AWPA: West Papua 2010 Chronology of events

The Australia West Papua Association has produced a very useful chronology of all key events that occurred in West Papua in 2010.  The full document can be accessed here: West Papua 2010 Chronology of events,

The introduction is reprinted below:

Human rights situation in West Papua[1]

The human rights situation in West Papua continued to deteriorate in 2010. One incident in particular highlighted the worsening human rights situation and that was the shocking video footage of West Papuans being tortured by Indonesian soldiers. The video showed several men in military fatigues torturing two Papuans. The soldiers in the video threaten the two men with sharp weapons and pressed a burning bamboo stick against one of the men’s genitals. The torture of the men prompted a wave of international criticism with human rights organisations around the world condemning the actions  of the Indonesian military.  This incident was not an isolated incident and in further evidence of  human rights abuses another report  accused the police of burning down the village of Bigiragi in the Puncak Jaya district.  The report said that 16 Mobile Brigade officers had burned the village to the ground on October 11. The report said that at least 29 homes were destroyed in the incident leaving at least 150 people homeless

Military operations in Puncak Jaya

A number of  military operation took place in the Puncak Jaya region in 2010 and in fact security operations have been ongoing in the Puncak Jaya region for years . Security forces  conduct regular sweeps  (military operations) in the area to pursue members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM).  Many reports have pointed out the the security forces have great difficulty distinguishing  between what the term separatists  and the general public. These operations leave the local people traumatised and in fear for their lives.  In a report in Bintang Papua (29 June)  The local chief of police admitted that “the OPM  are all over the place including in the town of Mulia, mingling with the community. He said that because the features of the mountain people are almost the same as other people in the area, ‘it is making it very difficult for us to differentiate  between who is OPM and who is just an ordinary member of the community”. This statement raises great concerns that civilians are in danger of being targeted as members of the OPM. During these military operations villages have been destroyed as well as  gardens and livestock. In September  the House of Representatives (DPR) Law Commission deputy chairman, Tjatur Sapto Edy lamented the military operations in the Puncak Jaya Regency following a report by the  National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM). Tjatur said there should be no more military operations and such approaches  are no longer suitable in a democracy. A report by Komnas HAM’s Papua chapter revealed 29 cases of rights abuses occurred in Puncak Jaya regency from 2004-2010, including the torture and rape of villagers in March 2010 by law enforcers.

In September  an article in the the SMH alleged that Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, brutalised a group of separatists, repeatedly beating them in detention. Australia helps fund Detachment 88.  The report also said the Australian Government had sent an official to the Indonesian province of Maluku to investigate the  claims but an Australian embassy official denied there was an investigation going on although an embassy officer had visited Maluku as part of a regular program of provincial visits.

Leaked Kopassus report

In November investigative journalist Alan Nairn released a secret report by a Kopassus task force which shows a list of West Papuans engaged in human rights work are a target of the Indonesian Special Force Group, Kopassus. The list includes members of civil society organisations, church groups , activists, students and  members of the MRP.  The report can be found on his blog at

http://www.allannairn.com/2010/11/breaking-news-secret-files-show.html

In December cables released by WikiLeaks in relation to West Papuan human rights confirmed what NGOs  have been telling their governments for years, that it is the Indonesian military that are one of the main problems in West Papua.

The cables revealed that US diplomats blame the government in Jakarta for unrest in West Papua due to neglect, corruption and human rights abuses.  That Indonesian military commanders have been accused of illegal logging operations and drug smuggling from West Papua into Papua New Guinea, and also that a lifting of the US ban on training with Kopassus was made a condition of Obama’s  visit to Jakarta.

Also in December the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), a major Indonesian human rights group accused the National Police of being the state institution guilty of committing the highest number of acts of violence against the public in 2010.  In the Jakarta Post (7/12/10) , the Papua chapter of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) reported a 70 percent increase in the number of cases of violence in Papua, most of which were allegedly committed by security officers. The Jakarta-based Legal Aid Foundation  in another report said Indonesian law enforcers routinely torture suspects and convicts to extract confessions or obtain information. The groups report found beatings, intimidation and rape are so commonplace they are considered the norm. It also found that few victims believe they have the right to lodge complaints.

