Forkorus Yaboisembut, born in 1955, is the chairman of the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua). On 7 July 2011, Mr Yaboisembut participated in the drafting of the Papuan Peace Declaration, as part of the ‘Dialog Jakarta-Papua’ process advocated by Dr Muridan Widjojo and Dr Neles Tebay. He then participated in the organisation of the October 2011 Third Papuan People’s Congress and played a key role in the Congress, which lead to his arrest under treason charges.
From 17 to 19 October 2011, the Third Papuan People’s Congress was attended by more than 4,000 Papuan participants, and took place at the Zacheus football field of the Catholic Mission in Padang Bulan, near the provincial capital of Jayapura. The ‘Morning Star’ flag was raised at the event. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), around 2,200 members of the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) and the police Mobile Brigades (Brigade Mobil, known locally as ‘Brimob’) were present. At least 100 members of the security forces reportedly surrounded the area with police cars, armoured vehicles and heavy firearms, whereas the participants were unarmed.
On 19 October 2011, according to the AHRC and the Jakarta Globe, Mr Yaboisembut was elected as the president of the newly-declared West Papuan Federal State. Around 14:00 local time, he read out a political declaration about the self-determination of the Papuan people. He reportedly said that the objective of the Congress was not to destroy the Republic of Indonesia, but to discuss the basic rights of the indigenous Papuan people.
Following the declaration, the Congress ended and participants began to disperse to return to their homes. Security forces began to fire shots into the air and reportedly used tear gas on the retreating crowd whilst beating participants, resulting in dozens injured. Around 300 persons were arrested and taken into custody in trucks, most of whom were later released. Video footage of the event, obtained by Down to Earth and TAPOL, has confirmed that a large number of shots were fired, and that unarmed Congress participants were beaten.
Mr Yaboisembut was arrested along with four of the other Congress organisers; Edison Waromi, August Makbrawen Sananay Kraar, Dominikus Sorabut, and Gat Wenda. On 20 October, Selpius Bobii, Chairman of the Congress, surrendered to the police. Gat Wenda was charged with Emergency Law 12 of 1951 for possession of a sharp weapon. The remaining five men were charged with treason (article 106 of the Indonesian Penal Code), conspiracy (article 110), and public incitement to violence against the authorities (article 160).
Gat Wenda was tried, sentenced to five months imprisonment and then released, as he had already served this time in detention. Mr Yaboisembut and the other four defendants were tried at the State Court in Abepura over 13 sessions, starting on 30 January 2012. On 16 March 2012, the four men were found guilty and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment – two years less than the five years requested by the Public Prosecutor. The defendants’ legal team and the Public prosecutor both appealed the decision on 4 April and the case was referred to the High Court. On 11 May 2012, the appeal was rejected by the High Court, which decision was again appealed by the defendants’ legal team, who took the case to the Supreme Court. On 24 July 2012, the Supreme Court issued Decision MA No.1029K/PD/2012 rejecting the appeal which had been made on behalf of the five defendants.
Mr Yaboisembut’s activities as chairman of the Papuan Indigenous Council have frequently brought him to the attention of local police in the past. According to Human Rights Watch (August 2011), Mr Yaboisembut was already under tight surveillance by Indonesia’s Special Forces (Komando Pasukan Khusus, known locally as Kopassus) before the events for which he was arrested took place. In August 2008, he was questioned by the police over the raising of the ‘Morning Star’ flag, a symbol of Papuan identity, in a demonstration. He subsequently received death threats and hate messages from unidentified sources.
Amnesty International, “Indonesia: release participants of peaceful gathering in Papua,” 20 October 2011,
Asian Human Rights Commission, “Papuan Peace Declaration,” 12 July 2011,
Asian Human Rights Commission, “Security forces open fire at the Third Papuan People’s Congress,” 19 October 2011,
Asian Human Rights Commission, “Troops open fire on Papuan gathering,” 20 October 2011,
Asian Human Rights Commission, “Indonesia: one person killed, hundreds arrested, and five persons charged with rebellion at the Third Papuan People’s Congress,” 20 October 2011,
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, “Congressman Faleomavaega calls upon government of Indonesia to ensure safe and humane treatment for West Papuans in custody and to work for their release,” 21 October 2011,
Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: military documents reveal unlawful spying in Papua,” 14 August 2011,
Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: independent investigation needed into Papua violence,” 27 October 2011,
Jakarta Globe, “Dozens injured as Papua group declares independence from Indonesia,” 19 October 2011,
Jakarta Globe, “At Papuan Congress, a brutal show of force,” 22 October 2011,
TAPOL, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, West Papua Advocacy Team, “Indonesian crackdown on Papuan Congress sparks outrage,” 20 October 2011,
Video : Metro TV, “Polisi Buru Peserta Kongres Pendirian Negara Papua,» 19 October 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eB_lHvxGdg
Last updated : 4 January 2013