Court Ruling Criticised as Racist by Rights Activists

obby 1

A plain clothes police officer grabs Obby Kogoya by his nostrils and pulls him by his nose

obby 2

A plain clothes police officer uses his foot to push Obby Kogoya’s face into the ground.

Obby Kogoya, a victim of degrading treatment, was found guilty of attacking police officers by a district court yesterday in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (27/07/2017)). Rights activists condemned the ruling as racist and unjust. The verdict is part of the aftermath of one of the most racially-charged incidents targeting West Papuans that has occurred in recent years.

The incident in question occurred during the three-day siege of a West Papuan dormitory located in Yogyakarta (14-16 July 2016). Hundreds of police officers and civil militia prevented West Papuan students from holding a peaceful demonstration in support of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s (ULMWP) application for full membership status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Dozens of students were prevented from either entering or exiting the dormitory. Police prevented anyone, including the Indonesian Red Cross, from delivering food and water to the students inside. Tear gas was utilised by police multiple times. The students were continually met by racially-charged physical and verbal abuse. More than one hundred civil society organisations across Indonesia condemned the incident as racist, discriminatory, and a violation of the right tofreedom of speech.

On the second day of the siege, Obby Kogoya and eleven other West Papuan friends came to the dorm to deliver cassavas for the trapped students. They were attacked, beaten, and kicked by police and the civil militia, and subjected to verbal racial abuse. At this time, the infamous photos of Obby Kogoya receiving degrading treatment were captured (photos at top). Eight people including Obby Kogoya were subsequently taken to the police headquarters. Obby was the only one who was charged. He was cited under article 212 of penal code for the alleged crime of attacking police officers.

Over a year later, the court finally delivered its judgment. Obby Kogoya was found guilty and sentenced to four months in prison with one year probation. His defence lawyers, the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute, published a statement criticising the decision as racist. They stressed that the evidence of Obby Kogoya attacking police officers was not established during the trial. Further, while his lawyers also reported on the degrading treatment that Obby received from the police over the past year, there has been no sign of any follow-up investigation conducted by police. Obby Kogoya and his lawyers are presently discussing his option to appeal the verdict.

Additional sources:


Indonesia: End impunity and arbitrary arrests in West Papua


A new report by Papuans Behind Bars (PBB) exposes the Indonesian government’s increased use of arbitrary arrests to shut down protests in West Papua in 2015, and urges the Government of Indonesia to answer for ongoing impunity, state violence and increased arbitrary arrests in West Papua.

The 28-page report ‘Rising voices, rising arrests: A look at West Papua in 2015’ exposes how freedom of expression and assembly in the region remains severely restricted. This is in spite of the release of five prominent long-term political prisoners in May 2015, and President Joko Widodo’s assurances that West Papua is open to foreign journalists.

Based on data and testimonies collected and verified by PBB, the report shows that 1083 Papuans were arrested arbitrarily across Indonesia in 2015. This represents the highest number of arbitrary arrests documented in a single year since comprehensive records began in 2012. 80% of those detained were arrested for participating in or planning peaceful demonstrations.

The report shows a change in the pattern of charges. In a positive development, the use of treason charges under Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code against political detainees decreased significantly and the use of the controversial Emergency Law 12/1951 ceased altogether. However, the use of charges of incitement under Article 160 of the Indonesian Criminal Code increased. Although the number of cases of torture of detainees on arrest and in detention decreased significantly, reports of torture outside of detainee cases remain frequent. The report also gives evidence that ill-treatment of detainees is on the rise. In 2015, 690 cases of ill-treatment of detainees were recorded, more than four times as many as than in 2014. Testimonies from political prisoners highlight their concerns over being denied visits from their families, being under constant surveillance and poor or complete lack of access to medical treatment.

In addition, the report exposes ongoing state violence and impunity of state security personnel. At least 11 people died as a result of state violence in West Papua in 2015. Further, the culture of impunity remains embedded amongst security forces, the perpetrators of the fatal shooting of four teenagers in Paniai regency, Papua province,  in December 2014, have still not been brought to trial.

The report’s publication comes at a time when national, regional and international actors are increasingly voicing concerns over human rights abuses in West Papua.

The serious issue of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, summary executions, and torture in West Papua was raised at the United Nations Human Rights Council  in June 2016 by the delegations of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Both delegations urged the Human Rights Council and the Government of Indonesia to work together to facilitate a visit by Mr David Kaye, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to West Papua.

This echoes promises that the Indonesian government made during the country´s previous Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012, promises that it has yet to follow-up on. Indonesia’s human rights record will come under the international spotlight again for the country’s UPR in 2017. PBB’s 2015 report calls on Indonesia to “Allow free and unrestricted access for all UN Special Rapporteurs wishing to visit and report on Papua.” Ahead of the 2017 UPR, it urges the Government of Indonesia to take meaningful actions in-line with their international human rights commitments  towards ending arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as to address ongoing impunity within the security forces.

The full report can be downloaded here: 2015 Rising Voices Rising Arrests


Briefing Paper: Political arrests in West Papua from 2012-2014

PBB EN coverThis briefing paper provides an analytical overview of data on political arrests in West Papua from 2012 to 2014. It includes analysis of emerging trends in human rights violations associated with these political arrests.

Our analysis shows that during the three-year period of this report, the majority of those detained were arrested because of their participation in demonstrations or other types of peaceful political activity. 2013 was a particularly bad year, with a record high of 548 arrests. The data also showed that most of those detained were male (95%).

Charges of treason (Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code) and conspiracy to commit treason (Articles 106 and 110) were the most frequently used charges against political detainees.

While the use of Emergency Law 12/1951, which punishes the possession of sharp weapons, firearms and ammunition, has decreased, there appears to be a substitution of this charge with other politically motivated charges of criminal violence, such as Articles 187 or 170.

The number of cases of torture and denial of access to lawyers has increased over the three-year period. Of particular concern is the sharp five-fold increase in 2014 of the number of detainees tortured for participating in demonstrations

You can download the full report here.