Category Archives: Discussion Paper

50 Years of the Violation of Basic Human Rights in West Papua: Part one and two

Statement by Yan Christian Warinussy, Executive Director of LP3BH, made in preparation for discussions that were due to take place at the beginning of 2014.]
March 10, 2014

As an organisation which advocates basic human rights in the Land of Papua, the LP3BH – Manokwari wishes to record to all those who have remained silent about the conditions now prevailing in the Land of Papua, the experiences of the indigenous Papuan people who have ceaselessly tried to ensure that no-one will forget what has been happening  in this territory since 1 May 1963 and what continues to happen systematically up to the present day

      To begin with, it is essential to understand the history, in order to understand who it was who was responsible for the status  imposed on the Land of Papua on 1 May 1963. The indigenous Papua people have every right to enjoy all the rights that have been stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and  various international covenants regarding economic, social and political rights  as well as other international covenants all of which have been disregarded with regard to the situation in West Papua.
      At the time of Papua’s incorporation into the Republic of Indonesia, Ali Murtopo (a senior adviser to the then president of Indonesia) was quoted as saying: “What we want and need is the land in Papua, not the Papuans who live there.”
      In 1967, a Contract of Work was concluded by Indonesia regarding the exploitation of the copper and gold and possibly also uranium around the Grasberg Mountain around Tembagapura which was widely known to the Indonesian government as well as a US multinational corporation called Freeport McMoran.
    This makes it very clear why the USA played such an active role on the diplomatic front to ensure that West Papua would be incorporated as part of Indonesia, despite the glaring differences between the Papuan people with regard to their history, as well as their anthropology and ethnography and people living in other parts of Indonesia.
      It was abundantly evident that the USA was very interested in the natural resources in West Papua which explains why that country took such an interest in this matter.
“Gentlemen, I am angry with God. Why has God created such beautiful mountains, valleys and rivers, rich with minerals and placed us, the indigenous peoples, here in this place that attracts so many people from around the world to come, exploit our resources, and kill us?”
 [Translator’s Note: This prayer was said in 1994 by a man who lived on the Grasberg Mountain, who bemoaned the fact that the territory inhabited by Amungme people was so richly endowed with natural resources of huge interest to the USA.]
       That man whose name was Tuarek Narkime delivered words that are widely known to and understood* by the leaders and people of the Amungme tribe in drawing attention to the many violations of the rights of these people which were perpetrated in the area when the Freeport mine was being  established, during the course of which many Amungme people lost their lives as a result of actions by Freeport personnel as well as by members of the Indonesian army and police, although none of these people have ever been called account before a court of law for what they have done.
     These introductory remarks provide the basis for everyone anywhere in the world and all democrats around the world to take a new look at the past as well at the present regarding the acts of violence that continue to occur in the vicinity of the Freeport mine without anyone ever being called to account for what they have done.

Ever since 1963 and 1967, the LP3BH has recorded the fact that the Republic of Indonesia has consistently used violence against the West Papuan people, something that even started to happen before those years.

