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Amnesty Int'l UK Passes West Papua Resolution

Amnesty International UK Annual General Meeting passes West Papua Resolution

On Saturday 5 April 2008, the Amnesty International UK AGM passed overwhelmingly (with only one vote against) a Resolution on West Papua, calling on AI's International Secretariat to:

"explore increasing the campaigning resources available for work on [West Papua]"

& take "a more vigorous campaigning approach towards the Indonesian government"

Amnesty International UK Indonesian Country Co-ordinator, Mark Robbins, who proposed the Resolution, delivered a powerful speech on the latest Human Rights situation in West Papua to five hundred Amnesty International UK delegates attending the AGM at Nottingham University (speech copied below).

In his speech, Mr Robbins gave a grim warning that "a bad situation [in Papua] is turning progressively worse" and "We are now looking at a possible human rights catastrophe".

Richard Samuelson
Free West Papua Campaign
Oxford, UK.
www.freewestpapua.org

***

WEST PAPUA Resolution passed by Amnesty International UK AGM, 5th April 2008

Bearing in mind the repressive treatment to which the people of Papua Province are subjected by the state actors of Indonesia.

Noting that AI supports the values enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, in particular that, 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression' and the freedom to 'impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers' (Article 19) and that, 'Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association' (Article 20).

Noting that these freedoms are routinely denied to the people of Papua Province in the peaceful expression of their political views, or their concerns about human rights abuses.

Noting that access of journalists and human rights workers to Papua Province is severely restricted by the Indonesian authorities, and that human rights workers and journalists are routinely harassed and subjected to death threats.

This AGM calls upon the AIUK Board to raise the issue of Papua Province with the International Secretariat to explore increasing the campaigning resources available for work on this state, and to request that the International Secretariat takes a more vigorous campaigning approach towards the Indonesian government as part of the movement's continuing work on Indonesia.

***

PROPOSER'S BACKGROUND NOTES:

'Freedom of opinion and expression':
In February 2007 Human Rights Watch issued a report "Protest and Punishment - Political Prisoners in Papua" http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/papua0207/ detailing 18 recent cases of political prisoners jailed for peaceful expression of their views.

Amnesty International has recognised two West Papuan independence campaigners Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, as prisoners of conscience. Arrested on 1 Dec 2004 after peacefully raising the West Papuan independence flag in Abepura, West Papua, they were later sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison for 'rebellion against the state'. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions_details.asp?ActionID=204

ABC Radio Australia - 02/12/2007, 09:28:58:

'More than 20 people were reportedly arrested in Indonesia's Papua as they raised the outlawed "Morning Star" separatist flag.'

Cendrawasih Post, of the 7 July 2007:

Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian who is commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command, Korem 172, is reported stating 'that it is the duty of the TNI [the Indonesian military] to crush any struggle or activity undertaken by any group in the community which tends towards separatism" and ''What is absolutely certain is that anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed by TNI.' http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/51325

(In 2003 Colonel Siagian was indicted by UN investigators for murder and torture when he was based in East Timor in the run-up to the 1999 independence referendum. Jakarta refused to extradite him - instead he was promoted and sent to Papua.)

'Harassment of journalists and human rights workers':

Human Rights Watch News Release (Jakarta, July 5, 2007): Indonesia: Police Abuse Endemic in Closed Area of Papua states:

'The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are closed to outside human rights observers. Journalists have extremely limited access.' http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/07/05/indone16272.htm

Extract from Amnesty International's 2007 Report into the state of the world's human rights, referring to West Papua:

'There were reports of extrajudicial executions, torture and ill-treatment, excessive use of force during demonstrations and harassment of human rights defenders.' http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Regions/Asia-Pacific/Indonesia

In June 2007, a special representative to the United Nations Secretary General, Hina Jilani, visited West Papua and issued a strongly worded report about abuses committed against human rights defenders, including the following reference:

