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Call for address human rights in West Papua


Call for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to address human rights in West Papua

5 July, 2009

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has written individually to the 16 Pacific Island Heads of Government to urge them to make West Papua a priority for discussion and action at the August Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns.

“West Papuan people must live with deepening poverty, scant health services, rampant HIV/Aids and intolerable militarization and repression. A young man (Bucthar Tabuni) was just sentenced to 3 years in jail because he dared to lead a chant at a demonstration.”

Each year West Papuan leaders appeal to the Forum leaders to attend to this grave human rights situation in their backyard, but so far response has been limited to - at best- a brief mention in the Forum Communiqué.

If the Forum is serious about promoting peace and security in the region then it must address the issue of West Papua. After 46 years of conflict, the West Papuan people should not have to wait any longer for the support of their Pacific brethren.

International human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to produce extensive documentation about human rights abuses, including killings, on the part of the security forces and prison officers. West Papuan people have no genuine freedom to express their political aspirations, as they risk arrest for the simple action of raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag. During 2008 at least 30 Papuans, including a 16-year-old boy, were in detention for raising this flag.

• IHRC has urged the Forum leaders to support the call of the West Papuan people for dialogue with the Indonesian Government to try and solve the many issues of concern in West Papua.

• IHRC has also appealed for a Forum a fact-find mission to West Papua and for the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for human rights monitors and the international media to West Papua.

West Papua is a crucial test for the integrity of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Sent individually to each of the 16 Pacific Island Forum leaders on June 26, 2009

Dear Pacific Island Leader,

On behalf of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee I would like to draw your attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua. I believe this issue should be a priority for discussion and action at the forthcoming Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Cairns in August.

West Papua is divided from its Melanesian neighbour Papua New Guinea by a colonial era boundary and is under Indonesian control. I am sure you aware of the troubled history and the ongoing conflict in West Papua which is believed to have resulted in over 100,000 deaths since 1963. It is widely accepted that the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” which cemented Indonesia’s control lacked any semblance of democratic fairness and was held under conditions of extreme coercion.

Pacific Island Forum leaders have raised their concerns about the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua in previous years. In 2007 the leaders noted in the Thirty-eighth Communiqué “the intention of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea to convey the Forum discussions on Papua to the President of Indonesia.” However in 2008 there was no reference to West Papua in the Communiqué.

If the Forum is serious about promoting peace and security in the region then it must address the issue of West Papua. After 46 years of conflict, the West Papuan people should not have to wait any longer for the support of their Pacific brethren.

While there has been democratic change in Indonesia, these improvements are not reflected in improved freedoms or human rights in West Papua. There are ongoing instances of killings at the hands of the security forces such as the death of tribal leader Opinus Tabuni, who was shot on 9 August 2008 in Wamena during an event held to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations Indigenous People's Day. Just this week a teenaged boy, Isak Psakor, was shot by security forces in the border area.

International human rights groups such as Amnesty International continue to express their grave concerns about attacks on freedom of expression, the growing numbers of prisoners of conscience and the documented instances of the excessive use of force and torture, at the hands of the security forces and prison officers. Amnesty also emphasises that the known perpetrators of human rights violations have not been brought to trial.

West Papuan people have no genuine freedom to express their political aspirations, as they risk arrest for the simple action of raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag or even stitching the design of the flag onto an item of clothing. During 2008 at least 30 Papuan independence activists, including a 16-year-old boy, were in detention for daring to raise the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag.

Amnesty prisoners of conscience, Filep Karma, sentenced to 15 years, and Yusak Pakage, sentenced to ten years, remain in jail also for the 'crime' of raising the Morning Star flag. To Papuan men, Sebby Sambon and Buchtar Tabuni are currently on trial for peacefully supporting the launch in the United Kingdom of a new organisation, International Parliamentarians for West Papua, whose members include respected international political figures such as Lord Harries, Lord Eric Avebury (United Kingdom) Powes Parkop (Leader of the Opposition in Papua New Guinea) Senator Bob Brown from Australia and Russel Norman, Co-leader of the New Zealand Greens.

During the April 2009 election period West Papuans staged huge demonstrations calling for an end to human rights
abuses and for freedom. The Indonesian response to the subsequent tension and violence has been to send in yet more
troops. The Indonesian Government also insisted that the International Red Cross close its office in West Papua and
at the time of writing this office has not been reopened.


It is also of grave concern that there is continuing intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders through surveillance by intelligence officers. The systematic intimidation of human rights defenders was heightened following the visit in June 2007 by the United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani. For example, Mr. Iwanggin Sabar Olif, a West Papua human rights lawyer and a member of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM), was arrested on October 18, 2007 by anti-terrorist officers and subsequently charged under Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code. He was accused of sending an SMS message critical of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and he was released in earlier this year after being detained for over 15 months.

West Papuan people also face the challenge of living with environmental devastation and the exploitation of their resources with little or no benefit to themselves. The giant Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine each day deposits 230,000 tonnes of tailings into the Ajikwa River creating a vast dead zone in the lowlands.


West Papuan levels of health care, mortality and education are among the lowest in the Asia-Pacific (infant mortality 85-150 per 1000 live births). An epidemic of HIV/AIDs is rampant and is believed to have infected at least 2% of the population, on a par with the AIDs crisis in Papua New Guinea.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee therefore urges the Pacific Islands Forum:

 To raise its urgent concerns about the grave human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian Government.

 To send a fact-find mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation in the territory.

 To urge the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for human rights monitors and the international media to West Papua.

 To support the call of the West Papuan people for dialogue with the Indonesian Government to try and solve the many issues of concern in West Papua.

 To grant observer status to West Papuan leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum

 To urge Indonesia to release West Papuan political prisoners, most of whom have been convicted for nothing more than exercising their right to dissent and to express their political aspirations.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater
(Indonesia Human Rights Committee).

ENDS

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