Series of arrests and torture of West Papua activists – 10 arrested, 2 tortured

Human rights defenders condemned the arrest of ten West Papua activists in three cities across Indonesia throughout early February 2020. Police personnel reportedly tortured two arrestees, both students, during two separate incidents in the cities of Manokwari, Papua Barat province, and Mataram, Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB) Province. The Indonesian Government continues to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly. Vague legal provisions are often used to criminalise activists and silence, government critics. The police particularly target political activists and members of movement organisations promoting the right to Papuan self-determination.

Eight KNPB activists were arrested in Sentani    

On 4 February 2022, police officers arrested eight members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in the town of Sentani, Jayapura regency. Three police cars approached a construction site where the eight KNPB activists were working. Three of the arrestees are under the age of 18 (see table below). The KNPB is a civil resistance movement demanding the right to self-determination through a referendum. They organise peaceful demonstrations and other forms of peaceful protest.

The police members arrested the activists and detained them at the Sentani sub-district police station (Polsek Sentani). The officers carried out the arrest and seized the activists’ mobile phones as well as four motorcycles without showing a warrant. At the police station, the officers interrogated the detainees in relation to the alleged theft of a motorcycle. However, the KNPB activists denied any wrongdoing or involvement in a criminal offence They understood the arrest and detention as an act of intimidation and attempted criminalisation.

Seven activists were released after nine hours while Mr Pais Nasia continues to be detained at the Polsek Sentani.

1Steven Itlay31
2Pais Nasia24
3Yemue Itlay17
4Kalvin Haluk19
5Apner Haluk17
6Ongko Haluk16
7Otto Walilo22
8Amrosius Haluk20
Table with KNPB arrested in Sentani on 4 February 2022 (source: independent HRDs)

Police officers arrest and torture Papuan student in Manokwari

On 3 February 2022, police officers arrested and tortured Papuan student Mr Amzal Yohame during a peaceful protest against the government’s plan to establish four new provinces in West Papua. Officers dragged him away from the crowd and brought him to a car while police personnel prevented the protesters to walk to the provincial parliament (see photos below).

According to Mr Yohame, multiple police officers tortured him inside the car on the way to the police station. They punched him in the face and to the ribs. Another officer kicked him multiple times to the waist. After they arrived at the Manokwari district police station, the police officers forced him to take off his clothes. An officer also cut in two his bracelet with the Morning Star emblem, a symbol of cultural identity for indigenous West Papuans.

Mr Amzal Yohame was released after two-and-a-half hours.

Police members preventing protesters to walk toward the Provincial Parliament building in Manokwari (source: independent HRDs)
Protest against the formation of new special autonomy regions in West Papua (source: independent HRDs).
Protest against the formation of new special autonomy regions in West Papua (source: independent HRDs).

Papuan student in Mataram was tortured for raising the Morning Star flag at the university campus

On 1 February 2022, police officers arrested and tortured Papuan student Mr Fanimo Nyamuk Karungu. The torture appeared to be a punishment for raising the morning star flag at the Mataram Universíty campus (see photo below). Mr Karungu said he raised the flag in commemoration of the anniversary of the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) branch in Mataram. After 30 minutes, he removed the flag and went back to his room at the university dormitory.

The AMP is an organisation set up by Papuan students studying outside of West Papua. The students organise peaceful demonstrations and group discussions to raise awareness of the human rights situation in West Papua in other Indonesian cities.

In the late afternoon, police officers came to the university campus, arrested Mr Karungu without showing a warrant and seized multiple belongings including his mobile phone, books, a Morning Star flag and his motorcycle (see photos). The officers dragged Mr Karungu out of sight into a corner and collectively punched and kicked him to the body while verbally abusing him with racist insults such as pig, dog and monkey.

The racist slurs continued at the NTB regional police station. Police officers reportedly asked multiple questions which Mr Karungu understood as racist insults. Officers asked him “Why is your hair like this?” and “Can you speak the Indonesian language?”. Thereupon, the police tried to interrogate the student. However, Mr Karungu refused to answer any questions without legal counsel. He was released after six-and-a-half hours around 1:00 am.

Mr Karungu at the NTB police headquarters in Mataram (source: AMP)
Morning Star flag flies next to the flag of student organisation AMP at the UNRAM university campus (source: YouTube)
Mr Karungu inside the police car on the way from the campus to the NTB police headquarters (source: AMP)
Mr Karungu’s belongings were seized as police officers searched his room without a warrant (Source: AMP)