West Papua: Congress Demands Action on West Papua Political Prisoners
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today congratulated US congress members for their letter to Indonesian president, Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urging him to work for the "immediate and unconditional" release of West Papuan political prisoners Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage.
"We are pleased that Congress is taking this important stand for human rights in Indonesia. Karma and Pakage have been in prison for three and half long years for merely exercising their right of political expression. We hope the letter coupled with increasing pressure from the human rights community will gain their release," said Tom Ricker, advocacy coordinator for ETAN.
The letter was signed by 40 members of the U.S. House of
Representatives. The letter with a complete list of signers can be found online at:
Karma and Pakage are serving 10 and 15 years respectively for raising the Morning Star flag during a peaceful protest in December of 2004 in Jayapura, Papua. Karma and other participants in the protest were beaten by Indonesian police. Karma and Pakage were sentenced in May
2005 and have been in prison since. Amnesty International has declared Karma and Pakage to be prisoners of conscience.
The letter also points to the deteriorating human right situation in Papua: "The unjust imprisonment of Mr Karma and Mr Pakage occurs in the context of a crackdown on Papuan human rights defenders, which has included general public threats by senior military officials and intimidation directed at individuals by anonymous figures."
"This letter from Congress comes at a crucial time. Peaceful protesters continue to be arrested in West Papua. Just two weeks ago nearly 40 people were arrested for demonstrating. Six of the organisers now face the same prison terms as Karma and Pakage," said Ricker.
"The US government has once again become a major supplier of military assistance to Indonesia despite the deteriorating circumstances in West Papua. We hope this action by members of Congress signals a renewed willingness to promote respect for human rights as a condition of any future assistance," he added.
The congressional letter was coordinated by Rep. Patrick Kennedy.