On March 13, Indonesian police arrested twelve people in Manokwari, West Papua, during a demonstration against a 2007 law banning the display of separatist symbols, including the Morning Star Flag. The demonstrations also called for a referendum regarding the political status of West Papua and expressed opposition to the 2001 Special Autonomy Law that they claim has failed to bring improvement to the lives of Papuan people. As Human Right Watch has reported, one of the twelve arrested in Manokwari is reported to be a 16-year-old boy. As of March 25 there were reports that he had been released from custody but he may still face charges. On March 19, Indonesian security officials in Jayapura arrested four more Papuans in a similarly peaceful demonstration that opposed the same 2007 law. On March 25, security authorities arrested Eli Kaiway in connection with the peaceful demonstrations of March 13 and 19.
The 17 individuals appear likely to face trial for breaching Regulation 77/2007 and may also be charged with makar, which translates into English as “rebellion.” In the past, Papuan activists openly supporting separatism have been sentenced to a 20-year prison term for the peaceful expression of their political views.
Indonesia’s arrest and detention of peaceful activists violates the internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and assembly as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in February 2006.
From East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, March 25