New TAPOL report exposes myth of ‘no political prisoners’
The Indonesian government today came under fire for its policy on political prisoners in West Papua. The publication of a new TAPOL report forcefully challenges the government’s claim that there are no political prisoners in Indonesia, only criminals who have broken the law. The report urges President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to open up democratic space in West Papua and order the release of all those jailed for expressing their legitimate opinions and aspirations.
The report, No political prisoners? The suppression of political protest in West Papua, documents the cases of 40 prisoners in jail at the end of March 2013 and reveals there were at least 210 political arrests in 2012, a significant number of whom were women. It includes vivid accounts of the long-term hardships faced by the prisoners and their families simply because they have exercised their right to freedom of expression, and shows how other human rights violations, such as torture and ill-treatment, often follow the arbitrary arrest of political activists.
TAPOL highlight the problematic stigma around political cases, with prisoners, their families, and those who defend their rights branded as ‘separatists’ and ‘traitors.’
TAPOL state that Papua’s political prisoners are not only symbolic of the continuing struggle for justice in West Papua, but also of the government’s refusal to address the political problem in the territory. The report also argues that the continued suppression of political protest is undermining peaceful and democratic efforts to resolve the West Papua conflict. It urges the government to allow Papuans to express themselves like any other Indonesian citizen as a basic first step towards resolving the conflict.
The report is based on research and interviews conducted by TAPOL and data from www.papuansbehindbars.org, a new project initiated by civil society groups in West Papua and launched in Jayapura, earlier this month.