By Jasmine Heiss, Individuals at Risk Campaign Assistant.
Today, Amnesty International activists and supporters rallied in front of the Indonesian embassy in Washington DC to raise their voices on behalf of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma, an activist who’s spent the last 7 years in prison for raising a flag.
The rally was held a week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Indonesia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Entrepreneurship Summit. Amnesty International urged Clinton to publicly state that human rights will play as important a role as trade and security in US–ASEAN relations.
In addition to Filep, at least 100 political activists are currently serving prison terms for peacefully rallying in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku and Papua.
The energy outside the embassy today was a fitting tribute to the bravery and vitality of these prisoners. However, the Indonesian embassy remained quiet, austere, and seemingly inscrutable. One might see this as an apt metaphor for Filep’s case – after nearly three years as one of Amnesty International USA’s Special Focus Cases, Filep is still not free. On the larger scale, activists in Indonesia continue to face repression and brutality – in fact, just last month, Papuan human rights activist Yones Douw was beaten by military officers.
If there is one thing that we know, however, it is that advocating for human rights is never an all-or-nothing game. Last July, Filep’s fellow flag-raiser, Yusak Pakage, was released from prison five years early, following a presidential pardon.
Even in the face of draconian legislation and apparent government impassivity, victories are won one step at a time. Please take action online, or join Amnesty International at the next rally to demand Filep Karma’s immediate and unconditional release.
As Amnesty activists remind Indonesia at the end of each month’s rally, “We will be back.” They’re not giving up any time soon – not as long as prisoners of conscience remain behind bars in Indonesia. We hope Secretary Clinton passed along the message!