West Papua: Free peaceful protesters

Below is an abridged March 19 statement by Human Rights Watch, .

The Indonesian government should order the immediate release of nine West Papuan activists arrested for displaying the Morning Star flag (a symbol of West Papuan independence). All charges against them should be dropped.

On March 13, police arrested nine people in Manokwari, West Papua, during a demonstration against a 2007 law banning the display of "separatist" symbols, including the Morning Star flag. One of the nine in custody is reported to be a 16-year-old boy.

Indonesia's arrest and detention of peaceful activists violates the internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

"Raising a flag at a demonstration is a nonviolent act, but in Indonesia it can land you in prison", said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "If Indonesia wants recognition as a rights-respecting nation, it should stop imprisoning people for acts of peaceful expression."

Peaceful campaigning for self-determination is a right protected by international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in February 2006.

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