon I and Tomon II in Yahukimo to submit votes on behalf of their communities, despite the decision taken by both communities to boycott the elections.
Three arrested following Kampung Berab raid in Jayapura

A report received from a local human rights investigator reported the arbitrary arrest of three men following a raid in Kampung Berab in Jayapura. On 20 July at around 13:00 Papua time, Mobile Brigades (Brigade Mobil, Brimob) and Papua regional police (Kepolisian Daerah Papua, Polda Papua) raided two houses in Kampung Berab belonging to two men, Z Tarko and Elim Berab. According to an interview with the aforementioned human rights investigator, Berab stated that Jayapura police had conducted the raid in response to information they received about alleged armed pro-independence camps belonging to David Tarko and Terianus Satto in the village, and a forthcoming inauguration ceremony there on 22 July.

During the raid on the home of Z Tarko, security forces ransacked the house, destroying much of the furniture. Three motorcycles parked outside the house were destroyed using stones and long wooden planks. A cash total of IDR 7 million as well as rice and sago were also seized from the house. While this took place, security forces also conducted a raid on the home of Elim Barab, a former principle of the local primary school. At around 17:00, Brimob officers returned to the home of Z Tarko, surrounding it and firing three warning shots.

After the raid, police then conducted a sweeping on the Demta-Sarmi road, stopping a local bus and arbitrarily arresting three indigenous Papuans – Jekeer Kalaka, Jhon Abolka and Yosepus Taplo. Kalaka and Abolka are workers at a local palm oil plantation owned by Sinar Mas. The men were detained for four days at Jayapura Regional police station and released on 24 July. The three men were reportedly targeted because they come from the Papuan highlands, where pro-independence sentiment is strong according to security forces. Following the arrests and raid, security forces continued to keep a tight watch on the village, inspecting the movements of the local community and conducting stop-and-searches on local villagers.

25 people, including women and children, arrested in Timika during referendum demo

According to various news sources as well as reports received from local activists, on 17 July 2014, a joint police and military force conducted mass arrests of at least 24 people in Timika. While earlier reports indicate that 24 people were arrested, a detailed report published by local news site Umagi News stated that 25 people were arrested, including five women and four young children. They were arrested during a peaceful demonstration demanding a referendum for West Papua. All those detained were released several hours later with the exception of the Head of KNPB Timika Sector SP 13, Leson Tabuni, who was released several days later on 23 July.

The 16 men arbitrarily arrested were Neles Tabuni, Ismael Wenda, Bilim Wenda, Lasarus Kogoya, Yandoa Tabuni, Efri Tabuni, Sem Tabuni, Nius Tabuni, Ev. Mirius Wenda, Kendi Keoway, Sole Tabuni, Linto Kossay, Stevanus Koga, Leson Tabuni, Lerius Wenda and Wenemuk Kogoya. The five women arbitrarily arrested were Eliana Tabuni, Lepina Wenda, Diana Wenda, Amerina Tabuni and Merlin Wenda. The four children arbitrarily arrested, aged one-and-a-half to two-years-old were Alfa Tabuni, Jekson Tabuni, Rani Wenda and Tinggris Tabuni.

According to the reports, at around 09:00 Papua time, security forces began to forcibly disperse the demonstration and seized demonstrators’ banners, megaphones and personal items such as handphones and wallets. Upon arresting the 25 people, not all of whom were directly involved in the demonstration, the crowd were brought to Timika Regional police station 32.

According to the testimony of those arrested, as published on Umagi News, several people were severely beaten on arrest using rifle butts as well as being punched and kicked. 23-year-old Amerina Tabuni stated that she had reacted angrily during the arrests and threw a stone at a police officer, prompting police to drag her across the ground, hit her three times in the back with a rifle butt and beat her across the face before arresting her. On arrest, Bilim Wenda was hit in the testicles with a rifle butt while Yandoa Tabuni was stomped on by several officers wearing jackboots. Linto Kossay was hit in the head with a rifle butt, suffered a bloody head wound, and was also hit in the testicles. In detention at least one person, Bilim Wenda, was reportedly tortured and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment. Police cut off his dreadlocks and threatened to cut off his genitals. He was also forced to strip naked and alcohol was poured down his nose. At least two other people also faced cruel and degrading treatment in detention. Amerina Tabuni stated that in detention a police officer wearing jackboots kicked her. The personal items of the detainees, including handphones and wallets were seized and not returned upon release.

