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, where one policeman and four civilians were killed and two students tortured to death.
Since he obtained a Master 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. This coalition handled the case against the leader of the KNPB (Buchtar Tabuni) and other activists, as well as the sexual harassment of two civilians by five Indonesian navy (resulting in conviction) and the five organizers of the Third Papuan People’s Congress who were seen as having committed treason against the state. The latter group all received three years imprisonment. At times successes are booked, and in 2009 Gustaf and the Coalition accompanied 15 civilians who were eventually acquitted of treason, as well as four people who were acquitted of an attack on Abepura police station.
Several obstacles make the defense of civil society members very difficult. The obstacles include the repressive attitude of law enforcers, regulations which curb freedom of expression and weak government institutions that cannot meet the need for legal aid. Efforts to provide a legal defense are seen as a movement to resist the state. Legal aid costs of marginalized communities are often borne by the Coalition, whose resources are limited. This also limits the possibility to reach civil society experiencing violence in isolated areas. The demand for legal defense from civil society is huge, but despite the workload Gustav and his colleagues continue to make spirited efforts to provide legal aid, despite not receiving support from any institution or the government.
Gustaf is monitored by intelligence agents in certain activities, has been obstructed in providing assistance at the police station, has been thrown out of the investigation room or the courtroom for ‘disturbing the legal process,’ and he has been threatened with prosecution for carrying out his duties in the courtroom.
The demand for legal assistance from civil society is enourmous, and despite the workload Gustaf and his colleagues keep on committing themselves to provide assistance, without any support from the government or other institutions.
In 2013, he, together with his colleague Olga Hamadi, ended third on the Jury’s shortlist for the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2013.
ABC News Australia: Gustaf Kawer
The Jakarta Post: Gustaf Kawer
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