SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 02, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment | Prosecution | Loss of Position

Institution(s):Khairun University | Muhammadiyah University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Indonesia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 2, 2019, police reportedly used violent force against students and arrested ten students during a protest just outside of the Muhammadiyah University (MU) campus. About a week later, Khairun University (KU) dismissed four of the students who were arrested during the protest.

Around fifty students from the Indonesian People’s Front of West Papua and the Papuan Student Community held a demonstration at MU’s campus to decry human rights abuses in Papua and West Papua, call for the release of Papuan political prisoners, and demand self-determination for Papua. The students and activists planned to first gather at MU to deliver speeches and then march to KU’s campus. While they were still gathered at MU’s campus, however, police arrived and reportedly grabbed protest banners, beat students, and arrested ten students. The students were released the following day on December 3.

On December 12, the KU administration issued a decree dismissing four of the students who were arrested during the December 2 protest, for “tarnishing the good name of the university.” On April 6, 2020, the students filed a lawsuit at the administrative court in Ambon to challenge their dismissal.

On July 13, 2020, the Ternate police charged one of the four KU students, Arbi M. Nur, with “treason” and “public provocation.” Nur faces up to twenty-six years in prison.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the beating, arrest, prosecution, and dismissal of students in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedoms of assembly and association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party. State and university authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, arrests, detentions and disciplinary measures intended to restrict nonviolent expressive activity undermine academic freedom, and democratic society generally.