INDONESIA: Peaceful protesters arrested & tortured by police in Papua

According to information gathered by London-based human rights organisation TAPOL, Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda were participating in a peaceful demonstration at Cendrawasih University on 2 April 2014. The protest was part of the Global Day of Action, demanding the release of 76 Papuan political prisoners.
Protesters began gathering at 8 a.m. in Cendrawasih University, Waena. Soon thereafter, three trucks of the Jayapura Crowd Control police, three trucks of the police Mobile Brigades, a water cannon, and a barracuda tank were deployed.
At around 10.20 a.m., the protesters were about to march to join other protesters at Abepura. The police, however, blocked them from doing so and asked the protesters to disperse. The protesters refused the order and sent Alfares Kapisa, who is the field coordinator of the demonstration, as well as Yali Wenda, who delivered a speech during the protest, to negotiate with the police. The police, however, arrested them for no reason, beat them, and threw them into the police truck. Yali Wenda informed TAPOL that he and Alfares were held in the truck for about one and a half hours, where they were beaten in various parts of their bodies, kicked, trampled on, and electrocuted using electric stun batons. The police also reportedly stamped on Yali’s wounded foot. Alfares told local newspaper Tabloid Jubi there were about 10 police officers who beat them.
At Jayapura district police station, Yali and Alfares were put in a cell. They were ordered to take off their clothes which were by then covered with blood. They were given other clothes while those covered with blood were being washed. A doctor entered their cell to clean their wounds and to stitch up Yali Wenda’s ear. The stitching was performed without anaesthetic.
Following the torture, Alfares told TAPOL that he thought his ribs might be broken and that it was very painful for him to sit down.
At 7.30 p.m, the same day, lawyer Olga Hamadi of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and Pastor Dora Balubun visited Jayapura district police station and requested to meet with Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda. They were not given permission to see any of the arrested and tortured protesters. Another Papuan human rights lawyer, Gustaf Kawer, contacted the Chief of Jayapura District Police, Alfred Papare, requesting permission to meet the protesters but his request was also denied. At 9 a.m. the following day, 3 April 2014, lawyer Ivon Tetjuari demanded a meeting with the protesters. She was also refused permission.
On the same morning, between 8 to 11 a.m., Alfares and Yali were interrogated and asked to sign a falsified police investigation report. The report states that neither Alfares nor Yali was beaten and that both of them had attacked the police. Against their will, they were made to sign a statement, which implied that they would not hold demonstrations in the future.
They were released that afternoon and taken to Dian Harapan hospital for medical treatment. However, the hospital refused to provide them with a medical report unless they provided a letter from the police. Having been held captive and tortured, Alfares and Yali were reluctant to obtain such a letter from the Jayapura district police. The following day, lawyer Olga Hamadi of KontraS also made a request to the hospital for a medical report to no avail.
Freedom of expression is disproportionately restricted in West Papua. International journalists are forbidden by the Indonesian government to enter the region and demonstrations are often violently dispersed. A peaceful protest commemorating the International Day of Democracy last year, for instance, ended with the arrest of 71 protesters. Previously, in a peaceful protest on 1 May 2013 in Sorong, the Indonesian security forces shot two Papuan protesters to death and injured three others. The Indonesian government admitted the restriction on freedom of expression in West Papua during the UN Human Rights Committee’s session on Indonesia last year. However, the government insisted that they would continue to stop peaceful expressions of political views that aim to separate Papua from Indonesia by means of criminal charges.
Torture is commonly practiced by state officials in West Papua. The AHRC has earlier reported, for example, the torture of Nahor Stefanus Yalak in September 2013. He was beaten and kicked in various parts of his body by police and military officials.
Torture is yet to be criminalised in Indonesia, despite the country’s ratification of the UN Convention against Torture in May 1998. Perpetrators are not usually brought before criminal court. On the rare occasion when a perpetrator is tried, punishments imposed are typically lenient. In a recent torture case in West Sumatra, the judges granted probation to two prison guards who beat and electrocuted an inmate.