Urgent Appeal: 2 Papuans arrested & tortured for calling for release of political prisoners

17 Apr 2014
TAPOL & 11 international human rights organisations

Urgent Appeal


Dear Mr La Rue

Indonesia: Two Papuan students arrested and tortured for calling for the release of political prisoners

We are writing to you on behalf of TAPOL and the undersigned organisations regarding the violent dispersal of a demonstration in Jayapura, Papua, on 2 April 2014, and the arrest and torture of two students, Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda. While the students have now been released, we believe that police conduct violated the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to freedom from torture, the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention and Imprisonment.

The incident was particularly disturbing as the demonstration was calling for the release of political prisoners and the opening of democratic space in Papua. Students taking public actions to defend the rights to free expression and free assembly are considered human rights defenders, therefore their protection is of special concern.

It is our view that this incident is representative of a serious and worsening trend in the silencing of free expression in Papua and the torture of Papuan activists that has been ongoing for some months. It would appear that situation has not improved since May 2013 when the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement expressing serious concern about the crackdown on demonstrations across Papua and we submitted to your office an urgent appeal concerning violations of the right to freedom of expression. A vicious circle is now being perpetuated in which those protesting against not being allowed to protest are themselves being arrested and subjected to abuse.  

The situation is made worse by the severe restrictions on access to Papua which affect foreign media, international organizations and of course you yourself as freedom of expression mandate holder.

We believe that the pattern of arbitrary arrest and the use of excessive force and torture in detention by police in Papua will continue unless action is taken. We are concerned for the safety of the victims, who have been intimidated by police intelligence agents since their release, and that the right to remedy of the victims will not be fulfilled by the Indonesian government. We therefore urge you to:

  1. Raise this case with the Indonesian government, stressing the right to remedy, reparation, restitution, compensation, non-repetition, and punishment of the perpetrators, in line with the UN Guidelines on the right to remedy.
  2. Raise this case and the serious and worsening trend that it represents (and which the victims were trying to highlight) in a public statement.


Executive summary

On 2 April 2014, two Papuan students were arrested at a demonstration demanding the unconditional release of Papuan political prisoners at Cenderawasih University (Universitas Cenderawasih, UNCEN) in Jayapura. Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda were detained at Jayapura police station for over 24 hours, and were maltreated and tortured on arrest, in the police truck and while at the police station. Three attempts by human rights lawyers to access the detainees were blocked by the police, with the specific knowledge of the Chief of Jayapura police Alfred Papare who himself directly forbade access. The two men were forced to sign a police investigation report stating they had not been beaten. On 3 April the two men were released and seen by a doctor at Dian Harapan Hospital in Waena, Jayapura, however a doctor’s report could not be obtained as the doctors were forbidden by Jayapura police to release the report – either to the patients, their families or their lawyers. Since the two men were released, Yali Wenda states that he has been intimidated by police intelligence agents.


Facts of the case: detail

On 28 March 2014, Yali Wenda of Student Solidarity for Political Prisoners (Solidaritas Mahasiswa Peduli Tapol) submitted a letter to the Jayapura City police (Polres Kota Jayapura) informing them of the planned peaceful actions on 2 April. The police advised him to return on 1 April to collect a letter confirming police receipt of their notification (surat tanda terima pemberitahuan, STTP). He duly returned on 1 April, but instead of being given this confirmation letter he was asked to sign a nine-point letter guaranteeing that the 2 April demonstration would be peaceful. Police promised to provide the confirmation letter on the morning of 2 April. Yali Wenda signed the letter as requested. 

On 2 April two demonstrations took place, one at Cenderawasih University (Universitas Cenderawsih, UNCEN) in Waena and one in Abepura a few kilometers away. While the event in Abepura ran smoothly, the demonstration at UNCEN ended in a confrontation between the police and demonstrators.

At around 08:00 eastern Indonesia time students gathered at UNCEN in Waena for the demonstration. Not much later, three trucks of Jayapura Crowd Control police (polisi Pengendalian Massa, Dalmas) and three trucks of police Mobile Brigades (Brigades Mobil, Brimob) arrived, along with a water canon and a barracuda tank. At around 10:20, demonstrators at UNCEN decided to long march to join their associates in Abepura. The police blocked them. Seeing the situation become tense, the assistant of Rector III of UNCEN prepared two trucks to transport the students. However the police detained these trucks and ordered them to return home. Police under the control of Head of Jayapura police Alfred Papare ordered the crowd to disperse, but the crowd did not do so.

