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John Rumbiak West Papuan leader to tour NZ

John Rumbiak West Papuan leader to tour New Zealand

John Rumbiak, Chairman of International Affairs for the respected West Papua Human Rights organisation ELSHAM, tours New Zealand between September 20 and October 19. He is available for interview and comment during this time.

John Rumbiak, who is currently a visiting Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Human Rights Study, brings a clear challenge to New Zealanders to face up to the ongoing crisis in Indonesian controlled West Papua.

Mr Rumbiak is West Papua's most influential human rights defender. His organisation Elsham is a consistent advocate of peace and dialogue as the means to resolving conflict in West Papua, and undertakes fearless documentation of human rights abuses. When Elsham's independent investigation of the murder of two US citizens near the Freeport mine in 2002 revealed Indonesian military involvement, the Generals responded with a law suit.

When the perpetrators of the 1999 killings in East Timor were absolved recently by the Indonesian Court of Appeal, John Rumbiak said that the failed prosecutions against the Indonesian military would put millions of people at risk of continuing military abuses in West Papua and Aceh.

He said that the failure to punish even a single Indonesian soldier or officer over the carnage in East Timor in 1999 would reassure the military that it can continue to operate with impunity. The Indonesian military has been recruiting, training and funding militia groups in West Papua mirroring its notorious East Timor strategy, which "subcontracted" some of the worst violent attacks to a network of paramilitary gangs.

Indonesia's official human rights commission recently concluded that the security forces had
committed "gross abuses" in several West Papuan towns in the past three years. President Megawati Sukarnoputri has reneged on her promise to ensure that so called "special autonomy" legislation would deliver a fairer division of resources and guarantee political representation for Papuans.

During his time in New Zealand, Mr Rumbiak will meet with politicians and human rights groups. He has been invited to speak at the University of Canterbury Conference "Securing a PeacefulPacific-Preventing and resolving conflict in the Pacific". John will address public meetings in Whangarei, Tauranga, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

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