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Groups Urge U.S. Action on West Papua Rights as Security Situation Deteriorates

Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-718-596-7668
Lynn Barclay, Land is Life, +1-413-320-9510
Ed McWilliams, WPAT, +1-575-648-2078

April 10, 2009 - Human rights organizations have urged the U.S. government and Congress to investigate and act on the continued violations of human rights in West Papua.

The letter from the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT), Land Is Life, and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) highlighted the deteriorating security situation in West Papua.


These developments underscore the urgency of U.S. Government and Congressional action to address the crisis in West Papua.

As the letter was being sent, the security situation in West Papua continued to deteriorate, with reports of additional armed clashes in the Papuan capital of Jayapura as well as the cities of Biak, Nabire and Wamena. Violent mass arrests were also taking place.

"These developments underscore the urgency of U.S. Government and Congressional action to address the crisis in West Papua," said Ed McWilliams of WPAT. McWilliams is a retired senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served in Jakarta. "Washington must press Jakarta to deal with Papuans fundamental grievances."

The letter called on the U.S. to investigate and condemn recent human rights violations and urged "the U.S. Government and Congress... to press for an internationally facilitated, senior level dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans, including Papuan civil society, to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances." Among these are calls for demilitarization of the territory and an end to repression and release of those arrested for peaceful protest, provision of essential services, and self-determination.

The letter was also sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and key members of Congress on East Asian and foreign affairs.

A copy of the letter is  below.


April 9, 2009

Senator John F. Kerry, Chair, Foreign Relations Committee
Rep. Howard L. Berman, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

In the past week, the Indonesian military and police have reacted with extreme violence to growing peaceful, public protests in several cities throughout West Papua. On April 6, Brimob police shot at least eleven peaceful protesters, four of whom are in critical condition. A primary-school age child was among the wounded, according to hospital officials. On April 3, police in the West Papua capital Jayapura, broke into the office of the Papuan Customary Council, a legally recognized organization representing over one million Papuans, arresting over a dozen people, an unknown number of whom remained incarcerated. The police also seized Customary Council office files and equipment. In Wamena, the police arrested three Papuan students.

This latest spate of government violence targeting peaceful protesters follows a series of arrests of dissenters under charges of "subversion" and "incitement," two provisions of law dating back to the Dutch colonial era that have been widely criticized by the UN and human rights organizations.

In recent months, Papuans have been demonstrating in support of calls for the release of Papuans detained for peaceful exercise of their rights to assembly and freedom of speech, as documented by international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among others. Demonstrators also have demanded action to afford Papuans their right to self-determination, a right denied them in a referendum organized by the Indonesian government in 1969, widely recognized to have been rigged.

Indonesian military and police continue to restrict international efforts to monitor developments in West Papua. Four Dutch journalists last week were detained and deported notwithstanding the fact they held appropriate visas. Those few international officials who do manage to enter West Papua endure disruption of their itineraries by security forces. The 2007 visit by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega and Ambassador Cameron Hume is one example. Indonesian security forces also threaten many Papuans who seek to communicate with visiting officials such as UN human rights official Hina Jilani in 2007. Even Jakarta-based diplomats face bureaucratic hurdles in attempts to visit West Papua.

The U.S. Government maintains that it respects the territorial integrity of the Indonesian state and, on the basis of this policy position, has been reluctant to address the growing human rights crisis in West Papua. At the same time, the U.S. Government and the international community have a responsibility to protect human rights in those circumstances where a local government either will not protect those rights or is complicit in their violation.

We call on the U.S. Government and Congress to investigate this clear evidence of human rights abuse in West Papua.

The U.S. Government and Congress should also publicly express to the Government of Indonesia in the strongest terms, their opposition to these violations of human rights.

We also urge the U.S. Government and Congress, in concert with others in the international community, to press for an internationally facilitated, senior level dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans, including Papuan civil society, to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances. These include calls for demilitarization of West Papua, an end to repression of Papuans exercising their human rights and release from detention of those arrested for peaceful dissent, provision of services essential to health and economic security, and Papuan self-determination.


John M. Miller
National Coordinator, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Brian Keane
Director, Life is Life

Ed McWilliams
West Papua Advocacy Team

cc: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Ranking Member, Committee  on Foreign Relations Committee
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs
Rep. Eni Faleomavega, chair, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
Rep. Donald A. Manzullo, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
Sen. James Webb, Chair, Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Sen. Johnny Isakson, Ranking Member, Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs

see also: West Papua Report


Press Release
9 April 2009

[Translated by TAPOL]

Incidents in Papua prior to 2009 elections
Avoid Conflicts and Halt Repression against Civil Society

KontraS regrets the occurrence of several incidents of violence prior to the elections in Papua which have spread a sense of anxiety among Papuan people. The latest was an incident last night when eight students were arrested following an attack on the head office of the police in Abepura and a fire at the office of the Rector of Cenderawasih University in Waena.

