Lawyers urge Australian Government to speak out over Papuan treason trials

The Australian Government’s silence on human rights abuses in the region has once again been put in the spotlight, with the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) and International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) urging the Foreign Minister to speak up in defence of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. Criminal trials have commenced this week in Jayapura, against five Papuan political activists charged with criminal offences following their involvement in last year’s peaceful assembly at the Third Papuan People’s Congress. The activists were among the hundreds of people arrested after Indonesian police and military forcibly shut down the gathering, killing at least three people and injuring approximately 90 others.

HRLC spokesperson, Tom Clarke, said the fundamental rights of all persons to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are 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.

“Australia’s UN Security Council bid pitches us as a ‘principled advocate of human rights for all’. This is a prime opportunity for the Foreign Minister to take a principled stand against human rights abuses on our doorstep,” Mr Clarke said.

The Papuan activists, Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, August Makbrowen Senay, Dominikus Sorabut and Selpius Bobii, are facing charges of treason in a region where people may be imprisoned for simply raising the West Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag.

ILWP’s Jennifer Robinson called on the Australian Government to use its unique relationship with Indonesia to encourage the authorities to demonstrate their respect for human rights by dropping charges against the five activists.

“These trials should stop immediately, and Australia should do everything it can to help that happen. The prosecution of activists for peacefully expressing their political views has no place in a modern democracy. The Australian Foreign Minister, his department and embassy staff in Indonesia should make it very clear that the Australian Government firmly supports human rights and freedom of expression in the region,” Ms Robinson said.

Ms Robinson also called on the Australian Government to deploy embassy staff to observe the legal proceedings for the purpose of ensuring that the protesters receive a fair trial.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday 8 February.


For further comments: ILWP’s Jenifer Robinson, +447767707566 (UK) +61423871773 (Aus) HRLC’s Tom Clarke on or +61(0)422 545 763