Activists in Indonesia have called for a thorough investigation after an explosion outside the home of the parents of a prominent human rights lawyer who represents those involved in the West Papuan independence movement.
The blast occurred outside Veronica Koman’s parents’ house in Jakarta on Sunday morning. If it was a targeted attack, it would be the first instance of bombs being used to target those working on issues relating to West Papua outside of the region, according to human rights groups.
Police said they were investigating and did not confirm whether the explosion was caused by a bomb. A letter was left at the time of the explosion, according to Amnesty International, which claimed to be written by “a militant who defended the nation”.
“If the police and [security] forces in the country and abroad cannot arrest Veronica Koman … we were called to scorch-earth wherever you hide, including your protector horde,” the letter said.
Michael Hilman, a Papuan human rights activist, said at a virtual press conference that Koman’s family had been repeatedly subjected to intimidation and threats.
Separately on Sunday, another of Koman’s relatives was sent a package containing a dead chicken alongside a letter that said “anyone who helps to hide Veronica Koman will end up like this”. On 24 October, Koman’s parents’ house was subject to an arson attempt by unknown assailants.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) condemned the terrorism perpetrated against the family. It said: “We also recommend the Indonesian police immediately investigate the case and ensure the legal process can be carried out properly in order to break the chain of impunity and prevent recurrence.”
According to Komnas Perempuan, the families of female human rights defenders are often targeted with intimidation. “
At a certain point, the efforts that have been made, the attacks that have been carried out both online and offline, actually show a fairly severe level of torture, which can actually be anticipated by the state in the context of the state providing protection,” she said.
Koman’s case is the latest in a series of incidents targeting human rights defenders, the media were told. Other figures recently targeted include the activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti, who investigated politicians who have mining businesses in West Papua. Both are subject to criminal investigations after being reported to the police by the minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, one of the politicians who was mentioned in the document.
“This is evidence of discrimination and brutality on the Papua issue. Human rights violations, violence, crimes, are used to cover up other crimes in West Papua,” Azhar said.
Chief of the press division of the Bureau of National Police, Brig Gen Rusdi Hartono, said the explosion outside Koman’s parents’ home was being investigated, as were other incidents targeting human rights defenders.
“All incidents concerning citizens’ rights will be handled by the police,” he said.
Koman, an activist and lawyer, was appointed as the key advocate representing the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), the most significant Indigenous youth movement in the Pacific region, focusing on nonviolent protest supporting independence.
In 2019, Indonesian police charged Koman for allegedly spreading provocation and fake news on social media after she reported police violence against anti-racism protesters in West Papua. Since then she has remained in exile due to safety concerns.
Koman continues to work on West Papua issues from abroad, helping Papuan human rights activists advocate for thousands of internally displaced people in the region who had to flee for safety due to the conflict between the Indonesian military and Papua liberation army.
West Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, is Indonesia’s easternmost province, annexed in 1965 through a controversial referendum. Since then, a low level of insurgency has arisen across the region. Thousands of people in the highland have been displaced. In recent violence, two babies were killed. The United Liberation Movement of West Papua blamed the Indonesian military; the police spokesperson Ahmad Mustofa Kamal accused the liberation army.