Papuan human rights hearing at European Parliament a step forward

from West Papua Media stringers in Jayapura, and Tabloid Jubi in Brussels

January 29, 2014

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Efforts to the highlight the issue of ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua to European institutions took a significant step forward last week, as a coalition of international civil society groups testified at a special European Parliament hearing in Brussels this week.

According to sources in Brussels, the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Union Parliament in Brussels held a hearing on the situation in West Papua.  The hearing was organised after a large number of international human rights NGOs sent letters to the committee outlining violations in the occupied territory.

Outlining the precarious state of media freedom in West Papua, Victor Mambor from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) – Jayapura, presented the AJI findings on  cases of violence against journalists in Papua, calling on the EU to ensure the protection of media freedom in Papua.

“There are still double standards in Papua and Indonesia when it comes to media freedom and the application of the press law,” Mambor explained. AJI had documented 22 cases of threats and violence against journalists in Papua in 2013.

According to the International Coalition for Papua,  Members of the European Parliament stressed that the situation in West Papua had too long been ignored in discussions and called for closer involvement.

Last week, the EU Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a report recommending  the preparation of an EU- Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.  Member of the European Parliament Anamaria Gomes  emphasized that this agreement should be the framework for the parliament to look further into the conditions in West Papua.

Meanwhile in Papua, despite an ongoing threat of dispersal by Indonesian security forces, Papuan civil society groups successfully held peaceful manifestations in several centres across Papua over two days, calling on Indonesia to restrain itself, and for the European Union to take action on human rights abuses in Papua.

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In TImika, the colonial mining town downstream from the massive Freeport gold and copper mine, members of the KNPB and West Papua Regional Parliament held an impromptu photo exhibition of human rights violations in West Papua outside the Papuan parliament office.  Prayers and speeches followed with discussion and support of the European Parliament meeting underway at the time.  Unusually, no reports were received of any threats or intimidation from Indonesian or Freeport security forces, and the gathering dispersed peacefully.

Papuan students successfully conducted peaceful rallies in Jayapura and Merauke on the 23rd of January, to highlight the subcommittee hearing.   A small gathering of the Papua Student Movement (GEMPAR or “uproar” ) held the demonstration outside the front gate of Cenderawasih University (UNCEN ) in Jayapura.

Students spread a large banner at the front door of UNCEN , which included some photos of human rights abuses by army / police against indigenous Papuans . Gempar organiser Alfa Rahmadodo said at the gathering,  “we ask the International (community) to urge the Indonesian government to stop human rights abuses and suppression of democracy in Papua, and we support (the news that) European governments will discuss about human rights in Papua.” .

In Brussels, Norman Voss, from Human Rights and Peace for Papua, an international coalition of faith-based and civil society organizations (ICP), called for the release of all political prisoners in Papua and reminded of the long outstanding visit of UN human rights mechanisms to Papua. “Papua needs to be opened up and international human rights norms be realised for Papuans. A peaceful and sustainable change cannot be expected in a climate of fear and repression of political dissent.”

In June 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva reviewed Indonesia’s implementation of civil and political rights and urged Indonesia to lift the restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion in Papua.

Zely Ariane from the National Papua Solidarity in Jakarta explained that “the Indonesian government should admit that the state of human rights in Papua is serious.” She called on the EU to put pressure on the Indonesian government to continue their commitment to conduct a dialogue with Papua.

(European reporting from Tabloid Jubi)

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