....'The Special Representative is deeply concerned by the testimonies that she has heard indicating the continuing activities of the police, the military and other security and intelligence agencies that are aimed at harassment and intimidation of defenders or to restrict their access to victims and to sites of human rights violations.' http://www.un.or.id/press.asp?Act=1&FileID=20070612-1&lang=en

PROPOSER: Mark Robbins, (Amnesty International UK Indonesian Country Co-ordinator)
SECONDER: Reading University Amnesty International Group

Passed overwhelmingly by the Amnesty International UK AGM, Saturday 5th April 2008 (just one vote against)

***

Conference Speech by Mark Robbins, Amnesty International UK Indonesian Country Co-ordinator,
to propose the West Papua Resolution

My name is Mark Robbins, the Amnesty International UK (AIUK) Indonesian Country Co-ordinator. Both I and many of the local groups working on the Indonesian territory of West Papua feel very strongly that the human rights situation there is reaching a critical point. As the locals there have practically no defence against the escalating abuse they are suffering, it is up to us in the international human rights community to come to their aid - and we must do so now and we must do so vigorously before the whole situation runs completely out of control. This Resolution therefore calls upon the AIUK Board to raise the issue of West Papua with the International Secretariat to explore increasing the campaigning resources available for work on this state, and to request that the International Secretariat takes a more vigorous campaigning approach towards the Indonesian government as part of the movement's continuing work on Indonesia.

1. History

Since West Papua was taken over by Indonesia in 1962, the area has suffered a history of massive abuse. An ex-Governor of the province has estimated that in order to consolidate its rule, the Indonesian army bombed and napalmed 30,000 people to death in the first six years of its operations. Repressive operations continued throughout the '70s, including the notorious Operation Clean Sweep where up to a further 13,000 were killed.

2. Current Situation

The popular view is that since the fall of Soeharto in 1998, reform has made things better for the people of Papua. This is just not so. There were initial concessions, yes, but then the military re-grouped at the beginning of the decade and returned to a position of influence in government.

Since then the concessions have been withdrawn or remain unfulfilled and the military and local militias have grown at an alarming rate. The army has been turning the country into a no-go area for outsiders and even for the Indonesian government itself, as it uses the province to capture further power within the Indonesian state.

With such a blockade, it's hard to estimate how the human rights situation has changed, but the limited evidence gathered by the UN, Franciscans International, Human Rights Watch and ourselves all point conclusively in one direction - a bad situation is turning progressively worse, with abuses of all kinds escalating. And recent reports suggest that the situation is deteriorating ever more rapidly.

3. The Possible Outcome

We are now looking at a possible human rights catastrophe. The Papuans are becoming more desperate and the military are escalating their activities in defence of what they consider their vital interests. In stand-offs like this in the past, such as when the military took power in the '60s or when they were forced out of East Timor, they initiated a vast campaign of destruction and violence. This is the danger we are now facing.

4. The Vulnerability of the Papuans –

In this awful scenario, the Papuans can't look to their own country for defence. As we have seen, the Indonesian government, even when moved by the best of motives, can't or won't intervene in the province. The legal reforms initiated in the last few years have barely touched on military impunity, so the law is also closed as an avenue of defence. In this situation, it is only we, the international human rights community that can come to the aid of the people of Papua.

5. What We Propose

To bring about a change to this situation, we principally need a restitution of the freedom of expression - only then can the people of Papua and the human rights defenders within the country bring to light what is going on. We also need, as a matter of extreme urgency, for outside independent observers to be allowed back into the country and for them also to be able to report freely what they find. The dialogue made possible by freedom of expression can also make possible a reduction in the fearsome tensions being generated in the province. We need to apply pressure for these changes with all due vigour, as in matters of the military and West Papua, the Indonesian government is all too ready to fudge and stall.

All this would not only benefit the Papuans. Indonesia is struggling towards reform and it is entrenched abuse and the powers behind it that presents the greatest stumbling block to them getting there. Therefore, for the sake of the people of Papua and for the fate of human rights throughout Indonesia, I ask the conference to pass this resolution to allow the Board to push for more resources and more vigour in our campaigning on this vital issue.

ENDS

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