    On 15 August 1962, when the New York  Agreement was signed by Indonesia and The Netherlands under the supervision of the United States of America, the Papuan people were not involved’ They were not even consulted for their opinion. Yet, at that time there was a New Guinea Council  which consisted of representatives of  the Papuan people, the members of which were chosen by means of democratically held elections which took place on 5 April 1961 in Hollandia (now called Jayapura).
      [All the names of the members of the Council who were elected, of whom 22 were Papuans, are listed  as well as those who were appointed which included one Papuan and five Dutch people, including one Indo-Dutch person.]
    Besides that, there were two major religious organisations, – the GKI [Evangelical Christian Church] and the Catholic Church] which were spread across  the whole of the Land of Papua. Yet, these churches were never consulted as part of civil society in the territory at the time. This was despite the fact that the UN was involved  in the creation of UNTEA as well as The Netherlands and the USA.
     What we mean by being consulted is all about the framework and  the possible problems that might arise among the indigenous Papuan people who were regarded as being too primitive  to take part in an election held according to the principle of ‘one person, one vote’. Were the towns and villages in West Papua too complex for the New Guinea Council or the two churches to choose their leaders? Such advice would have been very useful and important in deciding on on how to conduct the elections in accordance with the traditions  and customary laws that were vibrant among the Papuan people. who were supposed to have been consulted by means of the Act of Free Choice which was to have been held by 1969 in the Land of Papua.
     There was never any request for advice or opinion from the Papuan people. Still worse, what actually happened was that Papuans were arrested and even  cruelly tortured for allegedly being involved in an ‘underground movement’, with the intention of overthrowing the Indonesian Government. This is what happened to Baldus Mofu as a result of which he was mentally damaged at the hands of the military police and members of the Indonesian Air Force in Manokwari. Another Papua, Nicholas Tanggahma is believed to have died  after ingesting food that had been poisoned when he was staying at the Arfak Hotel in Manokwari in 1969.
     Several other members of the Council such as Marcus Kaisiepo and Nicholas Jouwe were arrested and taken to Europe prior to the Act of Free Choice. Others were treated in the same way, including E.J Bonay, F.K.T. Poana, A.S. Onim and Thontjee Meset.
     All these acts of violence were perpetrated by members of the Indonesian security forces, the TNI and Polri. and further intensified as the Act of Free Choice drew near in August 1969.
     The LP3BH is well aware of the fact that many activists in Biak, Sorong, Manokwari, Jayapura, Wamena, Nabire  as well as in Merauke were arbitrarily arrested by the TNI and Polri some of whom were summarily killed. An example of what happened occurred on 28 July 1969 in Manokwari when 53 Papuans were summarily executed at the headquarters of the Infantry Battalion in Arfak-Manokwari.
     Such human rights violations have systematically occurred ever since that time, following the enactment of Law 12/1999. This was clarified in the General Remarks contained in paragraph 1, section 6 which state: ‘The Act of Free Choice  in West Irian  was a manifestation of the aspirations of the Papuan people and resulted in the people of Papua and  West Papua  expressing their wish to be united with the people of other regions of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, affirming  that West Papua is part of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.’
      The afore-mentioned statement became the legal basis for the Indonesian Government to enforce paragraphs 109 and 110 in law.  This codification was part of the law under the Dutch Constitution [Wetboek van Strafrecht]  whenever the government takes firm action against the Papuan people when they challenge  ‘Papua’s political integration’.
     As a result of all this, every time  that people in Papua or West Papua seek to challenge ‘political integration’  using their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Law 39/1999
on Basic Human Rights as well as universal human rights, they are accused of the crime of treason under the Indonesian Constitution.
      Such incidences occurred in Biak on 6 July 1999 when a group of Papuans unfurled the Morning Star Flag under the leadership of Filep Karma which resulted in his being subjected to acts of brutality by the TNI and Polri and which moreover resulted in dozens, even hundreds, of Papuans falling as victims, some of whom even lost their lives. All this resulted in Filep Karma and his colleagues facing the charge of treason.
(End of part on and  two of the translation.)
Translated by Carmel Budiardjo, founder of Tapol

Bobii: Indonesian Armed Forces, the main Anti-Peace Agents in Papua

By Selpius Bobii  writing from Abepura State Prison, Jayapura


December 24, 2013

Every religion teaches values of goodness and kindness and has teachings that are intended to create happiness and peace on this earth and in eternity.  We hear so many people speak of the importance of peace, but the reality is that it’s not that simple to realise peace in our everyday lives. In the Papuan province of Indonesia it feels like peace is so far from becoming a reality for the indigenous people who live there.

Of late the Cenderawasih XVII Military Commander in West Papua has been coining the phrase “Peace is beautiful” and yet at the same time the Indonesian Armed Forces continue to be the number one culprit committing acts of violence and humanitarian atrocities against the indigenous people of Papua.  Behind the mask of these sweet words the Armed Forces are clearly acting very much against the creation of peace in Papua.

 Peace can be realised in a place when every person, every group, every faction, respects the rights of others; and this extends to nations and tribes. Where each is able to exercise their rights and at the same time fulfils their obligations towards others. It seems however in Papua that the realisation of peace is something that’s incredibly difficult to achieve, with the root cause of that being the lack of recognition of the very basic political rights of the people of Papua by all three Indonesia, the USA and the United Nations (UN).

