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Crisis in West Papua

Media Release: Crisis in West Papua

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is calling on the New Zealand Government to respond to the latest escalation of deadly violence and destruction in Indonesian-controlled West Papua.

Many reports cannot be confirmed but it is clear that there are ongoing military operations in the Baliem Valley and elsewhere that have resulted in deaths and the evacuation of thousands of innocent villagers from their homes and food gardens. It is also clear the numbers of mysterious shootings in the capital have escalated, so that people are living with fear.

New Zealand can help promote and work for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. We must first call for an end to the ‘military solution’ which is no solution, and we can also back the call of Papuan leaders for an urgent start to the process of peaceful dialogue to address the fundamental causes of this terrible unrest.

Letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs follows:

Hon Murray MCully,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,
Wellington

Rt Hon John Key,
Prime Minister,
Parliament Buildings,
Wellington

Fax: 04-499 0704

8 June, 2012.

Dear Mr McCully and Mr Key,
The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is very concerned about the escalation of violence and instability in West Papua over the last few weeks.
We are receiving a steady stream of very terrible reports of killings, villages and homes being destroyed, residents fleeing for safety in remote areas as well as a long list of unexplained shootings in the capital, many of which have resulted in death. A summary is set out below.

Unfortunately, because of West Papua’s ‘closed off’ status it is not easy to have confirmed facts. However, the whole picture clearly amounts to a crisis of major proportions which cannot be ignored by West Papua’s neighbours.
We believe that the New Zealand Government should call on Indonesia to cease all military responses and sending in additional police or military troops as this is bound to increase the level of violence, death and destruction.

We also urge that New Zealand call on Indonesia to support the call for a new commitment to a process of peaceful dialogue for West Papua. Fr Neles Tebay of the Papua Peace Network (JDP) a key proponent for peaceful dialogue, this week urged the Jakarta Government to make a clear commitment to dialogue openly with the Papuan people, and to set up a dialogue team without delay. He believes that this must happen in order to end ongoing violence and unexplained shooting events.

New Zealand should also work with fellow members of the Pacific Island Forum to encourage them to support dialogue and peaceful resolution of the current dire situation. West Papua’s suffering cannot be overlooked by the body which is charged with responsibility for security and stability in the region
Recently the New Zealand Government made representations to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review hearing for Indonesia which drew attention to the need for improved human rights in West Papua. However, while valuable, this intervention does not offer any protection to vulnerable West Papuan people at this critical time.
Summary: At the end of May German tourist, Dietmar Pieper was shot by an unknown person while walking with his wife Eva Medina at Base G beach near Jayapura. We understand he is still receiving emergency care in Singapore. Around the same time an elementary school schoolteacher in Puncak Jaya was fatally shot by an unknown person.
A recent peaceful demonstration week , near Sentani was broken up by the security forces who opened live fire on the demonstrators. There are reports of three deaths following this event.
Also in this past week, a nineteen year old student was stabbed to death, a sixteen year old survived being shot at while traveling on his motorcycle. On June 5 three people, including a military officer were shot and critically injured. A young man was shot and killed by police on Thursday in circumstances that are unclear.
There has been a military and police operation on Yapen Island. It is said that an extra company of Brimob police commandos from Manokwari have been flown in to take part in the raids on the civilian village of Anotaurei on Yapen Island, near the regional centre of Serui. Witnesses have also described ongoing ‘sweeping’ operations against peaceful political activists and ordinary villagers.

On June 6 in the Baliem Valley, Jayawijaya regency, some soldiers in a vehicle killed a child, and the local community responded with anger and attacked two soldiers one of whom was killed.

We understand that violence in the Baliem Valley has since escalated out of control and that troops and police are said to be going on a rampage, setting fire to houses shops and kiosks. There are reports that the security forces are using indiscriminate live fire against local residents. It is understood that there have been many deaths but numbers are unconfirmed and range from one to thirteen to far higher figures. There is a major exodus as thousands are fleeing their homes and gardens to seek shelter.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater (for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

ENDS

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