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Statement on the human rights situation in the province of Papua, Indonesia

14 March 2008



Geneva, 14 March 2008



Mr. President,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, we would like to draw your attention to the human rights violations in Indonesia's Province of Papua. Obviously, Indonesia experienced a democratization process which has altered the political and jurisdictional scenery in many positive ways. We particularly welcome the ratification of the major international human rights instruments by the Government of Indonesia.

However, the fate of the indigenous people of Papua is hardly known to the international community, despite the fact that the Province of Papua is one of the richest region of the world in terms of natural resources. The people of Papua however have never benefited from this richness and rather suffered from the inappropriate implementation of their economic, social and cultural rights. The Province of Papua shows the second lowest Human Development Index (2004-2006) in Indonesia, with the lowest level of adult literacy and the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. The Special Autonomy Law from 2001 which aims at strengthening the economic, social and cultural rights of Papuans has not been properly implemented and Papuans remain marginalized.

Papuans still are subject to torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials by the Indonesian authorities; as  Manfred Nowak in relation to torture and ill-treatment recently revealed in his report to HRC. In addition: On 18 October 2007, the lawyer's assistant and human rights worker Iwanggin Sabar Olif (43) was arrested in Jayapura by members of the Anti-Terror Special Force Unit of the National Police (Detachment 88) without a warrant arrest. Iwanggin Sabar Olif is accused of sending a short-message (SMS) which insults the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. We ask: Is it a mere incident, that the arrest and trial is conducted exclusively against an assistant lawyer and human rights activist? According to our understanding, the case of Iwanggin Sabar Olif reveals a pattern of arbitrary and disproportional arrest by members of Indonesian's Anti-Terror Unit.

The right of an independent and fair trial is repeatedly violated in Papua. In the court trial against 23 men allegedly charged for their involvement in the Abepura riots of March 2006, violations are reported against the presumption of innocence, the use of coerced confessions by the Panel of Judges and a climate of fear due to the presence of armed police officers and members of the intelligence services. Contrary to that, until now only one case (Abepura 2000) of crimes against humanity in Papua was brought to the National Human Rights Court in Makassar. The suspects of this case, two senior police officers, who faced command responsibility charges for the killing of 3 Papuan students and the torture of around 100 others, were acquitted. It is unfortunately not the only case of impunity to be attributed to the Indonesian government and its security forces in Papua.

Mr. President,

there are reasons to conclude that the mentioned concerns on human rights relates to the ongoing militarization of Papua, particular of the highlands and the Southern part of Papua. According to our information, indigenous Papuans, who are critical towards the Indonesian security forces demanding the protection of their rights, are frequently stigmatized of being separatists and, thus, are subject to intimidation and harassment, as the case of the community of Waris, Keerom Regency, and its Pastor John Jongga (48) shows. On 22 August 2007, Kopassus Commander Letty Usman allegedly threatened to kill the priest and bury him in a 700-metre deep gorge without being held accountable.

This pattern of intimidation is translated also into racial discrimination towards the indigenous people of Papua. The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta reports several statements by members of security forces towards Papuan students related to the Abepura Case 2000 which are grave insults based on the Melanesian origin of Papuans. But when the government should protect the fundamental rights of indigenous Papuans, we face a policy as the Presidential Instruction No. 26 of 1998 which bans the use of the term "indigenous" in all official documents denying the cultural identity.

Mr. President,

The silent violation of the rights of the indigenous people of Papua, obviously, needs the attention of the Human Rights Council. But: The access to Papua for outside human rights workers, journalists and even diplomats is restricted leading to a lack of accurate exchange of data about the human rights situation in Indonesia's eastern Province. Therefore, the World Council of Churches asks the Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to the Province of Papua in order to assess particularly the right to health and education. We further ask for a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Working Group on arbitrary detention, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People.

Thank you, Mr. President