Once again, Indonesia has once again shown to the world that freedom of expression and assembly do not exist for West Papuans.

Seven West Papuan students have been arbitrarily arrested for flying the Morning Star flag. The group, based at the Jayapura Science and Technology University (USTJ) campus in Abepura, includes three of the eight Papuan students who were arrested and charged with treason for their part in the flag raising on December 1st 2021. The names of these three students, who were charged with treason and only released two months ago, are Yosep Ernesto Matuan, Devio Tekege, and Ambrosius Elopere. They were arrested along with Eko Ukago, Nobertus Dogopia, Matius Mabel and Andy You.

At the same time as these arrests, Indonesia was facing scrutiny of their human rights record at the UN, with eight countries – including the USA, Canada and Australia – calling for an urgent UN visit to West Papua. In response, Indonesia insisted that democracy and human rights are respected in West Papua – here was an opportunity to demonstrate that supposed respect. But even with the eyes of the world on them, with the G20 summit being held in Bali, Indonesia could not allow West Papuans to raise their national flag.

The students had gathered to commemorate the murder of Theys Eluay, a great West Papuan leader and unifier, who was murdered in his car by Indonesian Special Forces on 10th November 2001. As with the 1st December 2021 demonstration, the protest was entirely peaceful, with the students holding Morning Star flags and reading speeches about Eluays and his legacy. For their part in a peaceful protest, they may be charged with treason and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

The seven students who have been arrested in Jayapura must be immediately released. This is my demand to the Indonesian President Joko Widodo – not the Chief of Police, not the head of the Indonesian Military. Freedom of assembly is not a crime: the Indonesian President must immediately intervene to secure their release.

A separate group of West Papuan students were also brutalised and criminalised for protesting against the G20 in Bali. While marching outside their University they were beaten, doused with water cannons, shot at, pelted with stones and subjected to racist abuse. Later, they were barricaded inside their dormitory by Indonesian police, who fired shots at the group. Indonesia must stop criminalising protest, stop abusing basic rights, and stop punishing young West Papuans when they dare to use their voice. These actions are in violation of international law.

These are the demands of the ULMWP Provisional Government: Indonesia must finally begin to respect the globally recognised rights of freedom of expression and assembly. They must heed the urgent call of over eighty countries to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua. The ban on international media, human rights groups and aid agencies from entering West Papua must be immediately lifted. And finally, President Widodo must not ignore my call to discuss the peaceful solution that is good for both of our peoples. As the Marshall Islands stated this week at the UN, only through the right to self-determination will Papuan human rights be protected. Only an internationally mediated referendum will end this conflict.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government