United Nations declares Indonesia's detention of West Papuan Filep Karma a violation of international law
Mr. Karma is a prominent Papuan human rights advocate and former civil servant arrested on December 1, 2004 for raising the Papuan Morning Star flag at a political rally in commemoration of Papuan independence from Dutch rule. Although Mr. Karma has explicitly denounced the use of violence, he was convicted for crimes of hostility against the state and sedition in a trial that fell far below international standards of due process. He now languishes in prison serving a fifteen-year sentence, despite health concerns and calls for his release by numerous NGOs and government officials. In August, 2011, 26 members of the U.S. Congress urged President Yudhoyono to release Mr. Karma. Forty members of Congress signed a similar letter in 2008. This week, President Obama will be in Indonesia attending the 2011 ASEAN Summit—which takes place November 17-19 in Bali—where many hope such human rights discussions will take place.
Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner stated: “The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found Indonesia’s actions a clear violation of international law. Mr. Karma is a nonviolent advocate who was arrested for his views and convicted in a trial marred by judicial bias, denial of appeal without reason, and intimidation tactics. I urge President Obama to raise Filep Karma’s case with President Yudhoyono and to call for Indonesia’s compliance with the UN opinion by releasing Filep Karma.”
The United Nations Working Group determined that Mr. Karma’s arrest was due to his exercise of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. According to the UN, provisions used to convict and detain Mr. Karma—including declaring “feelings of hate”—were “drafted in such general and vague terms that they can be used arbitrarily to restrict the freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly and association.” Such a detention violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multi-party treaty by which Indonesia is bound, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Working Group also censured the Government of Indonesia for violating Mr. Karma’s right to a fair trial.
The opinion concluded by calling the Government’s attention to broader human rights violations in Indonesia, for which Filep Karma’s situation is emblematic, stating, “The Working Group will remind The Republic of Indonesia of its duties to comply with international human rights obligations not to detain arbitrarily, to release persons who are arbitrarily detained, and to provide compensation to them.”
Freedom Now, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to free prisoners of conscience, and Hogan Lovells LLP, an international law firm, welcome the UN’s decision. They call on the Indonesian government to uphold its commitments under international law and immediately release Mr. Karma.