Internal military documents that recently came to light expose the Indonesian military’s surveillance of peaceful activists, politicians, and clergy in the easternmost province of Papua, Human Rights Watch said on 15 August.
Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to order the military to cease the unlawful monitoring immediately, and to ensure that civilian authorities retain responsibility for basic law enforcement.
The approximately 500 pages of documents, dated 2006 to 2009, include detailed reports of military surveillance of civilians and provide military perspectives on social and political issues in the area. Most are from Indonesia’s Special Forces (Komando Pasukan Khusus, or Kopassus) and the Cenderawasih military command in Jayapura, the provincial capital. They range from internal briefings, presentations, teaching tools, and intelligence products such as daily and quarterly Kopassus reports, to a paper on the status of Papua under international law. A separate document that came to light recently describes a surveillance operation in 2011, indicating that such surveillance continues.
“The Kopassus documents show the deep military paranoia in Papua that conflates peaceful political expression with criminal activity,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s outrageous in a modern democratic country like Indonesia that activists, clergy, students, and politicians are the targets of military surveillance.”
Access to Papua is tightly controlled. Few foreign journalists and human rights researchers can visit independently without close monitoring of their activities. Officially, Kopassus operates in Papua to monitor and suppress the Papuan separatist movement, the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM), which has been leading an armed struggle against the Indonesian government since the 1960s. Human Rights Watch has long documented serious violations by government security forces in Papua, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention.
The documents show, however, that the focus of Indonesian military operations in Papua goes far beyond the relatively small group of OPM rebels and includes a broad swathe of Papuan political, traditional, and religious leaders, and civil society groups.
The notion that the Indonesian government and military have more to fear from peaceful “political separatist” activity than from armed separatist groups is explicit in several places in the documents, implicit in many more, and is repeatedly reinforced throughout the military’s analysis, Human Rights Watch said.
A Kopassus quarterly report from Kotaraja dated August 2007 states, “Current political activity in Papua is very dangerous compared to the activities of Papuan armed groups because their access already reaches abroad.… [In Jayapura and other towns] political separatist groups carry out their political activities such as demonstrations, press conferences, and secret meetings.”
“By treating news conferences, demonstrations, and meetings like clandestine criminal activities, the military shows its disregard for fundamental rights in Papua,” Pearson said. “The military should immediately end its harassment and surveillance of civil society.”
The reports indicate that Kopassus believes nongovernmental organisations primarily work to discredit the Indonesian government and the armed forces, including using the “human rights issue” to garner international condemnation of Indonesia’s military presence in Papua and to promote Papuan independence. An April 2007 Kopassus quarterly report from Kotaraja says:
In their efforts to secede from Indonesia, these political separatist groups carry out activities that intentionally push the central government: … spreading the issue of gross human rights violations in Papua – killings, disappearances done by the security apparatus, in order to demand that the government withdraw non-organic police and military from Papua; and making claims so that the United Nations wants to see and hear reports that they [nongovernmental organizations] deliver.
“The military conveniently claims that documenting human rights violations in Papua is a front for separatism,” Pearson said. “Such a mind-set endangers the life of every activist in Papua.”
Several of those named in the documents as subjects of surveillance have faced arrest, detention, harassment, and violent assault. For instance, pro-independence activist Buchtar Tabuni is serving a three-year sentence for “inciting hatred” against the Indonesian government for his role in leading a peaceful demonstration where miniature Morning Star flags, a banned independence symbol, were waved.
The surveillance activities in Papua may become even more entrenched there and in other parts of Indonesia if the draft intelligence law currently before the House of Representatives is enacted, Human Rights Watch said. A December 2010 version of the bill empowers the State Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Negara, BIN) to act on its own “to prevent, deter and overcome” vague notions of threats undermining “national stability,” with little oversight. The law would permit increased surveillance by intelligence and security forces of political dissidents in areas with a history of separatist activity such as Aceh, the Moluccas, and Papua.
The military surveillance activities evident in the internal documents appear linked to violations of basic rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. For decades, peaceful political activists who have led or participated in independence demonstrations, raised the Morning Star flag, or taken part in other peaceful activities have faced prosecution and lengthy prison terms on charges of treason (makar) or, previously, for “hatred-sowing” (haatzai artikelen). Those arrested are frequently tortured or otherwise mistreated in detention, as Human Rights Watch has documented.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, protects the rights to freedom of association, expression, and assembly, as well as the right to privacy. Conducting surveillance activities against people exercising their basic rights, without a judicial warrant and in the absence of credible evidence of wrongdoing, violates these rights.
