On December 1, 2021, which is recognized by Papuan separatists as Papua’s independence day, Indonesian police arrested and detained a group of eight peaceful Papuan student protesters after they raised the Morning Star flag — banned in Indonesia — above a stadium in Jayapura and marched to Papua Police Headquarters while calling for a referendum on Papuan independence.
On December 3, Indonesian authorities confirmed that the eight students had been charged with treason. According to Jurist, the spokesperson for the Indonesian police stated that the students could face life imprisonment. Lawyers for the students criticized the ambiguity of the law and Amnesty International Australia called for their immediate release.
As of February 7, 2022, the students remained in custody and authorities had reportedly extended their detention through March 1.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the detention and prosecution of students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct which 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 authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activities and assemblies as long as they are peaceful and responsible. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, detaining and prosecuting students in response to expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).