Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 7 December 2018
We are concerned about the large number of arrests – more than 500 – during peaceful demonstrations held to commemorate West Papuan National Day in various locations across Indonesia on 1 and 2 December. We have received reports of security forces using blockades to prevent demonstrators from conducting peaceful rallies in Jakarta, East Nusa Tenggara, North Maluku, Merauke and disrupting prayer services organised by indigenous Papuan students to end the commemorations, resulting in several individuals being arrested and detained. We understand that the majority of arrests took place in the city of Surabaya in East Java where we have received worrying reports of excessive use of force and violence by security forces during a protest where fighting erupted between the protestors and people shouting anti-Papua slogans. Security forces also conducted search operations at student dormitories. These resulted in the arbitrary arrest and detention of at least 300 individuals. All of those detained have since been released without charge.
While we acknowledge the complexities of the situation in Papua, we are troubled by the crackdown over peaceful demonstrations and increasing reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua, including harassment and threats to lawyers working on these cases. Such acts may serve as a means of restraining the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and risk undermining these fundamental human rights for the population at large. Our Office and UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly raised concerns over recent years about the human rights situation in Papua.
We call on the Indonesian authorities to ensure that the security forces exercise restraint when policing demonstrations, and that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression for all are respected. As the previous High Commissioner said at the end of his visit to Jakarta in February this year, development can certainly bring with it access to fundamental services and goods that vastly improve many people's well-being. But if they cannot voice their concerns and participate in decisions, the resulting development may not increase their welfare.
We urge the Government to act to constructively address the grievances being voiced in Papua in line with Indonesia’s international human rights obligations and the political commitments made in the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.
We will continue to closely follow developments in this situation.
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