(UN)involved in Papua's desire for Peace; very involved in its atrocities (Photo: Public domain)
(UN)involved in Papua’s desire for Peace; very involved in its atrocities (Photo: Public domain)

With the USA and UN’s active support throughout the entire process of annexation of Papua into Indonesia in the 1960’s, they indeed played a part in the actions of violence and atrocities against the indigenous people of Papua.  They achieved their goal of making Papua into ‘the kitchen of the world’, opening it to the many international companies that have been stripping Papua of its rich natural resources ever since. It was not to end at the annexation of Papua, as they have continued these last more than 50 years to support Indonesia’s hold on Papua which in turn keeps the door open for exploitation of the land.  There have been various forms of aid and in particular joint programs in security and defence, which of course are critical to Indonesia’s continued domination of Papua.

The Indonesian Armed Forces have by intention made Papua into a centre of conflict, but for what end?  In so doing they create a situation where the indigenous people can be paralysed, can be annihilated and the world just keeps quiet, with Indonesia saying they are dealing with the conflict. The result?  Papua remains permanently part of Indonesia and its natural resources can be exploited with ease by international parties.

Let’s not be fooled that the partnerships going on between Indonesia and other nations of the world in the areas of security and defence are aimed at peace building and protecting the people of the region as claimed. Nothing could be further from the truth! The reality is they have quite the opposite goal! The Indonesian Armed Forces are the main agents intentionally creating violence, bondage and theft of natural resources, discrimination, marginalisation, injustice, terror, intimidation and humanitarian atrocities against the indigenous peoples of the land of Papua. Their military and civilian operations both overt and covert are intended to slowly but surely annihilate ethnic Papuans.

The many forms of both visible and hidden violence and humanitarian atrocities undertaken by the state of Indonesia against indigenous Papuans are intended to stifle the political aspirations of Papuans for independence and at the same time annihilate the people. In the face of this continued violence against their people the indigenous peoples of Papua continue to express their opposition to the many human rights violations by peaceful and dignified means, primarily by means of peaceful demonstration. Yet even the narrowest space for a voice calling for democracy has been blocked by the Armed Forces in recent times, especially by the Provincial level of Indonesian Police.  The Provincial Police are known for their practice of taking advantage of occasions when there are peaceful demonstrations to create conflict and to terrorise, torture, kill, arrest and imprison Papuans who struggle peacefully for change.  Indonesia’s Armed Forces are constantly manipulating activities of the Struggle to create incidents of violence. Nevertheless Papuans continue to struggle peacefully in keeping with their decision at the 2000 2nd National Papuan Congress.

And so in the midst of all this, now it is Christmas. Where all parties in Papua hear of the message of ‘the coming of the King of Peace’.  A message that reminds humanity that Jesus Christ came to bring peace to this earth.  A message that starts to have real meaning only when entire communities of humans make space to allow for peace in their hearts.  To that end let’s all prepare our hearts with simplicity, faithfulness, honesty and love for one another. We are each one of us reminded by the message of Christmas.

It is dearly hoped that the message of Christmas will also touch hearts and bring awareness to those who are committing the many forms of violence against indigenous Papuans. That there might be a commitment to bring an end to all forms of oppression towards indigenous Papuans and to enter into dialogue between Jakarta and Papua with a neutral facilitator. To reach that end we need to be ready and willing to humble our hearts, to be faithful, honest and to act in love. Only in that way can we bring peace to the land of Papua.  We are all called to bring an end to the latent conflicts in Papua and to create peace, no matter who we are and wherever we may be.

Peace and joy at Christmas to all and throughout 2014!


  1. 1.       The Dutch previously tried to prepare Papua to become an independent nation whilst still under their control, with those preparations reaching a peak on 1 December 1961. However less than a month later on 19 December 1961 Indonesia by a political and military invasion marked by what’s known as Trikora (a three prong command which demanded the dismantlement of the “puppet” Papuan state created by the Dutch; the raising of the Indonesian Red and White flag over Papua; and preparation for a general mobilisation in Papua) succeeded in annexing Papua into the Indonesian Republic.

Selpius Bobii is the  General Chairperson of Front PEPERA & is a Papuan Freedom Political Detainee imprisoned in  Abepura State Prison, Jayapura, Papua, for another Christmas.


Papua, a Thorn in the Side of Indonesia

Opinion / Analysis

by Selpius Bobii in Abepura Prison

written 25 September 2013

“The Republic of Indonesia is quite capable of removing a thorn in the side of another nation but is not capable of removing the thorn in its own side” were the words of a certain Indonesian commenting on the State of Indonesia at this time.

