June 23, 2010, 11:11 a.m.
Indonesia has made remarkable progress in strengthening its democratic system since the end of President Suharto's authoritarian rule in 1998. The country has held three free and fair elections and provided better protection of civil and human rights. Unfortunately, Indonesia still struggles with issues regarding free speech. A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documents the government's prosecution of pro-independence sentiment by ethnic minority activists in Papua and the southern Moluccan islands.
The 43-page report, "Prosecuting Political Aspiration: Indonesia's Political Prisoners," is based on more than 50 jailhouse interviews with political prisoners conducted between December 2008 and May 2010. It describes the arrest and prosecution of activists for peacefully raising banned symbols, such as the Papuan Morning Star and the South Moluccan RMS flags. The report also details torture that many say they have suffered in detention, especially by members of the Detachment 88/Anti-Terror Squad in Ambon, as well as police and prison guards in Papua, and the failure of the government to hold those responsible to account.