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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

SIGN ON THE URGENT APPEAL: Drop the charges against the Balikpapan 7 and set them free now!

We, the undersigned, composed of human rights, solidarity, and ecumenical organizations and individual advocates, strongly support the call for the immediate and unconditional release of ALEXANDER GOBAY, HENKY HILAPOK, STEFANUS ITLAY, FERRY KOMBO, AGUS KOSSAY, BUCHTAR TABUNI, AND IRWANUS UROPMABIN along with all other Papuan political prisoners in Indonesia.

The aforementioned, currently undergoing trial at the Balikpapan Court, were arrested last year during the height of anti-racism protests across Indonesia. The protests were a response to harassment and attacks suffered by Papuan students in their dormitory in Surabaya, East Java. At least 50 other individuals were arrested on similar charges from the period of 30th August to 1st December 2019. They too were arrested either during the protests or hunted down presumably because they were identified to have participated in actions that expressed critical or dissenting views from the Indonesian Government.

The use of the country’s Criminal Code, particularly the makar (treason) charges, to suppress legitimate dissent undermines the rights of the people to freedom of expression and freedom of association that is recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), among other Human Rights Instruments in which Indonesia is a signatory. The curtailment of such rights by the law itself makes the entire legal system in Indonesia appear to be condoning racial abuse in the country by silencing human rights defenders, Papuans, and other minorities whenever they speak out against such abuses.

Moreover, the present COVID-19 pandemic puts the health of the political prisoners in grave danger. In this light, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has issued a statement urging states to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views”.

The online trials that were put in place have also been disadvantageous for the defendants. The political prisoners’ lawyers have reported issues such as poor and interrupted internet connection that

prevented them from properly defending their clients. Many expert witnesses that have been presented by the lawyers before the court have also been excluded by the public prosecutor.

We respectfully appeal to the Indonesian Government, particularly to the Office of President Joko Widodo, to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally free the political prisoners with respect to the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;

2. Drop all the criminal charges against the Papuan political prisoners who were merely exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly;

3. Uphold transparency in the court proceedings; allow independent observers in all trial processes and allow a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation on the reported violations during the trial process and take appropriate measures to hold violators to account;

4. Conduct a review of existing national laws to ensure its adherence to international human rights standards, specifically on non-discrimination, and repeal all provisions that criminalizes the exercise of the right of the people to freedom of expression and association in all platforms such as, but not limited to, protest actions, social media, and public fora;

5. Refrain from using the law to silence activism across Indonesia, particularly in Papua, West Papua, and Maluku;

6. Allow a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation on the human rights violations (HRV) in Papua and West Papua in relation to the anti-racism protests in 2019, along with the number of HRV cases in Papua and West Papua that remain unresolved until present.


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