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NZ Called To Act On HR Abuses In West Papua

Indonesia Human Rights Committee
Box 68-419,

New Zealand Foreign Minister called on to act on recent human rights cases in West Papua:

The arrest and detention of Iwanggin Sabar Olif, Elsham human rights worker in West Papua, is causing great concern to Indonesian and international human rights groups. Mr Olif is understood to be facing charges in relation to an innocuous text message which he did not compose but merely sent on to a few others. Mr Olif was taken from Jayapura to Jakarta where he remains in police custody.

The NZ Government offers training to both the Indonesian military and the police - including a recent workshop in Jayapura for the West Papua police which focused on "community policing" and "conflict management". But New Zealand's efforts are no match for the security forces entrenched culture of impunity and intolerance of dissent.

IHRC says the New Zealand Government has a responsibility to use its leverage with the Indonesian authorities to speak up about the intimidation and harassment of church leaders and human rights defenders, including Mr Olif. Letter to Foreign Minister Winston Peters follows.

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,
Box 68-419,

Rt Hon Winston Peters,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

31 October, 2007

Dear Winston Peters,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee remains deeply concerned about the situation of Church workers and human rights defenders in West Papua. We appeal to you to speak out strongly about the accumulating evidence of harsh repression.

We cite two very recent examples and emphasise that these recent events follow on from documented claims of harassment of several human rights defenders including Albert Rumbekwan, Chief of the Indonesia National Human Rights Commission for West Papua, human rights advocate Christian Warinussy of Manokwari, and Father John Jongga, a Catholic Priest in the Jayapura Diocese.

You have detailed to us the measures which New Zealand is taking to 'assist with initiatives designed to improve human rights awareness.' Recently NZAID sponsored a training workshop for 32 Papuan police in conflict management and community policing. New Zealand has also recently resumed its defence ties with Indonesia, and is currently sponsoring the training of an Indonesian officer at the Defence College in Wellington. Given this close engagement with the security forces, we believe it is vital that New Zealand responds pro-actively - otherwise New Zealand will be seen to condone provocative actions in blatant breach of international human rights norms.

A West Papuan Baptist Church worker, Imanuel Murip has just been subjected to an intense campaign of intimidation at the hands of the security forces. The reports we have received describe harassment at his home and in public places and a collision with a vehicle while he was riding his motorbike which is believed to have been deliberately caused. Mr Murip has also been receiving telephone and written threats including the following:

'Today you must get ready your own coffin!' and this pinned to his door: 'You don't have the power to stop us! You have a big problem! You are in our hands!'

On 18 October, according to eye-witnesses, members of the anti-terrorist squad, Detachment 88, arrested Iwanggin Sabar Olif, a human rights activist in Jayapura. He was subsequently moved to Jakarta where he is reported to be being held at police headquarters and to be being interrogated about charges which include 'insulting the President'.

Iwanggin Sabar Olif is a respected lawyer who works for the well-known human rights organization, ELSHAM in West Papua. It is understood that Mr Olif was taken into custody for having forwarded an SMS text message to several contacts and to his brother. Moreover, since the SMS message made reference to the Indonesian president, press reports suggest that he may even face the charge of defamation of the head of state, although the crime of defamation was removed from the Criminal Code last December by decision of the Constitution Court.

Mr Olif did not compose the text message and we understand that the particular message which makes reference to the Indonesian President, has been circulating widely in West Papua. * We therefore suspect that Mr Olif is being targeted as other human rights defenders have been, for his legitimate human rights work. The events leading to his arrest also suggest that the authorities are intercepting SMS communications between human rights activists which is a worrisome indication of censorship.

This episode constitutes a violation of the right of freedom of expression and Mr Olif's freedom to engage in communication with friends and relatives. This arrest appears to be intended to reinforce the atmosphere of intimidation and fear, conveying a warning to other human rights activists involved in legitimate activities in West Papua.

It is essential that human rights activists and church workers are able to work free from fear of intimidation and arbitrary arrest. We appeal to you to follow the developments related to the arrest of Iwanggin Sabar Olif, especially to assure that he is not mistreated in detention and that he is not the victim of further injustice.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

For the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Copy to Hon Phil Goff,
Minister of Defence
Copy to Keith Locke M.P.
Parliament Buildings,

*The wording of the message includes 'New information, be on alert, SBY has already ordered to eliminate the people of Papua and take control over the natural resources of their land. The methods used to eliminate the people of Papua are food poisoning, pay doctors, pay food stalls, pay motorbike taxis'


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