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Appeal to Murray McCully re political prisoners

Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Box 68-419,


16 December, 2010

Hon Mr Murray McCully,

Minister of Foreign Affairs,


Dear Mr McCully,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has been very concerned to learn about recent actions taken against political prisoners and peaceful demonstrators in West Papua. It is deeply disturbing to note this escalation of state repression against indigenous Papuan activists and human rights defenders during this Christmas season which should be a time of goodwill and reconciliation.

We bring two very recent cases to your attention in expectation of your humanitarian intervention with the Indonesian authorities on behalf of those suffering injustice.

As you know, Filep Jacob Semuel Karma, age 51, has been in the Abepura prison for five years, as a result of charges related to raising the Morning Star flag during a peaceful demonstration on 1st December 2004. Mr Karma and Mr Buchtar Tabuni, a fellow political prisoner involved in organising a peaceful demonstration in 2008, have been recently been subjected to severe punishment. This has included being deprived of adequate food and water, and being transferred without explanation to a holding cell at Police Headquarters. It is also understood that both could be transferred to the high security island prison of Nusa Kambangan. Filep Karma has suffered from poor health over recent years - he underwent urology surgery in July of this year after there had been a sustained international campaign calling on the Indonesian government to facilitate this much needed health care.

Filep Karma and Buchtar Kabuni have both been accused of inciting those in the prison who took part in a spontaneous uprising on 3rd December 2010. However, independent reports state that both were trying to mediate between the the head prison officer and the prisoners and detainees in Abepura prison. The unrest followed the death of an escaped prisoner who was killed by a joint military and police patrol.

The second case of concern is that of the arrest of lawyer, Simon Risyard Banundi, a member of the human rights defenders team of LP3BH, (the Manokwari legal aid and investigation institute) and six people involved in a peaceful flag-raising. Mr Banundi was arrested while monitoring the event and his camera was seized.

Those involved in the demonstration were marking an anniversary of an independence proclamation by the West Melanesian Council 22 years ago by the late Dr Thomas Wanggai. The group are believed to have been in the process of raising the flag known as the 14 Star flag.

The LP3BH Institute's director Yan Christian Warrinussy states that the arrest of Mr Banundi is in clear violation of article 17 of the criminal procedural code, Law 39/1999 on Human Rights, and Law 18/2003 on Lawyers and the International Convention on Human Rights Defenders as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to reports in the local media the small flag-raising event was policed by a very large number of security personnel. We are strongly opposed to this criminalisation of dissent, and believe it is against the provisions of international law as they relate to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly.

We therefore urge you to appeal for the release of those detained in recent days for their peaceful actions or - in the case of lawyer Simon Banundi- for the action of monitoring the event.

We also appeal to you to make representations of behalf of Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni and specifically to call for them to have good food and medical treatment, and be allowed immediate access to their families, friends and legal counsel. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should also be given access to the prisoners.

More generally, we believe that New Zealand should urge the release of all political prisoners in Indonesia. Now that Indonesia is twelve years on from the Suharto dictatorship, there should no longer be any arrests or detentions of those who take part in peaceful political activities. Freedom of expression must be upheld and this must include the right to raise a flag.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)


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