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Human rights advocate talks of genocide

26 August, 2006

Media Release: West Papuan human rights advocate talks of genocide.

Socratez Sofyan Yoman Prominent Human Rights Activist and leader of the Baptist Churches in West Papua visits Wellington from Monday August 28 to Wednesday August 30, 2006. He is on a month long tour of New Zealand and was the key note speaker at a seminar 'West Papua the Hidden Pacific Conflict' August 18-19, AUT University last weekend.

Rev Socratez Sofyan Yoman says that the Indonesian government and security forces are implementing policies in West Papua that are effectively genocidal. He stressed that an escalating transmigration programme is a major threat as indigenous people are forced off their agricultural land and forced to the economic margins.

He emphasised that the Indonesian military and police in West Papua have been responsible for countless documented human rights abuses, killings and torture, while the multinational companies like Freeport McMoran, and British Petroleum continue to rely on the security forces to protect their interests. West Papua is also in the grip of a rampant epidemic of HIV/Aids, widely believed to be the worst in the Pacific.

Rev Socratez Sofyan Yoman has been intimidated himself: "Myself, I am not afraid because I am talking about the truth and justice and peace; and I'm talking about human dignity and human rights. But I'm still afraid for my two sons."

In the last eight years, Reverend Yoman has taken a high profile as a campaigner for peace, justice and human rights in West Papua. Reverend Yoman has briefed Australian, UK and European parliamentarians as well as UN representatives.

He is held in high esteem by major international peace and justice NGOs. His 5 books on West Papua: include "The Gate to Free Papua" and "The Silence of The Churches in The History of Abuse and Repression of People of West Papua." [1]

West Papua, New Zealand's Pacific neighbour, has been under Indonesian rule since 1963. At least 100,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict. Early this year 43 desperate asylum seekers fled persecution, risking their lives in a traditional outrigger boat in order to reach Australia's northern tip.

ENDS

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