Alfares Kapisa (Field Coordinator of the demonstration) and Yali Wenda (who had earlier given a speech at the demo) approached the police to negotiate. Yali Wenda states

“Without saying anything first, the police arrested us. After arresting us they beat us and threw us roughly in the crowd control truck. For around 1.5 hours we were held in the truck while being beaten with rifle buts, kicked with jackboots, beaten with rattan sticks and their fists. There was nothing we could do, only protect our heads and faces with our hands.”

Following the arrest of the two students, police began to shout racist insults at the remaining indigenous student demonstrators, calling them ‘monkeys’ and ‘idiots.’ During this time, police also detained several older indigenous women who were passing and said “we are going to torture your mothers.” The crowd at this point became emotional and started throwing stones at the police. Police reportedly then fired 11 shots and teargas at the demonstrators. Jayapura police officially deny firing shots at the demonstrators. Papuan media stated that students fled the site of the demonstration and sought cover in the campus as police fired shots.

The event in Abepura proceeded peacefully and demonstrators were able to read out their statement which called for the release of 76 Papuan political prisoners, the opening of democratic space, and access for journalists, researchers and UN observers to Papua.


Arrest, maltreatment and torture

The treatment of Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda included torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and constitutes an affront to human dignity.

After around 1.5 hours in the Jayapura police crowd control (Pengendalian Massa, Dalmas) truck, Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda were brought to the Jayapura police station. During the journey they were forced to lie facedown in the truck while police put their riot shields on top of the two men and trampled on them. After this the police administered electric shocks to the two men using electric stun batons, until their arrival at the police station.

Yali Wenda states that he was beaten with rifle buts on his head, shoulder, cheek and ear. His head was beaten repeatedly against the truck, he was beaten on his left side, and his fingers and toes were stamped on with jackboots. Police noticed that he had a small wound on his foot then stamped on it, making it bigger. He states that this was very painful.

On arriving at the Jayapura police station, the two men were brought out of the truck, taken to the criminal investigation unit (Reserse Kriminal, reskrim) and put in a cell. The men state that their jackets were covered with blood. After they were put in the cell, the police called a doctor, who forced them to hand over their jackets and clothes. The police took them away and brought other clothes. The jacket and clothes which were covered in blood were washed clean. The doctor cleaned the wounds and stitched up the ear of Yali Wenda with three stitches. This was done without alcohol/anaesthetic so he states that it was very painful. The men were then left alone until morning. Alfares Kapisa made the following statement:

“We were beaten as if we were not human beings. Our bodies were covered in blood. In the middle of the night the police doctor came and bathed us and cleaned our wounds. He forced us to change our bloodstained clothes for fresh ones in order to get rid of the evidence. We were beaten from head to toe, all over our bodies. Our heads were bleeding. I think my ribs are broken and Yali’s ear is torn, he has had three stitches. It is very painful for us to sit, and we can barely eat. My body is still shaking.”

The victims state that in their view, the intention of the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment was to punish them for the demonstration and to deter them from carrying out any further actions critical to the government.

On 3 April between 08:00–11:00 the police investigator at Jayapura police station interrogated Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda. During this period, the two men state that police falsified the police investigation report (berita acara pemeriksaan, BAP) and forced them to sign it, as well as forcing them to promise not to carry out any more demonstrations. A report by Australian website New Mathilda cites Yali Wenda as stating:

““[The police] asked us who else was involved in the action, if we knew certain people or where they lived. The police said there was no need to demonstrate. They asked why we were involved in the action, why we wanted to demonstrate to free political prisoners. The police wrote a statement. I saw the police write that we weren't beaten then they forced us to sign it. They also asked us to sign a statement that we would not carry out any other demonstrations. The police accused us of being criminals, of attacking them when in fact it was the police who beat us. We complained that what the police wrote was not right but the police just forced us to sign the statement.”

