West Papua Report
This is the 121st in a series of monthly reports that
focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the
non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts,
other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within
West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia
Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at
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The Report leads with
"Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of
some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which
includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts
related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a Perspective
or responding to one should write to
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in Perspectives are the author's and not necessarily those of WPAT or
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This edition's PERSPECTIVE
by Dr. Budi Hernawan examines Vanuatu's efforts to place West Papua on
the international human rights agenda. In UPDATE,
Indonesia was questioned by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. The Indonesian military want to purchase
U.S. assault helicopters. New violence creates tension
on the PNG border near Vanimo; more arrests and torture of peaceful
Papuan student protesters; the anniversary of transfer
of West Papua to
UN control in 1963; the establishment of a new Free West Papua
Perth, and the sentencing of the former Merauke District chief for
In CHRONICLE: A photo
project draws attention to West Papuans struggle for respect of
their political and other human rights. David Robie questions why South Pacific nations have not supported
Vanuatu's efforts to draw international attention to Indonesia's human
rights violations in West Papua. Craig Harris highlights
Papuans criticism of mining giant Freeport McMoRan at a U.S.
environmental conference. Oil palm plantations in West Papua and
elsewhere face growing scrutiny.
Prospects for a UN Resolution on Papua
Dr. Budi Hernawan*
At the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2014,
Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil, called on the HRC “to
consider adopting a country mandate on the situation of human rights in
West Papua.” (see
April 2014 West Papua Report)
Kalosil's appeal to the HRC echoed his presentation before the 62nd
Session of the UN General Assembly
November, 2013. Although, it is not unprecedented that a UN member
state would call for an investigation of human rights in another UN
member state, such a motion is controversial and generally meets fierce
opposition from targeted countries and their allies. Such calls for
investigation of the state of human rights are seen has contributing to
the politicization of the process for reviewing human rights and has
been labeled as a ‘naming and shaming’ tactic.
The more important thing for us to ask, however, is why Vanuatu seems so
persistent in its efforts to raise the issue of human rights of Papua at
the UN fora despite minimal support from its neighbors? As Kalosil
emphasizes, Papua has long suffered not only from crimes against
humanity committed by the Indonesian state actors but also from the
failure of the international community to act.
Papua has long suffered not only from crimes against humanity
committed by the Indonesian state actors but also from the
negligence of the international community to act.
Surely, Vanuatu can argue that
it acts on the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) recently
endorsed within the UN fora. Grounded in Article 24 of the UN Charter,
the principle redefines the essence of state sovereignty as
responsibility, rather than simply immunity from public scrutiny. A
State holds the primary responsibility for the protection of its people.
Where a population is suffering from serious harm, such as genocide,
crimes against humanity, internal war, insurgency, or state failure, and
the state in question is unwilling or unable to fulfill its
responsibility, the principle yields to the international responsibility
to protect. It is arguable therefore, that R2P is applicable for Papua.
Nonetheless, we all are aware of the high politics within the UN system.
Indonesia is no stranger to the system. On the contrary, it is a
significant player within the HRC as well as the UN system at large.
Indonesia actively involves in the
Peacebuilding Commission to promote peace around the globe. It
contributes to MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, one of the deadliest and on-going conflicts in the
Great Lakes area of Africa. Having managed to sign a peace deal with the
Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Indonesia has also been sought by ASEAN
countries for advice in dealing with armed conflict in the region.
Indonesia has earned credentials as a peace promoter.
Vanuatu, on the other hand, is not a novice either. In conjunction with
Nauru and Timor Leste, it managed to
put French Polynesia back into the UN's decolonization agenda. Of
course, a resolution on Papua cannot be done overnight. It will be a
long and painful journey for Vanuatu if this small and politically
unstable country persistently works on it. It has to mobilize support
within the UN in order to secure enough votes to pass a resolution,
probably not in any near future. This would be a challenge for any
interested parties if they wish to support Vanuatu.
In the meantime, Papuans should be well aware of the reality that it is
all just the beginning.
*Dr Budi Hernawan is a visiting fellow at the
Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
(KITLV) in the Netherlands. A version of this article appeared in the
UN Rights Body Questions
Indonesia on Papua
The International Coalition for Papua (ICP), Franciscans
International, VIVAT International, Watch Indonesia!, and the West Papua
Netzwerk reported on the UN
Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva review of
Indonesia's adherence to those rights. "The
review process covered access to health care and education, the
problem of land-grabbing, and the rights of minorities and indigenous
peoples. In the discussion the committee showed particular concern to
the situation in Papua," the groups wrote.
