Alert Issued: September 27, 2007
In a remote area of Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, military officials have been calling a Catholic priest a traitor and a provocateur who should be buried 700 meters in the earth.
In recent months, Papuan human rights defenders have increasingly faced anonymous calls or text messages and late night visits from unidentified men. Now Pastor John Djonga has been threatened publicly by military officials near his home.
Pastor Djonga has helped local communities defend their land from claims by the military. In July he also reported to the governor that the army was falsely accusing local people of being separatists and threatening them with harsh retaliation, a persistent problem in the region. Soon afterwards a local military official began telling journalists and local legislators that a clergyman was causing problems and should be killed.
When Pastor Djonga complained to the local police post, they told him there was nothing they could do. When he complained to the military, the Subregional Military Commander in Jayapura reportedly told him the army would look into his claims but that, if they were not proven, the pastor would be charged with defamation.
Please call on the leadership of the military and police to immediately investigate and act upon threats to Pastor Djonga and other Papuan defenders.
General Sutanto, Indonesian National Police Chief
Major General Soenarko, Commander of the Special Forces (Kopassus)
Brig. Gen Max Donald Aer, Chief of Police, Papua
Major General Zamroni, Regional Military Commander
Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
Dear General Sutanto,
I am writing to express my concern about threats made against Pastor John Djonga of St. Michael’s Parish, Waris subdistrict, Keerom district, Papua. Pastor Djonga has spoken out on behalf of local communities unhappy with their treatment at the hands of security forces and concerned that their land might be appropriated by the military. As a result, it appears that local members of Kopassus have accused him of being a traitor and a provocateur. These are serious accusations in Papua and we are concerned that they put Pastor Djonga at risk of further harassment at the hands of military and civilian authorities.
Furthermore, these incidents are just the latest in an apparent wave of threats against human rights defenders in Papua. In June 2007, Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the U.N. on Human Rights Defenders visited Indonesia, briefly stopping in Papua. While Indonesia deserves credit for extending an invitation, Ms. Jilani’s visit to Jayapura was immediately followed by threats to several of the defenders she met with. The threats have continued, including numerous anonymous text messages and mysterious people and cars appearing outside activists’ houses and offices.
As a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Security Council, Indonesia has a particular responsibility to ensure that the Special Representative’s visit is not followed by threats, intimidation, or violence against the very human rights defenders she is mandated to support and assist.
We hope that law enforcement authorities will take measures to ensure that threatening and intimidatory acts against Pastor Djonga, Albert Rumbekwan, Yan Christian Warinussy, and other Papuan human rights defenders are brought to an end. Regardless of the source of the threats, police should investigate thoroughly. Where police, military, or intelligence agencies are implicated, they should be disciplined and prevented from continuing these actions.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Tell Me More
Ethnically and culturally distinct from much of the Indonesian archipelago, the western half of the massive island shared with Papua New Guinea has been part of Indonesia since 1969. In that year, 1,000 traditional leaders handpicked by the Indonesian government voted unanimously to join Indonesia through an “Act of Free Choice” marked by reports of widespread intimidation by the military. The territory contains some Indonesia’s most valuable natural resources, including vast forests and the world’s largest copper and gold mine. At the same time, the province has some of the lowest indicators for health and education. Persistent tensions between the hundreds of Papuan ethnic groups and the economic migrants from other parts of Indonesia who make up roughly half the population occasionally break out in violence.
A small, poorly-armed separatist movement, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM, has been active since the 1960s. Their existence has been used to justify an extensive military presence and periodic crackdowns on local communities accused of providing support to the guerillas. The police are also responsible for frequent human rights violations including torture and arbitrary detention.
Papua’s eastern border with Papua New Guinea has long had a significant military presence. However, in 2007 the Special Forces branch, known as Kopassus, increased its presence, accompanied by reports of threats and harassment. Often out of uniform, the small groups of special forces soldiers reportedly interrogate civilians harshly and indiscriminately about their identity and knowledge of the guerilla movement.
Following the fall of President Soeharto in 1998 there were some efforts to address inequities and the resultant dissatisfaction of ethnic Papuans. A “special autonomy” law granted the province greater say in political and economic decision-making. However, many of the provisions were not implemented for years, and the successful effort to split the territory into the two provinces of West Irian Jaya and Papua, reportedly with significant involvement of intelligence operatives, was widely seen as an effort to undermine the promise of greater autonomy.
Defenders in Papua
Papuan defenders have always faced particular risks due to the heavy military presence and the limited access by foreign press and human rights organizations. Activists are routinely subjected to anonymous death threats, accused of being separatists, or charged with defamation for their human rights reporting. In the last few months, there appears to be an increase in threats and intimidation above even historical levels.
In June 2007 Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, briefly visited Papua as part of her mission to Indonesia. Immediately following her visit, a number of defenders she met with began receiving anonymous phone threats and night-time visits from mysterious people and unmarked vehicles (See Human Rights First’s letter to the Indonesian police following these incidents). One target of the threats, Albert Rumbekwan, is in fact the local representative of the National Commission on Human Rights, an official government body (See Human Rights First’s alert on the case). Early on the morning of September 23, a number of men surrounded Rumbekwan’s house during a black-out, in what he later described as an attempt to intimidate or even kidnap him.
The statements directed at Pastor Djonga, asserting that he is a separatist or might be charged with defamation, are serious threats. There are at least 18 political prisoners in Papua imprisoned for peaceful expression of their desire for independence, and the military has sued Papuan human rights groups for defamation before.
In July 2007 Pastor Djonga spoke to the governor about his concerns that local communities were being labeled as OPM supporters and terrorized by the military posts placed throughout their villages and towns. Soon after, members of his congregation were questioned by members of the special forces about the pastor’s activities. On August 22 the local Kopassus commander, a first lieutenant, told journalists that a religious leader from outside the area was spreading lies through his network of local and international NGOs, that he was a traitor and a provocateur, and should be buried 700 meters in the earth. (Pastor Djonga, originally from the island of Flores, is the only one who fits that description in the area). The lieutenant reportedly repeated the same allegations to a delegation from the local legislative assembly a few days later. Soldiers also accused him of being involved in illegal business activities.
On September 17, a man forced his way into Wisma Kondios, a diocesan guesthouse in Abepura, and demanded to know if Pastor Djonga, who had recently stayed there, was still there.
In September, Jayapura District Military Commander Lt. Col. A.H. Napoleon told a journalist, “I want to stress that no members of the armed forces are immune from the law if they are proven guilty.” (In fact, his superior officer, Subregional Military Commander Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, has never even faced trial despite being named in two separate indictments for crimes against humanity by a UN-backed court in Dili, Timor Leste.)