West Papua suffered from a number of natural disasters in 2010 including a 7.1magnitude earthquake  that occurred of the northern coast of Papua in June,  destroying a number of  villages with loss of life on Yapen island.  In October the town of Wasior was hit by flash  floods  causing severe damage leaving over 158 people dead, 145 persons missing and thousands left homeless. There was some debate if the cause of the floods was due to deforestation in the surrounding areas or was due to  unusually heavy rainfall

Political prisoners

It is difficult to known the exact number of political prisoners who are in jail in West Papua because of the difficulty of access and restrictions on the gathering of information in the territory. In Amnesty’s  International Report for  2010, it states

“At least 114 people were detained for peacefully expressing their views. The overwhelming majority were peaceful political activists who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment for raising prohibited pro independence flags in Maluku or Papua”.

And in an  extract from Human Rights Watch World Report for 2010, in relation to West Papua.  “Indonesian authorities have responded to a longstanding, low-level armed separatist insurgency in the provinces of Papua and West Papua with a strong troop presence and often harsh and disproportionate responses to non-violent dissent or criticism. Human Rights Watch has long expressed concerns over anti-separatist sweeps by the police, which often result in individuals who peacefully express support for independence being arrested and detained on charges of treason or rebellion (makar).

West Papua -one of our nearest neighbours

West Papua is one of our nearest neighbours and the West Papuan people face great challenges including  ongoing human rights abuses, the exploitation of their natural resources with little or no benefit to themselves, the danger of becoming a minority in their own land as the result of migrants arriving daily and a  HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The Australian Government has  always been concerned about instability in the region to our north but as events in 2010 have shown, it is the Indonesian military which  are causing the instability in West Papua. The recent reports of the torture of West Papuans by the Indonesian security forces and the information from the WikiLeaks cables about US concerns at the activities of the TNI in relation to West Papua, aptly show this.

Recommendations.

The Australian West Papua Association  (Sydney)

urges the Australian Government to re- think its policy of ties with the  Indonesian military until such time that Indonesian military  personnel involved in past human rights abuses are brought to justice and the culture of the Indonesian military becomes of an  acceptable standard to both the Australian people and Australian military. In the short term we urge the Government to put a moratorium on the training, funding and any ties between  the Australian military,  Detachment 88 and the special forces unit Kopassus, until a full inquiry is held into the activities of these units in relation to human rights abuses in the archipelago.

urges the Australian Government to sent a fact finding mission to West Papua to not only investigate the human rights situation in the territory but to see how Australia can  help the West Papuan people in capacity building in the fields of health  and education. We thank the Australian Government for the funding it has already given to aid  projects in West Papua but urge more aid-funding to support health programs and medical organizations (local and international) working on the ground in West Papua and in the long term to support the training of the West Papuan people themselves as health professionals.

There are a number of Indigenous  human rights NGOs in West Papua and the Australian Government can  strengthen  the  human rights situation in West Papua by supporting these organisations  with financial aid,  capacity building and education.

We recommended that human rights defenders working in human rights organisations in West Papua be funded to attend human rights courses in Australia and the region.. There are a number of programs in Australia which can  advance human rights and empower civil society in West Papua through education, training and capacity building. These programs are suitable for individual human rights defenders and community advocates.

We also call on the Australian Government to urge the Indonesian President to release all West Papuan political prisoners as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people.

The problems in West Papua won’t be solved by Jakarta  deploying more troops to the region or conducting more military operations. What the West Papuans are asking for is dialogue between Jakarta  and West Papuan representatives.  AWPA calls on the Australian Government to urge the Indonesian Government to dialogue with representatives of the West Papuan people to solve the issues of concern held by the West Papuan people.


[1] AWPA (Sydney) uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea. However, “West Papua” at this time is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

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