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Group calls for protection of rights defenders in Papua

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Papuan students protest against the Indonesian government's plan to develop new administrative areas in the country's easternmost Papua province, in Malang, East Java on March 21. AFP

Group calls for protection of rights defenders in Papua

Activists have condemned alleged terror and intimidation against Papuan human rights activists and called the police to thoroughly investigate an alleged arson attack at Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) on May 9.

The Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) and Papua Humanitarian Coalition condemned the alleged attack of burning a motorcycle in the garage of the LBH Papua office on Monday morning in Abepura district, Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia.

The Papua Humanitarian Coalition, which comprises a number of human rights organisations and activists, including Amnesty International Indonesia, Kontras and Public Virtue Research Institute, called on the police to thoroughly investigate the incidents and prevent similar attacks from recurring.

YLBHI is also calling on the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to carry out investigations and provide protection to human rights defenders.

“The incident should be seen as an attack on human rights defenders,” YLBHI said in a statement on Monday, adding that LBH Papua recently advocated civil liberties to indigenous Papuans, victims of violence committed by the state and victims of land grabbing.

“This is part of terror against the democratic movement. It’s very dangerous for democracy,” YLBHI chairman Muhamad Isnur told the Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

LBH Papua director Emanuel Gobay suspected someone deliberately set the motorbike on fire. The institute had reported the incidents to the Papua Police on Monday.

Early on Monday morning, a motorbike parked at the institute’s office garage was found burned.

According to the LBH Papua statement, a wick smelling of kerosene and a plastic bag with remains of gasoline were found near the office. LBH Papua members also gathered information from two local residents, who saw someone wearing a black sweater, hat and mask had run out of the LBH Papua office before the incident.

Papua Police said they had visited the alleged crime scene and were carrying out an investigation into the alleged attack.

“The Abepura Police have visited the crime scene for an initial investigation, but the crime scene had been cleared,” Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said on Monday night as quoted by Kompas.

It is the latest incident in a series of attacks against Papuans or those voicing human rights in the easternmost provinces of the country.

In November last year, the family of human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who has long been vocal in speaking up against alleged human rights abuses in Papua, became a target of intimidation.

In March 2021, at least two protesters were killed and several others were wounded during protests against the plan to form new provinces that turned into a clash between protesters and security forces in Yahukimo.

In August-October 2019 in Malang and Surabaya, Papuans were subjected to repression, violence and racial discrimination during a series of rallies.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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