A West Papuan university student was charged with treason in Jayapura’s District Court on March 28, arising from a November 2022 protest rally that was violently repressed by police.
Yoseph Ernesto Matuan, a student of the University of Science and Technology Jayapura (USTJ), was charged for simply calling for a referendum and raising the Morning Star flag at the rally. Two other USTJ students will appear before the court to face charges on April 3.
The rally was held to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Papua Presidium Council leader Theys Hiyo Eluay on November 10, 2001. Eluay was murdered by military personnel. The soldiers responsible received jail sentences of just two years.
During the rally police fired tear gas, beat students and lecturers and arrested students who gave speeches and raised the Morning Star flag.
Australia West Papua Associaltion (AWPA) spokesperson Joe Collins said the charges contravene Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Collins said: “Article 19 states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ Article 20 [protects] ‘the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’."
“Jakarta seems to believe that these articles do not apply to the West Papuan People.”
According to AWPA, police also recently arrested 20 West Papuans who were raising funds for victims of the two cyclones that hit Vanuatu at the beginning of March.
Those arrested were eventually released, said AWPA. However, West Papuan activists are being intimidated to stop any activity that might bring international attention to the injustices suffered by the West Papuan people — even humanitarian activities.