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West Papua Solidarity Conference held in Auckland

West Papua Solidarity Conference to be held in Auckland/ Human Rights leader John Rumbiak to tour.

The Fourth International Solidarity Conference for West Papua (Southern component) will be held in Auckland from 8-10 August, 2003. The Conference will bring together West Papuan delegates with solidarity activists from Australia, Europe, United States, and several Pacific nations. It has been timed to take place just before the Pacific Islands Forum to highlight the importance that the solidarity movement places on the work of the regional body.

"This year the Forum leaders will be under renewed pressure to face up to the crunch issue - the right of the Pacific people of West Papua to self-determination," said Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Conference organising committee. "It won't be coming just from West Papuan people and the solidarity movement. Vanuatu, which already hosts a West Papuan representative's office is expected to bring West Papuans to Auckland with its delegation."

" Up to this point Forum leaders have dared only to make statements of 'concern' about human rights violations in West Papua. The statements have been carefully couched in language designed not to offend Indonesia."

"Grassroots international campaigns helped to bring change to East Timor, and it will be the same for West Papua. The solidarity movement has already achieved widespread parliamentary support for a campaign to get the United Nations to review its conduct with regard to the discredited 1969 "Act of 'free' choice", the means by which Indonesia attempted to legitimise its take-over of West Papua. "

Leading West Papuan human rights defender, John Rumbiak will participate in the conference, meet with local and international politicians and conduct a national speaking tour.

At 41, John is an outspoken and fearless advocate for his people. He is the supervisor of ELSHAM, the Jayapura-based Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy. Under Mr. Rumbiak's supervision, ELSHAM has been at the forefront of efforts to establish Papua as a Zone of Peace, an initiative involving Papua's governor, key officials, church and other civil society leaders.

Elsham is internationally respected for its human rights monitoring work but has come under strong pressure from the Indonesian military. John and his team have received death threats and been subject to violence, intimidation and harassment.

John Rumbiak studied linguistics and is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Center for Human Rights Study, where he is also a director of the Papua Resource Center.

John Rumbiak is in New Zealand from the 8-24 August - he will be available for interview. IHRC and Pax Christi are co-organisers of the Auckland conference.

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