West Papua – the Indonesian provinces comprising the western half of the island of New Guinea – has been a longstanding focus of WCC’s concern. In the recent interview, Prove indicates that concern for the indigenous Papuan population of these provinces is increasing “as a result of the persistent and quite serious human rights and humanitarian situation in the region, which the Indonesian government has frankly failed to address and correct.”
Recalling the history of the so-called - and still disputed - “Act of Free Choice” whereby West Papua was integrated into Indonesia in 1969, Prove notes that Jakarta’s failure to fulfil its promises to the Papuan people has resulted in increased local opposition to Indonesian rule. “What we have seen over decades is a very high level of human rights violations,” including extrajudicial killings, denial of the freedoms of expression and assembly and many other violations, says Prove.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, “the incidences of serious human rights violations have actually increased,” says Prove.
The WCC and its partners work together to monitor civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights in the region.
The increased militarization of the Indonesian government’s response has exacerbated the situation, despite promises of dialogue with the indigenous Papuan people, says Prove “These are promises that have been made at the political level but have been unfilled,” he says.
Violence against peaceful protestors has escalated, he says. “Many of the killings, many of the beatings, many of the forced disappearances take place in the form of that sort of response to such protests,” Prove observed, describing heavy-handed military and police actions in West Papua.
Moreover, people fleeing from conflict-affected areas are not receiving the help they need from national authorities, and international humanitarian agencies are allowed little or no access to the territory, Prove adds.
“The Indonesian authorities most certainly need to address the longstanding, continuing and escalating human rights crisis in the region,” concludes Prove.