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: July 14, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Cenderawasih University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Indonesia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 14, 2021, police arrested at least 14 students from Cenderawasih University in an effort to quash a nonviolent on-campus protest.

A large group of students and activists — one source reported as many as several hundred — gathered on campus and were preparing to protest at a local office for the People’s Representative Council (DPRD).

The protesters were to demonstrate against special autonomy legislation directed at Papua and West Papua. Proponents of the bill argued that this would help the region’s development, while critics worried that the bill did not consider the wishes of Papuans.

Police deployed to the campus dispersed demonstrators and carried out arrests. Police claimed that students refused to disperse. Sources do not reflect that the protest was violent. At least four students were reportedly injured during clashes with police.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by arrests of students for their nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by 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 security forces have a responsibility to maintain order and safety; however, they also have a responsibility to refrain from restricting nonviolent, responsible expressive activity. The use of arrests to restrict nonviolent, on-campus student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).