Abbott should raise Situation in West Papua on to Indonesia
26 September 2013
Situation in West Papua should be raised by Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop on their trip to Indonesia
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop are visiting Indonesia at the end of September. AWPA has sent the below letter to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister urging that they raise the human rights situation in West Papua with their counterparts in Indonesia.
Joe Collins of AWPA said, "This will be a test of how much the new government takes seriously the issue of human rights not only in West Papua but in the world".
Australia West Papua
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088
The Hon Tony Abbott MP
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
26 September 2013
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Australia West Papua Association in Sydney concerning the issue of West Papua and your coming trip to Indonesia at the end of September. AWPA uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea. However, “West Papua” at this time is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.
I am sure you are aware of the historical background to the issue of West Papua and that it is now 50 years since the hand over of the former Dutch colony by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) to Indonesian administration. Since Indonesia took over the administration of West Papua in 1963, there have been ongoing human rights abuses in the territory.
As recently as the 1st May, West Papuans commemorated the 50th anniversary of the handover by holding peaceful demonstrations. The demonstrations went ahead despite a ban issued by Indonesian authorities in contravention of the right to free expression and assembly. Police opened fire on the demonstrators killing three, seriously injuring others and arresting the organisers of the rallies. When civil society groups gathered on 13 May to peacefully demand accountability, more arrests were made. At least 30 demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested in Timika, Sorong, Biak, Abepura and Jayapura.
The 15 of September is International Day of Democracy. The West Papuan people decided to celebrate the International Day of democracy by calling rallies through out West Papua for the 16 September. The security forces again banned the rallies. On the 16th the security forces cracked down on a number of the rallies arresting a large number of the demonstrators and generally intimidating those taking part. We keep hearing how Indonesia is now a democracy yet peaceful rallies to celebrate democracy are banned in West Papua. It is a basic right enshrined in article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association".
In relation to the crackdown on the 1 May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay raised her concerns stating,
“These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua,” and “I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.
Amnesty International in its annual report for 2013 also stated in relation to West Papua that “Indonesian security forces, including police and military personnel, were accused of human rights violations in Papua. Torture and other ill-treatment, excessive use of force and firearms and possible unlawful killings were reported. In most cases, the perpetrators were not brought to justice and victims did not receive reparations”.
The U.S. Department of State's Annual Country Reports on Human Rights for 2012 on Indonesian stated
The suppression or abridgement of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities was a problem. The government applied treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression by peaceful independence advocates in the provinces of Papua, West Papua, and Maluku and by religious minority groups. Official corruption, including within the judiciary, was a major problem.
In light of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua, we urge you to raise the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian President during your visit to Indonesia.
We also urge you to request permission from the Indonesian Government to allow a cross-party parliamentary fact finding mission to West Papua to not only investigate the human rights situation in the territory but to see how Australia can help the West Papuan people in capacity building in the fields of health and education.