At 12 noon they were released, and were taken to Dian Harapan hospital in order to receive treatment and obtain a medical report. They were also interviewed by human rights workers. The following summary was provided by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence in Papua (Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan di Papua, KontraS Papua).


Age and sex



Instruments used


Alfares Kapisa

24 years, male

Medical student, Cenderawasih University, Jayapura

Swollen eye and temple, top centre of head swollen, wounds on the body from electric stun baton.

Electric stun baton, rattan baton, rifle but, jackboots, fists.

Members of Jayapura police station Crowd Control unit (Dalmas Polresta Jayapura)

Yali Wenda

21 years, male

Social and political sciences student, Cenderawasih University, Jayapura

Left ear torn requiring three stitches. Swollen chin. Wounds on the body from electric stun baton.

Electric stun baton, rattan baton, rifle but, jackboots, fists.

Members of Jayapura police station Crowd Control unit  (Dalmas Polresta Jayapura)


As at 16 April 2014, the victims report that they are still in pain and Alfares Kapisa is in need of medication. The costs of this treatment are currently being covered by Jayapura-based civil society organization the Secretariat for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (Sekretariat Keadilan, Perdamaian dan Keutuhan Ciptaan Fransiskan Papua, SKPKC) rather than by the Indonesian government.


Lawyers denied access

On 2 April at 19:30 lawyer Olga Hamadi and Pastor Dora Balubun visited Jayapura police station at the request of the parents of Alfares Kapisa. They met three police from the Criminal Investigation unit (Reserse Kriminal, Reskrim) and requested to see the two detainees, but were refused access. The police said that permission from the Chief of Jayapura City police (Alfred Papare) was required. They also said that it was evening so the lawyers could not meet the detainees. Olga Hamadi contacted the Head of Jayapura Police and requested to meet the students but the call was cut. She then received a message from him stating he would call her later. There was no call. Lawyer Gustaf Kawer also contacted Alfred Papare requesting permission for lawyers to meet the students, but permission was denied.

On 3 April at 09:00, while the two students were being interrogated, lawyer Ivon Tetjuari arrived at the police station and asked to meet the students, however she was denied access. She protested and reminded the police officials that lawyers have the right to access clients 24 hours a day. The police officials denied access on the basis that interrogation was currently underway. Ivon Tetjuari protested the fact that interrogation was occurring without the presence of a lawyer. She then met with the Chief of Jayapura Police, Alfred Papare, who told her the two detainees had been arrested because they violated the terms of the letter which had been signed by Yali Wenda before the demonstration. Ivon Tetjuari stated that the legal team would begin legal proceedings against the Chief of Jayapura Police for his arbitrary actions if the students continued to be detained. Lawyer Gustaf Kawer also communicated this to the Chief of Jayapura Police.

Human rights lawyers in Jayapura report that they are frequently denied access to indigenous Papuan political detainees, a pattern of systematic discrimination which is in violation of points 8 and 16a) f the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, as well as Principle 18)3 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention and Imprisonment.


Police forbade doctors to release medical report

On 3 April following their release, the two patients were seen by a doctor at Dian Harapan hospital, Waena, Jayapura. When a medical report was requested, they were told that this could not be released without a letter from the police. Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda did not want to go to the Jayapura police station to request this letter, as they had just been maltreated and tortured by these same police.

On 4 April, lawyer Olga Hamadi visited Dian Harapan hospital and requested the medical report, however she was also refused. On requesting the result of the medical check-up the doctor had conducted, she was told only that the doctor had x-rayed the two patients’ heads and bodies and there were no broken bones.

Lawyer Olga Hamadi visited doctors at a different hospital to request that they see the two victims and produce a medical report, however they stated that they could not make a medical report without a request from the police. Such denial of access to a medical report violates Principle 26 of UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention and Imprisonment which states that ‘Access to such records shall be ensured.’


Victim intimidated after release

Yali Wenda states that since his release on 3 April 2014 he has been visited twice by police intelligence agents who asked him whether he is scared after being beaten.


Right to remedy: the need for intervention

Indonesia’s national legislation specifically states that police must “refrain from instigating or tolerating any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” under Regulation No.8/2009 of the Chief of the National Police regarding the Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police.

