Human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer at risk of arrest
The Papua Regional Police has opened an investigation into human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer in connection with “crimes against public authority”. The charges, under articles 211 and 212 of the Criminal Code, refer to events alleged to have occurred during a court hearing in June 2014 while he was acting as a defence lawyer in court. If prosecuted and found guilty, he could face up to four years in prison.
Kawer was summoned on 22 August 2014 by the Papua regional police as a witness. The authorities informed Kawer that the case was related to coercion and rebelliousness, but no further information was provided. It was not until recently that Gustaf Kawer learned that the case was against himself.
On 5 June 2014, Gustaf Kawer had applied for the postponement of a hearing scheduled for 12 June on behalf of a client. At the 12 June hearing, the court decided to deny the postponement and proceeded with the hearing in the absence of Gustaf Kawer and his client. Upon his arrival to court, the human rights lawyer protested on the basis that the court had granted a postponement on three previous occasions at the request of the government, the other party to land dispute discussed in the court proceeding. Reportedly, the human rights lawyer was asked to leave the courtroom if he disagreed with the court’s decision; subsequently, Kawer left the courtroom.
On 17 September 2014, a plain-clothed police officer visited the home of Gustaf Kawer to deliver a summons in relation to his actions during the court hearing on 12 June 2014. As Gustaf Kawer was absent from his home, his wife refused to accept the summons, insisting that it should not be delivered to her. Reportedly, the officer attempted unsuccessfully to take photographs of Gustaf Kawer’s wife, and subsequently the officer reportedly remained nearby the house, taking photographs for some time. Kawer had to leave his house for a while due to the risk of possible arrest.
Gustaf Kawer began his work at the Papuan Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in 2000, working on many cases involving mostly denial of workers’ rights, land ownership and socio-political rights. Gustaf also covered the cases of attack on police stations, including the Apebura-case, in which one policeman and four civilians were killed and two students tortured to death. Since he obtained a Masters degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution in Yogyakarta in 2008, Gustaf works as Litigation Coordinator for the Civil Society Coalition for the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Papua.
In 2013, Gustaf Kawer, together with his colleague Olga Hamadi, ended third on the Jury’s shortlist for the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2013. Lawyers for Lawyers will continue to closely monitor the case of Gustaf Kawer.
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