AUSTRALIA WEST PAPUA ASSOCIATION
THERE WAS LITTLE IMPROVEMENT in the human rights situation in West Papua in 2013. A number of military operations took place and the security forces cracked down on peaceful rallies called by various civil society organisations.
In the crackdown on the rallies called to commemorate the tragic event of 50 years ago when West Papua was handed over by UNTEA to Indonesian administration, two people were killed and three seriously wounded in the town of Sorong.
The police shot and killed two protesters on 30 April as they prepared to mark the 50th anniversary of the handover. Another activist who was shot, Salomina Kalaibin, died of her wounds in hospital on 6 May.
In Timika 15 people were arrested for simply raising their national Morning Star flag and six were arrested in Biak. In the town of Fakfak, the police hauled down the Morning Star flag which had been raised at a local school. Local people were also intimidated by the security forces during these rallies.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern in relation to the crackdown on the demonstrations stating “these latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua.
“I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses….
“There has not been sufficient transparency in addressing serious human rights violations in Papua,” she said, urging Indonesia to allow international journalists into Papua and to facilitate visits by the Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council.
Amnesty International also raised concerns about the tragic events that occurred on 1 May.
“It is imperative that authorities in Indonesia urgently set up a comprehensive and independent investigation into allegations of unnecessary use of firearms by security forces during the protests, make the results available to the public, and bring those responsible to justice,” Amnesty said. “Failure to take action will send a message that the security forces in Papua operate above the law.”
Many of the rallies called by civil society organisations throughout the year were banned by security forces although permits had been applied for permission to hold them. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) does not apply in West Papua.
A number of indicators point out the worsening situation in West Papua. The increasing number of political prisoners is one. Intimidation of journalists is another.
Papuans behind bars in their January update stated that “at the end of January 2013 there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails.” By the end of November there were al least 71.
The media are an important part of democracy and threats against the media should always be of concern. In West Papua the local media are on the ground and can be first with reports of violence and intimidation of civil society, of military attacks and with reports of the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.
In a press release the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jayapura stated there were “20 cases of intimidation and violence against journalists in Papua. The number of these cases showed a significant increase from the year 2012” Of the 20 cases, 4 cases occurred in West Papua and 16 cases in Papua.
Much of the attack on journalists occurred directly through verbal and physical intimidation such as threats and insults, vandalism, entering the editorial office without permission and beatings. Although police officers appear to have been responsible for a large part of the violence against journalists, the AJI noted a number of cases were also by civil society, carried out by a group of people with the aim of defending the interests of certain officials.
AJI did note that the relationship between police and journalists was improving. In relationship to the Governor of Papua inviting foreign journalists and international organizations to enter into Papua, the AJI noted that the reality was permission had to come from the central government and not local authorities. In one incident the Governor of Papua, Luke Enembe accused the local paper Jubi of being a mouthpiece for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) while visiting Abepura prison.
It is encouraging that the international community is becoming more aware of the issue of West Papua and there was a lot of media coverage of the issue in the region, mostly related to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The MSG held its Summit in Noumea from the 13 - 21 June.
Although it was disappointing that the issue of membership for West Papua at the MSG was deferred, a number of decisions by the leaders of the MSG in relation to West Papua are to be welcomed.
In the official MSG Communiqué leaders “endorsed that the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided for under the preamble of the MSG constitution” and “endorsed that the concerns of the MSG regarding the human rights violations and other forms of atrocities relating to the West Papuan people be raised with the Government of Indonesia bilaterally and as a Group”.
The Vanuatu Government in particular has shown great support for the West Papuan people. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu, prime minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil, raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly calling for investigations into alleged cases of human rights abuses in West Papua.
He also raised West Papua again at the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting in Sri Lanka. He called on all members of the Commonwealth to listen more closely to the cries and heartaches of the people of West Papua. He said the people of West Papua are still bound by the whim of imperialism and colonialism so “we cannot continue to deny them their rights thus I call on our collective efforts to support their cause.”
The West Papuan people will eventually achieve their own self-determination. There are many ways forward and the West Papuan people are using all avenues to achieve their freedom.
Various West Papuan organisation are lobbying the UN, regional organisations such as the MSG and calling on Jakarta to hold dialogue with West Papuan representatives. It is encouraging that regional governments are showing support by raising the human rights abuses in West Papua with Jakarta.
The issue is also being raised around the world by solidarity groups and individuals, too numerous to mention. There are many West Papuan lists, web and Facebook pages where one can receive updates and respond to urgent actions.
The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) is a human rights organisation focusing on the territory of West Papua. AWPA’s role is to lobby both the Australian Government and the international community to raise concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua. http://awpasydneynews.blogspot.com.au