However, political detainees in Papua are frequently beaten, tortured then denied medical care and attention. There have been two cases during the last year in which political detainees were beaten so severely that they experienced mental health issues and authorities were forced to release them (Boas Gombo and Yohanes Boseren). In both cases the right to remedy was denied and there have been no reparations, restitution nor compensation, nor to our knowledge have the perpetrators been punished. There have been no effective steps taken to ensure that these actions were not repeated, as is evidenced by the torture of Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda on 2–3 April to which we are now drawing your attention.

In the case of the torture of seven men in Depapre, Jayapura in February 2013, pressure brought by international, national and local human rights groups lead to at least one small step towards fulfillment of the right to remedy. When the two men who were prosecuted, Matan Klembiap and Daniel Gobay, were transferred to Abepura prison, they report that they were visited by the the Division on Professionalism and Security prison (Provos Pengamanan, PROPAM). The officials were seeking to investigate allegations of police torture and gain agreement from the victims to pursue justice. However, the victims judged that the risk of revenge attacks by the perpetrators was too great, and did not take the process further. Such steps towards remedy, however small, are positive. Local lawyers and we at TAPOL have no knowledge of such steps having been taken in other cases.

In summary, previous experience suggests that the rights of the victims to remedy, reparation, restitution, compensation, non-repetition, and punishment of the perpetrators is unlikely to be fulfilled by the government of Indonesia without intervention. In the case of Matan Klembiap and Daniel Gobay, interventions appeared to have a positive effect at encouraging government institutions to take steps towards fulfilling their obligations, although these were minimal.


Background and context

In 2013, according to information from civil society monitoring collective Papuans Behind Bars, there were 537 political arrests in Papua, more than double the number of arrests in 2012. Data from the same organization also states that the number of cases of torture and ill treatment during 2013 has tripled. The arrest and torture of Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda is part of an urgent and worsening trend in the lack of respect for human rights by security forces in West Papua.

This worsening trend follows the appointment in September 2012 of Tito Karnavian as Chief of Police in Papua. Karnavian is former head of the controversial anti-terror unit Special Detachment 88 (Detasemen 88, ‘Densus 88’) which has been accused of numerous human rights abuses.

As noted, independent monitoring and verification of abuses in Papua remains difficult due to a de facto ban on international journalists, humanitarian and human rights organizations wishing to enter the region.


Contacting the victims

Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda may be contacted via Papuan human rights organization The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence in Papua (Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan di Papua, KontraS Papua).



The information in this appeal letter is based on: ‘Action Monitoring Report,’ Student Solidarity for Political Prisoners, 3 April 2014; ‘The forced dispersal of student action, arrest and torture of Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda,’ KontraS Papua, received 9 April 2014, ‘The Indonesian system is used to destroy Papuans,’ Marni Cordell and Alex Rayfield, New Mathilda; messages from students of the Student Solidarity for Political Prisoners, and messages from Markus Haluk, General Secretary of the Alliance of Students from the Central Mountains of Papua (Aliansi Mahasiswa Pegunungan Tengah Papua, Indonesia, AMPTPI).



The arrest and torture of these two men are part of a worsening pattern of arbitrary arrest, use of excessive force by police and torture in detention, aimed at preventing free speech and free assembly among indigenous activists and human rights defenders. We are concerned that this pattern will continue to worsen. We are also concerned for the safety of the victims, and furthermore that the right to remedy of the victims will not be fulfilled by the Indonesian government. We therefore urge you to raise this case with the Indonesian government, stressing the right to remedy, reparation, restitution, compensation, non-repetition, and punishment of the perpetrators, in line with the UN Guidelines on the right to remedy. 


Yours sincerely



Paul Barber

Coordinator, TAPOL


Watch Indonesia! Germany

West Papua Netzwerk, Germany

International Coalition for Papua, Germany

Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Franciscans International, Geneva

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, United States

Australian West Papua Association, Sydney, Australia

Peace Movement Aotearoa, New Zealand

Pax Christi Aotearoa, New Zealand

West Papua Action Auckland, New Zealand  

Survival International


cc.          Ms Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

 Mr Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment

 Mr Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association

 Mrs Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

 The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention