At least six Papuan students arrested by police in Nabire

Reports received state that at least six students were arrested by police during a high school graduation celebration in Nabire town, Nabire Regency, Papua Tengah Province, on 6 May 2024. The students were celebrating their graduation by parading in their school uniforms on the streets. Some of them painted their uniforms with the Morning Star flag which is a symbol of cultural identity in West Papua, also often associated with the Free Papua Movement (OPM). This is common practice among school graduates across West Papua.

Information received states that in the afternoon, around 4:00 pm at least nine students were chased by two plainclothes police officers on motorcycles in Wonorejo, Nabire. The two police officers are suspected of firing four live rounds towards the fleeing students, which was witnessed by residents.

About 15 minutes later, two police cars arrived, and the officers arrested four men and two women, accompanied by allegations of beatings. To date, the identities of the six students have not been identified. Those arrested were taken to the Nabire Police Station. The police also prohibited residents from taking photos of the arrests.

Similar graduation celebrations took place in Dogiyai district, Dogiyai Regency and in Deiyai Regency, Papua Tengah Province on 6 May 2023.

The authorities continue to repress and criminalise people in West Papua for crimes against state security, when they exercise their right to freedom of expression, including those who call for Papuan independence. A year ago a group of police officers beat three Papuan students in the town of Sentani, Jayapura Regency because they had spray-painted their school uniform with a Morning Star Symbol. Two of the beatings were caught on camera.

Amnesty International Indonesia calls for release of students arrested for wearing Morning Star Flag attributes

Responding to the police’s arrest of six students during a high school graduation celebration in Nabire, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said:

“The arrest, accompanied by allegations of police violence against high school students while celebrating their graduation in Nabire, is unacceptable. Expressing joy through a peaceful parade is not a criminal act.”

“The Morning Star symbol is part of cultural expression and should not be a reason for the authorities to oppress and detain anyone without due process.”

“The police and government should follow Gus Dur’s approach to indigenous Papuans. Cultural symbols such as the Morning Star flag are given space because they are indeed peaceful expressions.”

“Arrests without a clear legal process and violence that is alleged to have occurred during the arrests are serious violations of human rights. Every individual, including students, has the right to express their opinions and express themselves without fear of oppression or arbitrary arrest.”

“We call on the authorities to immediately release all students who are being held without a clear reason and to conduct a fair investigation into the alleged violence.”

“We also urge the government to ensure that the fundamental rights of all individuals in Tanah Papua, including the right to express themselves or express their opinions, are fully guaranteed and respected.”

Video police intervention after students’ graduation in Nabire