Indonesia – Judicial harassment of Papuan human rights lawyer Mr Gustaf Kawer

The Papua Regional Police has opened an investigation into human rights lawyer Mr Gustaf Kawer in connection with “crimes against public authority”

The Papua Regional Police has opened an investigation into human rights lawyer Mr Gustaf Kawer in connection with “crimes against public authority”.

The charges, under articles 211 and 212 of the Criminal Code, refer to events alleged to have occurred during a court hearing in June 2014 while he was acting as a defence lawyer in court. If prosecuted and found guilty, he could face up to four years in prison.

The court hearing in question took place on 12 June 2014 at the Jayapura State Administrative Court. The week preceding the hearing, Gustaf Kawer had applied for a postponement on behalf of his client. At the 12 June hearing, the court decided to deny the postponement and proceeded with the hearing in the absence of Gustaf Kawer and his client. Upon his arrival to court, the human rights lawyer protested on the basis that the court had previously granted a postponement on three previous occasions at the request of the government, the other party to land dispute discussed in the court proceeding. Reportedly, the human rights lawyer was asked to leave the courtroom if he disagreed with the court’s decision, which he did.

On 19 August 2014, Gustaf Kawer received a summons to appear before the police to give a testimony. Upon enquiring with the Papua Regional Police, he was told that the investigation was in relation to his actions during the 12 June court hearing, when he allegedly threatened and insulted a judge and was therefore subject to investigation for “crimes against public authority” under articles 211 and 212 of the Criminal Code.

According to an agreement between the Indonesian National Police and the Indonesian Bar Association (PERADI) on “Investigatory Procedures for Carrying Out The Profession As Advocate”, any summons issued to lawyers in relation to their work should be directed to PERADI. Since the summons had been sent to Gustaf Kawer directly, he therefore declined to appear. On 25 August 2014, a police investigator submitted a second summons to PERADI requesting that Gustaf Kawer appear before the Papua Regional Police headquarters for interrogation on 1 September 2014.

On 27 August 2014, the Chairperson of the Executive Board of the Papuan Branch of PERADI announced that Gustaf Kawer will not follow the summons until the Board of PERADI has carried out an investigation in the case. The Board of PERADI also stated that it would communicate the results of its own investigation within fourteen days to the authorities.

Front Line Defenders is concerned by the criminal investigation initiated by police and the possible prosecution of human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer, as they relate solely on his actions as a defence lawyer.