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Letter to Secretary of State Rice on Papua

27 March 2006

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

On behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and our West Papua Advocacy Team, I write you today to urge the Department of State to immediately call on Indonesian security authorities to forego acts of retribution in the wake of the violence in Abepura, West Papua on 16 March. It is imperative that the responsible authorities exercise maximum restraint over the police as they seek to identify those responsible. We further reiterate earlier calls for the U.S. government to take a far more pro-active role in addressing systematic human rights violations in West Papua and to urge the government of Indonesia to pursue dialogue as a means to address the causes of conflict there. Indonesian intellectuals, leading media organizations, and prominent Indonesian NGOs have called on President Susilo Yudhoyono to resolve the conflict in Papua through dialogue.

Despite decades of abuse by the military and police, in addition to government policies which marginalize them, the Papuan people have largely been faithful to calls of religious clergy and other human rights leaders to avoid violence in pursuit of their rights. Events on 16 March were a tragic exception to this peaceful campaign.

Papuan demonstrators at Cenderawasih University in Abepura responded to a security force attack on their peaceful protest with a counterattack against security force personnel. The deaths of four police officers, one air force personnel, and at least one protester are very regrettable.

Actions by security forces, especially the mobile police brigade Brimob, are exacerbating this tragedy. Multiple media reports, as well as reporting by sources in Jayapura, indicate that the police have wantonly attacked innocent Papuans allegedly in pursuit of attackers. At least one child and three adults have been shot in this overreaction. This police rampage of retribution must stop.

In a manner reminiscent of the current violence, security forces attacked over 100 innocent students and others in reprisal for a violent incident in 2000. Three persons died following beating and torture in police detention. Known as the Abepura Case, it was the subject of Indonesia's first Human Rights Court to try crimes against humanity and other egregious crimes. The case resulted in no convictions whatsoever and no compensation to any of the many victims of the violence.

We urge you to use all diplomatic means to press the Indonesian government to pursue a sincere dialogue with Papuan leaders to resolve the causes of conflict.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.


Todd Howland
Director, Center for Human Rights

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