The military reports show that foreigners in Papua are also subjected to surveillance and typically viewed with mistrust. They are perceived as assisting the separatist movement through funding, moral support, and documenting poor living conditions or human rights abuses to discredit Indonesia in the international community. One of the documents lists foreign politicians, government officials, academics, and journalists viewed as supporting Papuan independence and giving credence to the perceived internationalisation of the “Papua problem.”
“The military documents suggest that military mistreatment of alleged separatist supporters in Papua is not an offshoot of foot soldiers acting on their own, but reflects broader mistrust of the local population,” Pearson said.
Further details on the documents are immediately below. Human Rights Watch takes no position on Papuan claims to self-determination, but it supports the right of all individuals, including independence supporters, to express their views peacefully without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisal.
The Papua military documents
Types of documents and authenticity
The approximately 500 pages of internal military documents seen by Human Rights Watch include lists of Kopassus agents; lists of informers working in hotels, media, nongovernmental organisations, churches; military and police stations, political parties, and the Papuan parliament; lists of agents in military and police stations; lists of several tribal chiefs recruited by Kopassus to be “pro-Indonesia,” and lists of Papuan activists.
Assertions in the documents should not be taken at face value, given that Kopassus has every incentive to exaggerate both the risk posed by civil society and the scope of its own activities in Papua, Human Rights Watch said. But the documents show that military surveillance of civil society in Papua is widespread.
They include, for example, various daily and quarterly reports describing Kopassus’ monitoring of church leaders, student activists, tribal council members, and nongovernmental organization figures. A document by Kopassus Unit 81/Anti-Terror unit describes how a lieutenant participated in traditional ceremonies, church services, and civic actions in several areas in Puncak Jaya. A February 2008 analysis describes the surveillance of foreign tourists. Other documents are tools for intelligence reporting and production, including code words, escape routes, how to identify informants, and intelligence rotation. The documents also include a 97-page document entitled “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” and a 40-page “Study on the Claim of the Historical Correction of the Act of Free Choice,” a paper on Papua’s status under international law written in 2008 or later.
Some of these documents have already been made available online in Indonesian, some published and analysed by the journalist Allan Nairn in November 2010, and several remaining documents were analysed by the Sydney Morning Herald on August 13, 2011.
The documents appear to be authentic. People who have studied Indonesian military documents believe them to be genuine, saying that the format, style, and content is consistent with other Indonesian Armed Forces documents. The military did not deny the authenticity of the documents after Nairn published his article in November.
Separately, a leaked letter dated 30 April 2011, from the military commander in Papua, Maj. Gen. Erfi Triassunu, to the provincial governor, Barnabas Suebu, shows that military interference in civil society in the province is ongoing. The letter accuses the Kingmi Gospel Tabernacle Church (Gereja Kemah Injil or Kingmi Church) of trying to build an exclusive organisation based on Papuan ethnicity, which Major General Triassunu viewed as a potential separatist movement, and suggests having the military mediate a conflict between the Kingmi Church and the Indonesian Gospel Tabernacle Church (Gereja Kemah Injil Indonesia or GKII). The letter also urges that if deliberations cannot resolve the conflict, “immediate action” should be taken. Since the letter came to light, Major General Triassunu has publicly apologised for accusing the church of being a separatist organization, claiming a faction of the church had asked for assistance from the military.
Surveillance of nongovernmental organisations and civil society
The Kopassus documents list civil society “opponents”. conflating nonviolent political activity and human rights work with the armed separatist threat. The documents “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” and “Kopassus Daily Report – Kotaraja” name more than 100 Papuan civilians who are members of various organisations including the Papuan Customary Council, the Papua Customary Government, the Papua Taskforce, the Guardian of the Papuan Land, the 14 Star Group, and the West Papua National Authority, as well as Papuan intellectuals like the Rev. Benny Giay, the Rev. Herman Awom, Fadhal al Hamid, and Albert Kailele, among others.
Several people mentioned in the documents have faced arbitrary arrest, harassment, and violence. As access to Papua is highly restricted, it is difficult to verify many claims of abuses or to investigate incidents. Likewise, there may be misreported or unreported human rights violations.
For instance, Buchtar Tabuni, the founder of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB) who is serving a three-year sentence for “inciting hatred” against the Indonesian government, is mentioned repeatedly throughout the documents. The documents show that he was under surveillance well before he became politically active in protests and formed the KNPB. He was arrested on 3 December 2008, for leading protests against the shooting of one of his relatives, Opinus Tabuni.
