Arrested - and shot at - for praying. The Indonesian approach to policing peaceful gatherings

Ahead of the Indonesian elections this month we joined TAPOL, Survival International and Down to Earth outside the Indonesian Embassy to call for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience imprisoned solely for their peaceful political views.

At the heart of Amnesty’s concerns are seven activists: Obaja Kamesrar, Yordan Magablo, Klemens Kodimko, Anmtonius Saruf, Obeth Kamesrar, Hengky Mangamis and Isak Kalabin.

They were arrested in April 2013 in the West Papua province of Indonesia. The seven men had taken part in a peaceful prayer gathering to celebrate a traditional festival and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the handover of Papua to Indonesia in 1963. The Indonesian authorities accused the men of supporting the independence of Papua and planning to raise the banned Morning Star flag – a flag closely associated with the independence movement in Papua.

Before the arrests, security forces opened fire on the prayer gathering.  Two men died immediately and, a few days later, a woman died in hospital of gunshot wounds to her stomach and shoulder.

Unfortunately these arrests, and the shootings, are not a rare occurrence. Many activists have been arrested and charged with ‘rebellion’ for simply attending, organising or participating in peaceful political activities. A lack of independent and impartial monitoring of the human rights situation in the West Papua province has led to a climate of impunity, where the security forces can act without fear knowing their actions won’t be challenged if they act illegally.

At the end of the demonstration, we left a statement with the Indonesian Embassy with our key human rights concerns in Papua, and called for an independent investigation into these deaths and for the immediate and unconditional release of the activists.

Please join us in demanding the authorities release these seven prisoners of conscience. Write to the authorities and ask them to:

  • Unconditionally release the seven activists imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression
  • Urgently investigate the deaths at the prayer gathering and hold those responsible to account
  • Revoke the laws and regulations that ban separatist flags and logos, and the laws that criminalise free speech

Download our Urgent Action casesheet below for details of who to send the letters to.

Paul Hainsworth is our Country Coordinator for Indonesia and Timor Leste. Find out more about our Country Coordinators

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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