This was Indonesia's
first report since ratifying the
International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights in 2005. Committee questions involving West Papua
raised issues of unequal development, "the allegation of land-grabbing
for development projects," and the human rights impact of extractive
industries, ICP also reported that Indonesia said "that it does not plan
to ratify any of the international treaties that would allow Indonesian
nationals to launch individual complaints to UN mechanisms."
The committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations
around May 23 on the
OHCHR website. Documents concerning the review from the Indonesia government, civil
society and others are also linked from that site.
Indonesia Seeks to Augment
Indonesia has announced
an intention to buy 20 more assault helicopters. The recommended
purchase would include 17 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and three Boeing
CH-47 Chinooks and would
purchase of eight Apache helicopters in 2013.
The 20 second
hand copters are expected to cost over Rp3 trillion.
The Black Hawk is specifically designed for air assault and air cavalry
operations. It can transport 11 combat-equipped soldiers and operate
at night operations in difficult terrain. The Chinook has a heavy lift
capacity enabling it to transport even more troops as well as equipment.
The Chinook has functioned well during disaster.
Over many years such attacks have driven thousands of
villagers from their homes into surrounding forests and
mountains where a dearth of food, no access to shelter or health
care have led to severe suffering and death for the civilians.
The sale of eight Apache helicopters,
according to Indonesian military officials, included no conditions
governing how those aircraft were to be used. There is no indication
that any conditions would be attached to this new purchase.
Many international NGOs and observers
Apache sale, expressing grave concerns that the Apache would
significantly augment the TNI's capacity to conduct "sweeping
operations" in the highlands of West Papua. Indonesia's intent to
further expand its fleet of assault helicopters exacerbates these
concerns. Those sweeping operations indiscriminately attack purported
hideouts of the armed opposition (OPM) and civilian villages. Over many
years such attacks have driven thousands of villagers from their homes
into surrounding forests and mountains where a dearth of food and no access
to shelter or healthcare have led to severe suffering and death for the
civilians. The assaults on villages amount to "collective punishment," a
war crime (the Fourth Geneva Convention, Part III Article 33).
WPAT Comment: The United States Government has repeatedly
demonstrated a willingness to augment the capacity of the Indonesian
military to employ more sophisticated weapons systems in its
"sweeping operations." U.S. support for these operations renders the U.S. complicit in
these operations' collateral civilian toll. U.S. material support for
these operations also endorses and encourages the Indonesian
Government's persistent employment of the "security approach" in dealing
with the myriad human rights problems posed by Jakarta's five-decade
colonial occupation of West Papua.
New Border Violence Spurs PNG
On April 16, Indonesian and Papua New Guinea
authorities reopened the border area in the Skouw Wutung area after it
closed April 6 following the wounding of two Indonesian security
subsequent shooting incident saw a civilian injured.
Reacting to the April 6 violence at the Skouw Wutung
border crossing point near Vanimo, PNG opposition leader Belden Namah,
who grew up in the border area,
released a statement condemning the Indonesian military: "The people
of West Papua are being butchered like animals by Indonesian security
forces for rejecting Indonesian rule. Papua New Guinea has a moral
obligation to raise the plight of West Papuans and their struggle for
independence with the Indonesians and before international bodies and
Arrest, Torture Peaceful Papuan Protesters
Protesters at Indonesian Embassy in London call
for release of Papuan political Prisoners, April 2.
Representatives of TAPOL and Amnesty International
UK attempted to present the letter to the Indonesian
Embassy, but the Embassy refused to accept the
letter in person, insisting that it instead be
pushed under the door.
The Asian Human Rights Commission, April
23, issued an
Urgent Appeal detailing the arrest and torture of two Papuan university
students, Alfares Kapisa and Yali Wenda on April 2. The
arrests, according to information
provided by TAPOL, occurred during a peaceful protest
that was part of the
Global Day of Action, demanding the release of Papuan
political prisoners. The protest was held at Cenderawasih
The police arrested then beat the two as they
sought to negotiate with them about a planned march
from the university to Abepura prison. The police continued to beat
the two for over an hour and employed an electric stun baton
on the two. The police released the pair in the afternoon of
the following day. While they were detained, police would
not allow human rights lawyers to contact the two.
