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Watchdog site launched for Papua's political prisoners

Innovation hailed as "a breakthrough that will uncover injustice"

Watchdog site launched for Papua's political prisoners
Three Papua political prisoners detained on Biak island
Karolus Kundal, Jayapura

April 17, 2013

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A coalition of human rights groups yesterday launched a website to support dozens of alleged Papuan political prisoners who are currently in detention and being denied legal representation.

The website is a joint project of the Civil Society Coalition for the Upholding of Law and Human Rights in Papua, a group of Jakarta-based NGOs, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Network (WPN).

The coalition will continuously monitor political prisoners to ensure that their rights are protected, according to Septer Manufandu, the coalition coordinator, in a posting on the website.

“This website shows the existence of political prisoners today and the history of Papuan political prisoners who have been subjected to torture, denied access to lawyers, forced to confess and suffered all manner of other human rights violations,” Manufandu told reporters at a press conference on Monday in Abepura, Papua.

As of March this year, at least 40 political prisoners are detained in Papuan jails on charges including treason, raising the government-banned Morning Star flag and affiliation with the Free Papua Movement (OPM), according to the coaltion.

Manufandu said the government - in particular, the Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, Djoko Suyanto - has denied the existence of political prisoners, saying that those who are in custody are criminals undergoing rehabilitation. 

Manufandu said it is important to pay attention to the rights of the people starting from bei detained at police detention cells just for an interrogation to those really guilty of treason.

“There have been a number of stories of human rights violations such as torture, which begin from the moment of arrest and interrogation and continue while people are serving sentences,” he said.

Indonesia has ratified some UN-sponsored treaties, including the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights via Law 12 issued in 2005, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment via Law 5/1998. 

“However, treason cases tried in the Papua state courts are conducted under politically motivated charges,” Manufandu said

Franciscan Father Timothy Sefire from the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) commission of Franciscan friars in Jayapura agreed on the need to pay attention to political prisoners in the region.

"The website is a breakthrough that will uncover injustice suffered by those behind bars," he said. 

“It will help disseminating stories about political prisoners in Papua so that the public, nationally and internationally, know what’s happening."

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