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Indonesia - Appeal for protection of human rights in West Papua

20 September 2002

Letter to H.E. Mme Megawati Soekarnoputri, President of the Republic, 20 September 2002.


Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned at the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua. Since the death of Theys Hiyo Eluay, the Chairperson of the Papuan Presidium Council and the Paramount Chief of Sentani tribe in mysterious circumstances, there has been an increase in incidents of torture, kidnappings, rape, illegal detentions and arbitrary executions. Despite assurances by the government, those responsible for his death have not been brought to trial before a court of law. The Commissions of Enquiry set up by the government have failed to arrive at any conclusive findings. The demand of the people for an independent Commission of Enquiry, without members of the military, have not been met.

The unchecked influx of Lashkar Jihad to Sorong, Fak Fak, Biak and Jayapura has further compounded an already complex situation. Among the new arrivals are young men from Java, who are sponsored by the military for nefarious activities. They have been recruited for the militia ‘Satgas Merah Putih' that operates hand in glove with the military and the Lashkar Jihad to intimidate the Papuan people engaged in a struggle for socio-economic, cultural and political rights. According to the reports received by us the developments in West Papua seem to follow the same pattern as those in East Timor in the early 1990s. The military by encouraging and inducting the Lashkar Jihad in the region is using religion to create a ‘horizontal conflict' to deflect attention from the demands of the people for justice and human rights. The security forces are unable to effectively control this developing conflict.

We are also concerned by the reports of surveillance of Church leaders and human rights defenders by the military intelligence. Some Church leaders have received threats and are fearful of their safety and security.

To defuse the present state of tension and conflict in the region it is necessary that the government put an end to the influx of outsiders, restrain the military from destabilising the situation by committing acts of harassment and repression of the Papuan people. The government must take immediate steps to revive the national dialogue initiated by Your Excellency's predecessor. The grievances of the Papuan people for equitable sharing of economic resources and political power should be addressed through the implementation of the autonomy law. The people of Papua remain committed to peace through a process of consultation and multilateral decision-making.

The member churches of the World Council of Churches in Indonesia, including West Papua, are of the considered opinion that national dialogue is the only way forward to peace and reconciliation in the region.

                                                                                                                                              Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                                                              Dr Konrad Raiser
                                                                                                                                              General Secretary