West Papua: United Nations Experts Urge Indonesia to Protect Papuan Rights
Against the backdrop of a recent surge in protests in West Papua against the systemic oppression and marginalisation of West Papuans, Indonesian authorities have cracked down on the protest movement by blocking internet access, using excessive force against protestors and arbitrarily arresting advocates of West Papuan rights. Responding to this crackdown, several United Nations experts have urged Indonesia to respect the human rights of West Papuans and human rights advocates, in particular the rights of lawyer Veronica Koman, who has reported on the protests.
Below is an article published by RNZ:
United Nations experts have urged Indonesia to protect the rights of lawyer Veronica Koman who advocates for West Papuan rights.
They also urged Indonesia to protect people's rights to peaceful protest and those reporting on protests in West Papua, and to ensure access to the internet
Earlier this month a police warrant was issued for Ms Koman, who is believed to be in Australia, after police claimed she spread fake news online.
Indonesian authorities have blamed disinformation and Papuan independence activists for a recent wave of protests in the region.
The UN rights experts said Indonesian authorities should address acts of harassment, intimidation and threats against people reporting on the protests.
Ms Koman was named as a "suspect" by authorities who accused her of provoking unrest after she published reports on the protests and on a racist attack against Papuan students in Java that triggered the demonstrations.
"We welcome actions taken by the Government against the racist incident, but we urge it to take immediate steps to protect Veronica Koman from any forms of retaliation and intimidation and drop all charges against her so that she can continue to report independently on the human rights situation in the country," the experts said.*
They also expressed concerns over reports indicating that the authorities were considering revoking Ms Koman's passport, blocking her bank accounts and requesting Interpol to issue a Red Notice to locate her.
The experts stressed that restrictions on freedom of expression not only undermined discussion of government policies, but also jeopardised the safety of human rights defenders reporting on alleged violations.
Protests have been increasingly taking place in the provinces of Papua and West Papua since mid-August  over alleged racism and discrimination and amid calls for independence.
"These protests will not be stopped by an excessive use of force or by cracking down on freedom of expression and access to information," the experts said.
The government's move to cut access to the internet in Papua last month was described by the Ministry of Communication as a move to stop the flow of disinformation.
"We urge the Government of Indonesia to recognise the rights of all protesters and to ensure continuation of the internet service. We welcome the restoration on 4 September of the internet in almost all of Papua and West Papua provinces.
"Restrictions of the internet and on access to information in general have a detrimental impact on the ability of individuals to express themselves, and to share and receive information. On the other hand, access to the internet contributes to preventing disinformation and ensuring transparency and accountability," the experts said.
The UN experts have previously expressed their concerns to Indonesia's government and are continuing to urge it to engage in genuine dialogue with the protesters.
The experts welcomed the engagement of the authorities on these matters and said they looked forward to continued dialogue.
*The UN experts: Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule (Togo), Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms Dubravka ŠimonoviÄ‡ (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms Meskerem Geset Techane (Ethiopia), Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
Photo courtesy of Febriana Firdaus @Twitter