Indonesia: Stop reprisals against woman human rights defender – UN expert

Geneva, December 15,  2021.- Indonesia must immediately stop threats, intimidation and reprisals against human rights defender Veronica Koman and her family, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said today.

Koman, a human and minority rights lawyer, is in self-imposed exile in Australia. However, she still faces several charges in Indonesia for alleged incitement, spreading fake news, displaying race-based hatred and disseminating information aimed at inflicting ethnic hatred. The charges were believed to have been brought against her in retaliation to her work advocating for human rights in West Papua.

Koman was among five other human rights defenders mentioned in the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 annual report on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. She has faced threats, harassment and intimidation for her reporting on West Papua and Papua provinces, for providing reports to UN human rights mechanisms, and for attending UN meetings, for which she was questioned by security forces.

“This case highlights how human rights defenders are often targeted for their cooperation with the United Nations, which is fundamental to their peaceful and legitimate work in the protection and promotion of human rights,” Lawlor said.

Acts of intimidation and threats against Koman’s family have also been reported this year, most recently on 7 November, when unidentified individuals threw two small explosive boxes inside the garage of her parents’ home in West Jakarta.

The boxes reportedly contained threatening messages, including one stating «we will scorch the earth of wherever you hide and of your protectors.” Another box addressed to Koman, delivered to the home of a family member, contained a dead chicken and a message saying that anyone hiding her «will end up like this.”

“I am extremely concerned at the use of threats, intimidation and acts of reprisal against Veronica Koman and her family, which seek to undermine the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the legitimate work of human rights lawyers,” Lawlor said.

“I urge the Indonesian government to drop the charges against her and investigate the threats and acts of intimidation in a prompt an impartial manner and bring the perpetrators to justice,» Lawlor said. «Impunity for violations against human rights defenders has a chilling effect on civil society as a whole.»

The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor the case and is in contact with the Indonesian authorities on the matter.

Mary Lawlor’s call was endorsed by: Prof. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

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