Police ill-treat peaceful protesters and charge them with rebellion in a flawed process

INDONESIA: Police ill-treat peaceful protesters and charge them with rebellion in a flawed process
Asian Human Rights Commission, 23 June 2011

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-117-2011

INDONESIA: Police ill-treat peaceful protesters and charge them with rebellion in a flawed process

ISSUES: Freedom of expression, Right to fair trial, Right to health, Prison conditions, Police negligence

Dear friends,

After the Manokwari District Police in West Papua arrested peaceful protesters following a flag raising event on 14 December, 2010, seven persons were charged with rebellion. The detainees were ill-treated and denied medical care for weeks resulting in serious health conditions. Police forced the victims to sign the dossier of the case before its transfer to the prosecutor without access to a lawyer. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned about the serious flaws in the criminal process, demands the immediate release of the victims, and an investigation into the illegal practices of the Manokwari police. West Papua suffers from a lack of fair trial for political activists, violence by security forces and the stigmatisation of political protesters. Peaceful protesters are frequently charged with rebellion and imprisoned for years.

According to information from LP3BH a, local legal aid group based in Manokwari, on 14 December 2010, activists organized a rally at the Penerangan Sanggeng field in Manokwari to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Proclamation of West Melanesia. According to Melki Bleskadit who led the demonstration, the activity had already been registered with the police and thus was legal. A second group of activists conducted a peaceful protest march against human rights violations by the Indonesian security forces against Papuans and other justice issues. The peaceful march continued until the participants met with the people celebrating the anniversary of West Melanesia. During the ceremony, Melki Bleskadit raised the Morning Star Flag, a symbol of West Papuan independence. The riot control forces of the Manokwari District Police immediately dispersed the crowd and arrested at least eight persons, including Simon Banundi, a member of the local legal aid organization, LP3BH from Manokwari, who was at the location to monitor the actions of the security forces against protesters. He was released 12 hours later.

The police then questioned seven detainees without legal counsel, five of which were students attending the protest march: Jhon Wilson Wader, Penehas Serongon, Yance Sekenyap, Alex Duwiri and Jhon Raweyai, who conducted the peaceful march joining the anniversary rally. Police arrested two more political activists from the anniversary celebration, Melki Bleskadit and Daniel Yenu. The police charged them with rebellion based on article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code concerning an attempt undertaken with intent to bring the territory of the state wholly or partially under foreign domination or to separate part thereof, and article 107 of the Criminal Code concerning an attempt undertaken with intent to cause a revolution. They were also charged with incitement to disobedience against the public authority as mentioned in article 160 jo, (in conjunction with) Article 55 and 56 of the Criminal Code.

During detention the victims had to sleep on a wet floor with poor hygienic conditions and were given stale foods. These detention conditions resulted in the contraction of malaria by all the victims and a significant loss of weight. The victims' families were denied access and the victims themselves were not allowed to receive food from their families. Melki Bleskadit reported that his repeated calls and requests for medical attention were ignored by the guards. The five student protesters were given access to medical treatment at the Manokwari provincial hospital only on January 9, 2011, and the two other activists on 12 February 2011.

Their condition has since improved but all medical fees had to be paid by the families of the victims despite their entitlement to the coverage of the costs by the government according to Indonesian law.

On 12 April 2011, the prosecutor accepted the case file from the Manokwari District Police after the case had already been rejected twice. No reason was given for the sudden acceptance of the case. At the intelligence division office of the public prosecutor, six members of the Manokwari District Police (Gerianto Pabuang, Raden Fidelis, three persons from the intelligence division and one person from the fighter interceptor unit (BUSER)] forced the victims to sign the dossier of the case before transferring it to the prosecutor without legal counsel being present which the victims tried to refuse. After ongoing intimidation from the six Manokwari police personnel, the victims signed the dossier of the case under pressure. On 6 June and 14 June, 2011, five of the victims from the protest march faced their first and second hearings, during which their defence counsel questioned the judicial competence of the court regarding the case.


Only in recent years have the Indonesian authorities reacted to peaceful flag raising events in West Papua with arrests and long prison sentences based on the outdated rebellion charge in the country's old Penal Code which stems largely from its colonial past. Peaceful political activists that openly criticize the lack of the implementation of laws, corruption, violence by security forces or the political status of Papua are stigmatized as violent rebels. Despite the lack of sufficient evidence, local authorities in West Papua frequently apply rebellion charges.

Indonesian criminal procedure law entitles all detainees with the right to obtain legal assistance and medical treatment and to contact and receive visits from persons who have family or other relationships with the suspect. However, these rights are often denied by the authorities.

Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below, in particular the Attorney General, to thoroughly review the charges filed against Melki Bleskadit and the other victims. The prosecutor should consider dismissing the complaint and the victims who were ill-treated should receive full compensation.

Please be informed that the AHRC is sending letters on this case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples calling for their strong interventions.

For the sample letter, click here