Another person named is the secretary general of the Central Highlands Papuan Student Association, Markus Haluk. He has faced numerous death threats by cell phone text messages, physical assault and has reported constant surveillance.
Surveillance of religious institutions
The Kopassus documents describe surveillance of Christian church leaders and activities, as well as of Muslim groups and haji dormitories in Papua. The military has justified such surveillance, contending that religious figures use their influential positions among indigenous Papuan communities to increase sympathy and support for separatists among the population. At least a half-dozen religious leaders are mentioned by name in the Kopassus documents, with their backgrounds, activities, and possible political leanings noted. These included Rev. Benny Giay, minister of the Kingmi church; Rev Herman Awom, minister of the GKI Papua church; Rev. Socrates Yoman of the Indonesian Baptist Church in Papua; and Beatrix Koibur, head of the Women’s Christian Association of Indonesia in West Papua.
For instance, Yoman is listed as a “target” in a Kopassus Kotaraja quarterly report. The report describes some of his activities, such as leading a seminar, writing books about Papua, holding news conferences; his international travel; and people he has met. In August 2010 Yoman publicly made some critical remarks about alleged military atrocities in the Puncak Jaya region. The Jayapura police summoned him to answer accusations of defamation and threatened to arrest him when he refused to appear. But after videos surfaced in October confirming his allegations of military abuses, the case was dropped.
Local politicians and customary leaders
Local politicians and customary leaders have also been under military surveillance, the Kopassus documents say. The documents accuse these figures of being, at a minimum, behind-the-scenes separatists, and at worst holding financial and other links to armed separatist groups. The Kopassus-Kotaraja quarterly report dated August 2007 states, “The majority of political separatist groups are already part of government agencies and hold important positions within them. Furthermore, they have also infiltrated customary structures and carry out political activities in the name of custom.”
The documents “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” and “Kopassus Daily Report – Kotaraja” include lists of politicians suspected of what the military refers to as “political separatism” with detailed biographical information and explanations of the activities that have led to their classification as “political separatists.” The “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” document also shows that the military also suspected Governor Suebu, and his predecessor, Izak Hindom, of “political separatism”.
The documents suggest that politicians are under surveillance because they are considered to be part of a clandestine network in support of independence. A Kopassus Kotaraja daily report indicated that Kopassus fears that government activities such as closed meetings in the Papuan People’s Council (MRP) or Provincial Legislature buildings involving local leaders and civil society groups will lead to a national dialogue and referendum. Among its network of informants, Kopassus has recruited civil servants to spy on politicians.
For example, Kopassus recruited neighbors of Forkorus Yaboisembut, the chairman of the Papua Customary Council, to monitor Yaboisembut’s activities, his guests, and his movements. In August 2008, Yaboisembut was questioned by the police regarding the raising of the Morning Star flag at a rally protesting the death of an activist. He also received death threats and hate messages on his cell phone. Yaboisembut and his political activities are detailed in the “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists.”
An educator-cum-theologian, Agus Alua, is also mentioned in the “Anatomy of Papua Separatists.” Alua was also the chairman of the Papuan People’s Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, or MRP). He died of natural causes in April, but a few years before his death, he said that he frequently received hate messages and that he was under surveillance in his office.
Surveillance of foreigners and “internationalisation”
Fear of the “internationalization” of the Papua problem is mentioned in several of the documents to justify surveillance of foreigners in Papua, including tourism activities and foreign priests. Foreigners in Papua are seen as assisting the separatist movement through funding, moral support, and documenting poor living conditions or human rights abuses to discredit Indonesia in the international community. For instance, a Kopassus Kotaraja daily report says, “With the existence of foreigners of various professions in Kotaraja, there is a chance that they have a specific purpose in assisting the separatist movement in Papua.”
The “Anatomy of Papua Separatists” document contains six pages listing foreign politicians, government officials, academics and journalists viewed as supporting Papuan independence and giving credence to the perceived internationalisation of the “Papua problem.” The list includes current and former US Senators Edward Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein. It also mentions Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Bob Brown, Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens, and Lord Avebury and Jeremy Corbyn, members of the UK parliament. It also cites the former Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, and former-Vanuatu Foreign Minister Sir Borak Sope. In all, it lists 248 politicians, academics, environmentalists, artists, and clergy from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Germany, Finland, Ireland, the European Union, PNG, and Vanuatu, calling them “the supporters of Papuan separatists”.