Four Papuan activists arrested in Jayapura Regency – Police press charges against two KNPB leaders

More than seventy police officers detained Mr Agus Kossay, Chairman of the West Papua National Coalition (KNPB), Mr Benny Murib, KNPB Secretary in Jayapura, Mr Ruben Wakla, member of the KNPB in the Yahukimo Regency, and Mr Ferry Yelipele on 2 September 2023. The police officers came to Mr Kossay’s residence in the town of Sentani around 9:00 a.m. The four activists were subsequently detained and interrogated at the Jayapura District Police Station in Doyo Baru. Mr Wakla and Mr Yelipele were released on 3 September 2023 at 8:45 pm without charges (see photo on top, source: KNPB).

The police allegedly carried out the arrests because Mr Kossay had not reacted to the police summons about an argument within different KNPB fractions on 18 August 2023. Mr Kossay had honoured the first police summons but later received a second summons, which he did not attend. The arrests were carried out even though both parties called upon the authorities that the incident should be settled internally and outside of the law.

Police officers reportedly charged Mr Kossay and Mr Murib (see photo below, source: KNPB) with Article 170 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) and Article 160 of KUHP on incitement. According to the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), the rapid determination of the suspects within three hours without clear evidence or due process undermines the credibility of the legal proceedings. The lack of adherence to established criminal procedure laws raises suspicions of the attempt to criminalise political activists for their political engagement.

LBH Papua Director, Mr Emanuel Gobay, stated that the arrest did not follow Article 19 of Law Number 1981 on Criminal Procedure (KUHAP). “The naming of suspects was done unilaterally […]. It should have taken a day or two. Three hours later, the police pressed charges against them, which is strange. We question what evidence was used to raise their status as suspects,” asked Gobay.

The KNPB is a Papuan movement organisation promoting the right to self-determination through a referendum. Their members have committed themselves to non-violent protest by organising peaceful demonstrations and political discussions. In the past decade, the Indonesian police have targeted the KNPB as a subversive pro-independence organisation. KNPB members and supporters are criminalised and have become victims of police violence.

The criminalisation of activists should be viewed with vigilance. It indicates growing restrictions on the freedom of expression, a key element of human rights and democracy. Ultimately, the legal process must adhere to international human rights standards and principles of justice. The arrest of the KNPB activists raises significant concerns from a human rights perspective. The events leading up to their arrest, as outlined in the chronology, highlight breaches of law enforcement procedures in the Indonesian justice system and the persistent pattern of criminalisation of activists and human rights defenders in West Papua.

Updated information:

Mr Agus Kossay, Chairman of the West Papua National Coalition (KNPB)

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Jayapura Police Station Doyo Baru (-2.543562778955074, 140.46364800411413)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Province, Jayapura City
total number of victims: four
period of incident: 02.09.2023
perpetrator: police
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: freedom of expression, indigenous peoples, criminalisation, arbitrary detention
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Agus Kossay, Chairman KNPBmaleunknownindigenous, activistcriminalisation
1Benny Murib, Secretary KNPBmaleunknownindigenous, activistcriminalisation
1Ruben Wakla, member KNPBmaleunknownindigenous, activistarbitrary detention
1Ferry Yelipelemaleunknownindigenous, activistarbitrary detention