The police declared that the conflict in Papua would be subject to special handling during the election period. However a number of incidents have occurred. Such special treatment should not lead to acts of violence and violations of human rights.

KontraS has received the following reports of recent incidents:

On 7 April: The arrest of Markus Haluk, secretary-general of the Leadership Council of the Association of Students from the Central Highlands, on charges of spreading information and provocation for calling for a boycott of the election in Papua.

On 8 April: The killing of three members of the public in Wamena, with two others critically injured and now being treated at Wamena Hospital

On 8 April at 11pm, rumours circulated that a member of the police force had been stabbed by an unidentified person near Youfeta Market, Abepura. In response, the police conducted sweepings of everyone along the main roads.

On 8 April at 1.30am, a group of unidentified people attacked the head office of the police in the vicinity of Abepura and one person was shot dead.

On 8 April at 2.30am, the Rector's Building at Cendrawasih University was burnt down by unidentified people. Police conducted sweepings which resulted in the arrest of eight students at the Minmin Students Mess, one of whom sustained gunshot wounds.

The 2009 elections represent a step in the direction of democratisation. Although they have been involved in a number of conflicts, the people of Papua are entitled to enjoy a time of peace during the period of the elections.

We call on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid the use of violence. At the same time, we call on the security forces, in particular the police, to uphold professional standards and respect the human rights of those people who are critical of the 2009 elections. We are very much afraid that excessive behaviour by the police which has been part of the problem in Papua up until the present has been incited by provocative actions by outside elements.

In particular, we request that the additional forces for the army and police as instructed by the chief of police of Indonesia should not lead to the conflict spreading and there should be no further acts of violence. In addition, we urge that these events should not result in further acts of repression against the people in general.

Jakarta, 9 April 2009

Indra Fernida
Deputy Coordinator

Syamsul Alam Agus
Division of Politics, Law and Human Rights.

ABC Online

AM - Protesters shot in Papua

[This is the print version of story]

AM - Thursday, 9 April , 2009  08:14:35

Reporter: Matt Brown

TONY EASTLEY: Not everyone is celebrating Indonesia's exercise in democracy. Some of the Melanesian residents of the Indonesian province of Papua are urging a boycott.

Human Rights activists say Indonesian paramilitary police shot around nine people attending a pro-independence protest this week and Amnesty International wants to see an independent investigation of the allegations.

The ABC has obtained footage of the clash between police and protestors.

National security correspondent Matt Brown reports.

MATT BROWN: The small protest in the town of Nabire on Monday was part of a long and brutal history. First Indonesian troops invaded, then the UN endorsed a deeply flawed vote to make Papua a province of Indonesia in the 1960s. But ever since, local activists have been campaigning for a fresh poll and independence.

Indonesia's national elections are not the poll they've got in mind and on Monday they gathered to call for a boycott.

Melbourne-based Papuan human rights activist, Paula Makabory.

PAULA MAKABORY: They say that we are not Indonesian; we are Papuan Melanesians. So we will not vote in the Indonesian public election.

MATT BROWN: In the footage obtained by the ABC the protesters carry a banner declaring as much. Whoever recorded it is standing amidst the Indonesian security forces. While it's hard to tell what happens next, the sounds are unmistakable.

(Sound of shooting and people shouting.)

Paramilitary police armed with automatic weapons run towards the crowd. Then an officer is rushed back to a police truck with a traditional arrow sticking out of his leg. A colleague pulls it out quickly before he's bundled into the back.

The images are focused on the police. One chuckles as he displays a grazed leg. But human rights activists say at least nine other people were hurt; several suffered critical injuries.

Amnesty International's Isabelle Arradon says this is not the first incident in the town and there should be an independent investigation.

ISABELLE ARRADON: It is the third demonstration since December 2008 where some demonstrators in Nabire have been shot by police. Basically the use of firearms should only be used as a last resort. It is very shocking that a 10-year-old boy was injured during the demonstration on Monday.

MATT BROWN: Paula Makabory says the violence was orchestrated by provocateurs employed by the Indonesian military.

PAULA MAKABORY: According to the eyewitnesses, those six people are the militias, are the (inaudible) militias from Indonesian security forces who are using the situation to triggering conflicts between demonstrators and the police.

MATT BROWN: Without an impartial inquiry it's hard to know what's been happening in this part of Papua but the footage clearly shows uniformed officers working with other men dressed in civilian clothes. Some of them are wearing crash helmets, another wearing military-style pants and a cut-off t-shirt brandishes an automatic rifle.

Democracy at this end of the archipelago is indeed a fraught thing.



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