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Murder of Theys Eluay, West Papua

12 November 2001

The Oxford Papuan Rights Campaign condemns the killing on 11 Nov of Theys Eluay, the Chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council.

Theys Eluay was the Chief of the Sentani tribe and had served as the Chair of the Act of Free Choice Council established by Indonesia in 1969. It was under that Act, carried out by 1025 Papuan representatives selected by Indonesia, that West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia. For more than 15 years, he had been representing West Papua in the Indonesian Parliament (MPR) during Suharto's government. After the fall of Suharto, he dedicated himself to correct the history of West Papua. He was the most prominent leading figure, a charismatic "big tribal leader" (Ondofolo) of the Sentani tribe, the Chairman of the Papua Customary Council as well as the Chairman of the Papua Presidium Council. He was a moderate leader, among the most pro-western leaders in West Papua, an advocate of non-violence and of dialogue with Indonesia who had met with former presidents Habibie and Wahid. His death is a serious blow to the prospects of a peaceful solution to West Papuans' requests for the recognition of their historic rights and the restoration of their human dignity.

He was assassinated yesterday, the 11th of November. He had been tortured immediately before his death. He was found in his car, which had been pushed towards a ravine. But it appeared to have hit a tree and stopped some 50 meters before reaching the ravine. The Oxford Papuan Rights Campaign, along with other human rights organisations, suspects the torture and murder of the foremost Papuan civil society leader was carried out by the security forces.

The Papuan Presidium Council chairman was kidnapped on his way home from attending a ceremony commemorating the Indonesian Heroes' Day on 10 November, at the headquarters of the Tribuana military command in Hamadi. According to Tapol the Indonesian human rights organisation, "his family and friends say he received a phone call that morning inviting him to attend the ceremony to mark Heroes' Day. Shortly after commencing his homeward journey to Sentani, his vehicle was forced to stop by a group of men; the driver, Ari Masoka, was dragged out and beaten and the car was driven off with the Papuan leader inside. In a state of great distress, the driver was able to phone Eluay's wife to inform her of the kidnap. It is not clear whether the driver has survived the attack."

The killing is similar to the killing of human rights and pro-independence activists elsewhere in West Papua and in Aceh that have been blamed on the security forces. It is feared this has been a military intelligence operation aimed at provoking the Papuan people into acts of protest and violence. Despite what appears as a cosmetic offer of special autonomy to West Papua, the territory is presently submerged in military campaigns targeting civilians, traditional councils, peaceful campaigners as well as the Papuan Freedom Movement. Large parts of West Papua are blockaded and inaccessible to aid organisations, Indonesian human rights observers, the Indonesian press or the churches. West Papua as a whole is barred to foreign journalists and has been so since its annexation in 1969. There have been recent incidents in Ilaga, Manokwari, Wasior and Sorong where members of tribal councils, village elders, schoolteachers, priests and even women and children as young as three have been shot, tortured to death or have disappeared.

It is the responsibility of the government of President Megawati to act immediately to restore calm in Papua and to call the security forces to account for this apparent act of state terrorism. However, considering the total impunity the security forces have always enjoyed in West Papua, even after the new human rights legislation in 1999, the Oxford Papuan Rights Campaign urges other human rights organisations, governments around the world and the United Nations to ensure that special experts of the UN High Commission of Human Rights (UNHCHR) visit West Papua to establish an independent human rights commission that will investigate Theys Eluay's death and the persistent serious human rights violations by the security forces in the territory.

Oxford Papuan Rights Campaign http://www.westpapua.org


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Peace Movement Aotearoa
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Tel +64 4 382 8129 Fax +64 4 382 8173
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