Tapol, ETAN and other groups
filed an urgent petition with Frank La Rue, United
Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection
of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The
groups called the students "human rights defenders" and wrote "The arrest and torture of these two men are
part of a worsening pattern of arbitrary arrest, use of
excessive force by police and torture in detention, aimed at
preventing free speech and free assembly among indigenous
activists and human rights defenders."
La Rue has been
arrange an investigative visit to Indonesia and West
Papua since early last year.
West Papuans Mark
Transfer of Authority To UNTEA, May 1, 1963
May 1 was the 51st anniversary of
the transfer of authority over West Papua to the UN Temporary
Executive Authority (UNTEA), the body which assumed control over West
Papua by virtue of the U.S.-negotiated "New York Agreement" of 1962.
UNTEA was to have guaranteed Papuans the right to plebiscite to
determine whether West Papua would become an independent nation or a
part of Indonesia. The promised plebiscite was never held, and under
UNTEA Indonesia took de facto control of the territory.
The UNTEA's 1,537 security force was composed mainly of Pakistani
troops who sympathized with Indonesian commandos who numbered 1,500. The
Indonesian soldiers in theory were to assist the UNTEA security force,
but in reality deployed to repress nationalist sentiment.
Free West Papua Campaign Office
Opens in Australia
Prominent Papua campaigner Benny Wenda
opened a new campaign office in Australia on April 27.
The office in Perth will help coordinate activity supporting Papuan
self-determination in Australia with West Papua activists in Melbourne,
Sydney, Canberra, Darwin and Brisbane. The opening of the Perth office
follows on from the opening of offices last year in Oxford,, The Hague, and Port Moresby.
Former Merauke Regent Sentenced to A Year in
Prison for Graft
John Gluba Gebze.
Corruption Court has sentenced former Merauke regent
John Gluba Gebze to a year in prison and a Rp 50 million
fine. He was found guilty by a panel of judges of graft
relating to the procurement of souvenirs made of crocodile
skin worth Rp 18 billion.
In 2007, as Regent, Gebze launched the Merauke
Integrated Food and Energy Estate, a commercial project with
strong backing from the Indonesian central government. The
MIFEE project has generated strong local protest who have
seen vast stretches of forest, on which they depend for food
and livelihood destroyed to make way for plantation
cropping. International observers have long condemned the
project as ignoring the rights of local inhabitants and the
destruction of pristine forest. (A report by
IRIN details the tension and conflict generated by
corporate agribusiness interests in the Merauke area of West
West Papua: Photo Project Draws
Attention to Rights Abuses and Political Struggle
|Photo by Rohan
A Dutch Surinamese photographer and journalist Rohan
Radheya has created
project featuring West Papuans living in exile to raise awareness of
their plight. While visiting West Papua, his equipment was confiscated
and returned only upon his departure. On his return to The Netherlands he "was
introduced to many West Papuan political refugees and started
photographing each of them holding a board of a place in West Papua
where war crimes have taken place.
Border 'butchers,' absentee
Dr. David Robie
questions why Pacific nations have failed to endorse Vanuatu's
condemnation of Indonesia's violations of human rights in West Papua. He
writes that recent parliamentary elections have produced many
representatives for West Papua who do not even live there.
Papuans Speak out Over
Freeport Environmental Destruction
recounts a presentation by two Papuans on the devastating impact of
Freeport McMoRan mining operations on the lives of ordinary Papuans. The
two Papuans were part of a delegation of nine invited to presentation at
an environmental law conference at the University of Oregon, but seven
had their visas rejected. Harris places the mining operation in its
proper historical context, noting that it is part of the legacy of
long-denied Papuans right to self-determination.
new report from the Center for International Forestry Research
contends that palm plantation development in West Papua will
advantage migrants over local Papuans. CIFOR warns that Indonesia needs
to create a development plan that addresses disparities caused by the
rapid increase in plantation investments. Krystof Obidzinski, a senior
scientist with CIFOR, observes that: "Frontier oil palm expansion should
be undertaken in stages to ensure the needs of the poor are considered."
Plantations Under Scrutiny
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