Former civil servant Filep Karma was among approximately 200 people who took part in a peaceful ceremony in Abepura, Papua Province, Indonesia on 1 December 2004. In commemoration of the declaration of Papaun independence in 1962, the Morning Star Flag was raised. Police then advanced on the crowd, firing warning shots and beating people with batons. Filep Karma was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason.
In a country like the United States, the jailing of a peaceful political activist for raising a flag may sound mind-boggling. Yet, Amnesty International has documented that over 100 activists in Indonesia have been arrested and sentenced for raising forbidden flags and engaging in peaceful political activities.
Amnesty International takes no position on the political status of any province of Indonesia, but believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate referendums, independence or other political solutions. Amnesty International therefore considers Filep Karma to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for him to be released immediately and unconditionally.
Repressive legislation continues to be used throughout Indonesia to limit freedom of expression, in violation of articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Indonesia has now ratified the ICCPR, which entered into force in the country on 23 May 2006. However, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no steps have yet been taken to amend the Indonesian Criminal Code to bring it into line with the standards required by the ICCPR.
Amnesty International is also calling on Members of Congress to support House Resolution 1355, which seeks the release of prisoners of conscience in Indonesia.
Today marks the six year anniversary of Filep Karma’s arrest and we have seen little advancement of human rights in Indonesia. However, we continue to urge Indonesian officials to release Filep Karma immediately and unconditionally. Filep Karma is featured in this year’s Global Write-a-thon for the fourth time. Consider writing a letter on behalf of Filep Karma and human rights in Indonesia.
Carol Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist, and Lisa Hart, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.