The Head of KNPB Timika Sector SP 13, Leson Tabuni, continued to be detained until 23 July while the other 24 detainees were released. Tabuni described receiving threats and being severely beaten by Timika Regional police while in detention. He is believed to have been charged with incitement under Article 160 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, although it is unclear whether he is still facing the charge after his release.

Six arrested at UNCEN

On 22 July, six people were arbitrarily arrested by Jayapura District police at the request of the ex-Dean of the Medical School at UNCEN, Paulina Watofa. According to information from human rights lawyers at KontraS Papua, one of those arrested was a secondary school student and was therefore released shortly after his arrest. The five other detainees were students from Cenderawasih University.

Information provided by lawyers indicated that the arrests followed student involvement in demonstrations held on 8, 10, 11 and 19 July, calling for the Dean of the Medical School to be replaced. The Dean was subsequently replaced, and Watofa, the previous Dean, reported the students to the police. Only one of the five arrested were among the students named in Watofa’s complaint to the police. There is reportedly no evidence linking the other four students to the demonstrations. Two days prior to these arrests, one of the students was beaten with a helmet by an unidentified person on campus.

While in detention in Jayapura District police station, the five UNCEN students were not interrogated but were instead immediately determined as suspects and forced to sign both an arrest letter and another letter, the contents of which were unknown to them. Human rights lawyers accompanying the five students state that the letter may contain provisions promising not to hold any further demonstrations on campus, as happened during the arrest of UNCEN students last November.

The following day an internal agreement was reached between the police and Aloysius Giyai, the Head of the Health Department of Papua Province (Kepala Dinas Kesehatan Provinsi Papua), and the five students were released. According to their lawyers, the students are still at risk of being charged or re-arrested, particularly if they attempt to demonstrate again.

Jayapura-based human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer has stated the intention of lawyers to submit a request for a pretrial hearing against the Head of Abepura District Police Officer, Kompol Decky Hursepuny examining the arrests of the five students. He criticised the arrests as unprocedural.

Jayapura five released

On 21 July, the Jayapura five – Forkorus Yaboisembut, August Kraar, Dominikus Surabut, Selpius Bobii and Edison Waromi – were released from Abepura prison after two years and nine months in prison. August Kraar, erroneously reported in our last update to have been released on 21 June 2014, was instead released on 21 July. According to a human rights worker, while Kraar had received an additional remission to his sentence, he chose to be released at the same time as the other four men.

The five men were arrested on 19 October 2011 for their involvement in the Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress, where a political declaration about the self-determination of the Papuan people was read out by Yaboisembut and Waromi. The Congress had elected the two men as political leaders of what was declared to be the West Papuan Federal State (Negara Federal Republik Papua Barat). Following the closing of the Congress, security forces guarding the event fired shots, used tear gas and beat and arrested hundreds of participants.

The Jayapura Five were sentenced to three years imprisonment but were given a remission of three months. Thousands of Papuans reportedly joined a procession welcoming the release of the five Papuan leaders. Upon release, Yaboisembut stated to local Papuan press that the five men would continue to work towards recognition of Papuan independence. Father Neles Tebay, Rector of Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, told that the five men are at risk of re-arrest, but that in his opinion, political arrests “won’t solve the problem … the government of Indonesia and representatives of Papuans must sit together in a dialogue.

Remaining ten detainees in 26 November case released

Information from local human rights lawyers reported that the ten remaining detainees arrested in relation to demonstrations on 26 November 2013 were released on 25 July 2014. Pendius Tabuni, Muli Hisage, Karmil Murib, Tomius Mul, Nius Lepi, Tinus Meage, Mathius Habel, Agus Togoti, Natan Kogoya and Nikolai Waisal were released on concluding their eight month prison sentences. They were sentenced for violence against persons or property under Articles 170 and 351 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. Previously, on 11 February, 16-year-old Nikson Mul was released. In April 2014, Penius Tabuni was released after receiving a sentence of five months’ imprisonment.

