Three Papuans sentenced for treason – Amnesty International calls for immediate release of defendants

Amnesty International Indonesia has called for the immediate release of three Papuan political activists convicted of treason. On 14 June 2023, judges at the Makassar District Court in the Sulawesi Selatan Province found the defendants, Mr Elias Wetipo, Mr Marthen Samonsabra Oiwari, and Mr Yoran Pahabol, guilty of treason. They were sentenced to prison for delivering peaceful speeches and displaying banners with the Morning Star symbol at the airport in Sorong on 13 September 2022. Mr Wetipo and Mr Oiwari were both sentenced to three years. Mr Pahabol received a sentence of two years and six months imprisonment. Previously, the public prosecutor had demanded a sentence of five years for the defendants.

The three defendants, all officials of the West Papua Federal Republic State (NFRPB), were found guilty of participating in treasonous acts. The charges against them stemmed from their peaceful activities, including displaying a banner and delivering speeches during a visit to Sorong, Papua Barat Province. Amnesty International highlights that freedom of expression is guaranteed by international human rights instruments and should be protected by authorities, ensuring that any limitations are in accordance with the law, pursue legitimate aims, and are necessary and proportionate.

Amnesty argues that the convictions under treason charges highlight the ongoing repression of freedom of expression, opinion, and peaceful assembly in West Papua. According to Amnesty International, the state frequently uses treason charges to suppress peaceful political views in Papua. The evidence presented by the prosecutor did not include any weapons or dangerous tools, suggesting that the prosecutions are intended to silence pro-independence activists by criminalising them. Amnesty emphasizes that the right to express opinions, and peacefully assemble is protected by international law and demands the unconditional release of the three defendants and others charged with treason for exercising their rights peacefully. The organisation accuses the state of failing to protect the human rights of the Papuan people.

Two days before the verdict was announced, judges at the Sorong District Court had found the Papuan defendants Mr Kostan Karlos Bonay, 85, Mr Andreas Sanggenafa, 65, and Mr Hellesvred Bezalle Soleman Waropen, 55, guilty of treason. They sentenced them to two years imprisonment each. The defendants were arrested on 19 October 2022 in the town of Manokwari, Papua Barat Regency, during worship in commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the Federal Republic of West Papua (NFRPB).  

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Pengadilan Negeri Makassar (-5.1347488007025, 119.41370357557706)
administrative region: Indonesia, Sulawesi Selatan Province, Makassar City
total number of victims: three
period of incident: 13.09.2022-14.06.2023
perpetrator: police, judiciary
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, indigenous peoples, criminalisation
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Elias Wetipomaleunknownindigenous, activistfreedom of expression, criminalisation
1Marthen Samonsabra Oiwarimaleunknownindigenous, activistfreedom of expression, criminalisation
1Yoran Pahabolmaleunknownindigenous, activistfreedom of expression, criminalisation