“Life in Prison for Raising A Flag?”
Human rights groups are calling for international observers to be allowed into Indonesia’s restive Papua province to monitor the trial of five activists facing life in prison for raising a pro-independence flag.
The five men, who were charged with treason after a rally in the Papuan capital Jayapura in October at which the Morning Star flag was raised, were indicted on Monday.
They could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of treason for raising the flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, which is illegal in Indonesia.
The Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) called on Australia on Wednesday to raise the matter with Indonesian authorities, as well as to deploy embassy staff to monitor the trial, which is set to resume next Wednesday.
Foreign journalists and non-government organisations, including human rights groups, are banned by the Indonesian government from travelling to Papua.
Australia’s silence on human rights abuses in the region had once again been put in the spotlight, the HRLC said.
The group’s spokesman, Tom Clarke, said the fundamental rights of all persons to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2006.
“These fundamental human rights must be recognised and respected by Indonesia. The exercise of such democratic rights and freedoms must be protected by law, not criminalised.”
The comments came after the United States called for the Indonesian government to ensure the men were afforded legal safeguards that provided for a fair trial.
“We urge the Indonesian authorities to ensure due process and procedural safeguards in accordance with Indonesian law and Indonesia’s international legal obligations for all persons indicted,”
A State Department spokesperson said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The Five Men”
The five men – Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, August Makbrowen Senay, Dominikus Sorabut and Selpius Bobii – were arrested after the pro-independence rally on October 19.
At least three people were killed and scores more injured when Indonesian security forces stormed the rally after the raising of the Morning Star flag.
As many as 300 people were arrested, while video footage broadcast on Australian television also showed police and military personnel beating unarmed protesters, including children.
Human Rights Watch has also condemned the trial of the five men and called for all charges to be dropped.
“worst violence in years”
Indonesia has been battling a long-running but low-level insurgency since its takeover of Papua in 1969.
But the province has been racked in the past six months by its worst violence in years.
More than 40 people have been killed since the beginning of July, according to figures from Indonesia’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.
The journalist who recorded the footage of the aftermath of the rally and the military crackdown on October 19 was arrested and interrogated, but later released.