All 12 detainees in this case were arbitrarily arrested in connection to a demonstration on 26 November 2013 in Jayapura which led to clashes between police and demonstrators. All 12 men were engaged in other activities at the time and were not involved in the demonstration. Reports from local human rights workers state that they were tortured while in detention at Jayapura Regional police station. The men say that their police investigation reports were fabricated.

Two in Sarmi treason case released on bail

On 25 July, Edison Werimon and Soleman Fonataba were released on bail. The two men are still facing trial for conspiracy to commit treason under Articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. The next hearing is expected to be held on 6 August.

Otis Waropen released

Information received from local researchers reported the release of Otis Waropen from Nabire Regional police station. It is unclear exactly when he was released, however information received indicates that his release was secured by a local tribe leader. Waropen was arrested on 2 March in Sima village under accusations of being a member of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM), a pro-independence movement. He has since been released without charge.

Release of the three detainees in Yapen police death case

In our last update, we reported on the removal of three detainees – Yahya Bonay, Astro Kaaba and Hans Arrongear – from the list of political prisoners due to not having received any information regarding the men for more than a year. New information received from individuals in Yapen confirmed that the three men have already been released. The three men were arrested and believed to have been tortured in connection with the murder of Brimob officer Jefri Sesa.

Political trials and cases overview

Clemency for Yalengga flag-raising prisoners under final consideration at State Secretariat

The Alliance for Democracy for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) reported that the Yalengga flag-raising case is currently being considered at the Indonesian State Secretariat (Sekretariat Negara Republik Indonesia, Setneg) and must be monitored. The four detainees in this case – Meki Elosak, Wiki Meaga, Oskar Hilago and Obed Kosay – were tortured on arrest. They were on their way to the funeral of a relative and were charged on the basis of carrying a Morning Star flag with them on their journey. The flag was intended to be put next to the deceased’s grave. All four men are currently serving eight-year prison sentences for treason under Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code.

Sasawa trial started end of July

The trial for seven detainees in the Sasawa arrests case started at the end of July. As reported on the ALDP website, Ida Kelasin, one of the defence lawyers for the seven detainees, stated they were in good health and that she hoped the trial process would be carried out fairly without any political intervention. Peneas Reri, one of the seven detainees, told ALDP that their detention period had been extended to 15 August 2014. The seven men were tortured on arrest during a military raid on Sasawa village targeting members of the armed pro-independence movement, the West Papua National Army (Tentara Nasional Papua Barat, TNPB).

Cases of concern

Three killed and several arrested following murder of police in Youtefa gambling den

On 2 July, three people were killed and several arrested following a clash between gamblers and two Jayapura police officers at an illegal gambling den in Youtefa market in Jayapura. According to information received from a local human rights investigator, the gambling den was reportedly tolerated by police who received bribes in exchange. An argument broke out between the gamblers and two Jayapura police officers when they were refused their usual bribe, which then quickly accelerated into a physical fight. During the commotion, a gun was stolen from one of the police officers by a gambler who then escaped. The group of gamblers reportedly beat one of the police officers to death and then ran away. The remaining police officer shouted for help, prompting other police officers and plainclothes Special Forces Command (Komando Pasukan Khusus, Kopassus) officers to arrive at the scene some time later. The report described the situation after to be chaotic, with people running for cover as security forces started firing shots.

Three people who were not involved in the incident at the gambling den are believed to have been killed in this incident. The report from the aforementioned human rights investigator stated the deaths of Sabuse Kabak and Yenias Wendibo, who were allegedly killed by plainclothes officers.

Reports from Majalah Selangkah and Tabloid Jubi confirmed the death of Demi Kepno who was reportedly forced into a car with plainclothes officers. He was allegedly taken to Yanmor police post in Tanah Hitam, Abepura district, where he was interrogated. Wendikbo attempted to escape, but was shot and then tortured to death.

The bodies of the three victims are believed to have been brought by security forces to Bhayangkara Hospital where they were kept overnight before being returned to their families. The family of Kabak have called on the Jayapura police for accountability and for the perpetrator to be taken to court.

The number of people arrested in this incident remains unclear, however early reports and interviews indicate that the total number could be in the dozens. Some of those arrested are believed to still be under investigation in detention at Jayapura Regional police station. Papuans Behind Bars will continue to report on this case when we receive more information.


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