On 23 November 2023, the trials against Mr Agus Kosay, chairman of the central West Papua National Committee (KNPB) with trial number 449/Pid.B/2023/PN Jap, and Mr Benius Murib with trial number 450/Pid.B/2023/PN Jap, secretary general of the KNPB Numbay were launched at the Jayapura District Court, Papua Province, with the announcement of the indictment.
Mr Kosay is accused of violating Article 160 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on incitement and Article 170 KUHP on violence against persons or objects. Article 170 KUHP carries a maximum penalty of five years and six months, and Article 160 KUHP has a maximum sentence of 6 years imprisonment. Mr Murib was charged with Article 351 (1) & (2) KUHP on assault. Article 351 ((2) carries a maximum penalty of five years.
Human rights activists have raised concerns about criminalisation in this case as both defendants are key figures in the non-violent civil resistance movement in West Papua. The KNPB has been organising West Papua-wide mass protests for self-determination through a political referendum for more than ten years. Their members have committed to non-violent protest by organising peaceful demonstrations and political discussions.
A second court session was held on 30 November 2023 (see photo on top and below, source: KNPB). Lawyers of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), representing both defendants in court, read the defense plea. According to local observers, the trial was open to the public but was closely monitored by plain cloth police officers. KNPB activists, other activists, and human rights defenders attended the court session.
The next court session will be held on 5 December 2023.
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. According to LBH Papua Director, Mr Emanuel Gobay, the arrest did not follow Article 19 of Law Number 1981 on Criminal Procedure (KUHAP). Mr Wakla and Mr Yelipele were released on 3 September 2023 at 8:45 pm without charges.
Huan rights organisations are concerned that the arrest and prosecution of the two KNPB leaders is another act of criminalisation against Papuan political activists. 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.