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Open Letter: Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

25 July, 2010

The Secretary General
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji

2010 Pacific Island Forum

Dear Heads of States,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee would like to wish you well for your forthcoming deliberations at the 41st Pacific Island Forum in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

We understand that the issue of West Papua will be on your agenda this year, and we know that you are all aware of the ongoing problems facing our Papuan neighbours.

This year is potentially a year of hope for the West Papuan people as renewed attention has been devoted to the problems there. We refer to the call for peaceful dialogue made by Papuan NGOs and supported by many sectors of civil society in Jakarta. We also refer to the recent peaceful mobilizations of tens of thousands of indigenous Papuan people calling for the 2001 Special Autonomy Law to be handed back to Jakarta.

We also believe that the recent undertakings of the Republic of Vanuatu with respect to West Papua have very positive potential. We strongly support Vanuatu’s proposal to raise the issue of West Papua at the UN General Assembly and to call for the International Court of Justice to deliberate on the legality of West Papua’s incorporation into the Indonesian Republic.

At the same time the situation in West Papua remains precarious for the indigenous population. We read regular reports of military and police operations in the Highlands area of Puncak Jaya which has led to a humanitarian crisis for the local villagers caught up in the conflict. For several years now the people in this region have been subjected to ‘sweeping operations’ which have resulted in the destruction of homes and infrastructure and the forced displacement of hundreds of people. We note too that the people of the Highlands also face the prospect of renewed migration of non-Papuans into their tribal lands. Leaders of traditional organisations have expressed deep concern that a new migration programme will further marginalise their people.

Similar grave concerns have been expressed by the people of Merauke region, not far from Papua New Guinea, as they face the prospect of an influx of migrants to work in a proposed new food estate. The food estate project also puts at risk the integrity of Merauke’s peat-land forests.

There has been no improvement in the appalling health and education status of the indigenous population. Infant and maternal mortality rates are shockingly high and the rate of HIV/Aids is at epidemic proportions - some 2.6% of the population are afflicted. In 2005 a UNDP survey revealed that more than 90 percent of kampungs (villages) in Papua had no access to basic medical facilities. Similarly many rural schools cannot function for lack of teachers.

Recently, the international human rights NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both published reports about the deteriorating situation with respect to fundamental freedoms and especially the right to free expression. The Human Rights Watch report: “Prosecuting Political Aspiration: Indonesia's Political Prisoners” includes several case studies of Papuan prisoners. This report highlights the torture and beatings experienced by political prisoners, often at the hands of members of the Densus 88, the counter-terrorism police squad. The well known prisoner, Filep Karma an Amnesty International ‘prisoner of conscience’, has not been able to access the specialist treatment he requires for a serious prostate problem. He is serving a lengthy sentence for daring to raise the West Papuan Morning Star flag at a peaceful demonstration in 2004.

Phil Robertson, HRW's deputy Asia director stated: "Imprisoning activists for peacefully voicing their political views is an ugly stain on Indonesia's recent improvements in human rights."

We therefore urge the Pacific Islands Forum:

• to ensure that the West Papua issue remains on the agenda of all future meetings of the PIF as a regional issue of concern

• to send a fact finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation in the territory.

• to raise concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian President and with his representative at the Post Forum Dialogue meeting. Indonesia should be urged to halt any ongoing or proposed military operations in the Puncak Jaya region.

• to grant observer status to genuine representatives of the West Papuan people who are struggling for their right to self-determination.

• to support Vanuatu’s planned approach to the United Nations concerning the political status of West Papua


With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

ENDS

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