For some time now Indonesia has been busily involving itself in finding solutions for problems of other nations, as if it had no domestic problems of its own.  Yet there are still many extremely serious problems within Indonesia that need the Indonesian Government’s urgent attention and Papua is one that’s most obvious.  For the last 50 years Papua has been a ‘thorn in the side’ of Indonesia . Indeed the Indonesian Government has tried to ‘fix’ the problem by applying a range of strategies and approaches, however all have been according to Indonesia’s agenda and so each has failed to remove the thorn. The reality is that as long as the thorn remains buried deep in Indonesia’s flesh that there will continue to be problems.

Indonesia has been using its charm in a number of both official and non-official forums held around the world, talking of its commitment to being involved in handling various issues of conflict currently being faced around the world. Problems such as that in Palestine, Egypt and the Moro Islamic tribal issue in the Philippines to name but a few. However the Indonesian Government is not ready to face up to addressing the situation in its own backyard when it is Indonesia that is under the spotlight by the international community.

Indonesia has continued until this time to accuse foreigners of meddling in the internal affairs of Indonesia, however Indonesia for some reason doesn’t seem to recognise that Indonesia itself has meanwhile continued to interfere in the affairs of another nations. The Indonesian Government has for instance had a hand in the affairs of Israel and Palestine with Indonesian having stepped forward to the front line to defend the acknowledgement of the world community regarding the independence of the Palestinians. Yet despite Indonesia giving attention to these various problems overseas it has not addressed the matter of that thorn in the side back home in Indonesia. Not only have the problems in Papua remain unaddressed, but in fact there has never even been any efforts made to find a solution to bring an end to the problems in Papua, such as through dignified unconditional dialogue between the nations of Indonesia and Papua.

Following the launch of the branch of the Free West Papun Campaign in Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK) for example, the Indonesian Government at both the legislative and executive level were infuriated. Even Indonesian civilians became involved with the upset and it was talked about at every level of society. The UK Government was criticised and even accused of meddling in the affairs of another nation. The Deputy Chairperson of the Indonesian Legislative Assembly (DPR) Priyo Budi Santoso  stated “ The Indonesian Government must officially convey its protest to the UK Foreign Affairs Minister with a copy to the Queen of England. There should be mutual respect.”(

Then there was the most recent issue with the Freedom Flotilla from Australia entering Indonesia waters. An incident that attracted harsh and high level criticism from a number of parties within Indonesia. The Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security was most concerned at the time of the Flotilla’s expected arrival and stated that the Indonesian Navy and Airforce were both on alert in anticipation of its arrival. Even the Indonesian President made a severe warning to other nations  at the time stating that other nations must not violate the sovereignty of Indonesia and in so doing create international friction ( Through its Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia diplomatically sought the Australian Government’s assistance to interrupt the Flotilla’s journey. However as a democratic nation Australia could not interfere as no law had been broken and they were obliged to allow the allow freedom of expression and opinion and accordingly the convoy to continue. The Australian Government however through its Foreign Minister Bob Carr made quite clear that they would give no assistance to, and were in no way responsible for the Australian citizens on the Flotilla, if they entered Indonesian or PNG rterritory and were arrested by Indonesian or PNG armed forces and legally charged ( Tony Ervianto even made accusations that there was some foreign interests behind the Freedom Flotilla. (

Internationally, Indonesia has always stressed that the problems in Papua are domestic business and not the business of foreign nations, however the circumstances are clearly proof that the Indonesian Government is not in fact capable of handling and bringing an end to that so called ‘domestic business’. In the Indonesian President’s state speech on 16 August 2011, he promised that the problems in Papua would be finalised through an approach of dignified dialogue. However until this time SBY’s promises have yet to be realised. Indeed fine words but words with no actions.

If Indonesia could bring a dignified end to the problems in Papua, then of course those in the international community who are concerned about Papua would not feel a need to interfere in the internal affairs of Indonesia. However as Indonesia is only capable of the talk and there is no realisation, whilst meanwhile human rights violations continue unceasingly, so that ‘thorn in the side’ of Indonesia will continue to  attract the international spotlight.

Until this time Indonesia has undertaken a range of strategies and means to stem the spread of support for Papuan independence aspirations, yet all their efforts have failed totally. One of those strategies was the implementation of Special Autonomy in Papua but that also failed to achieve Indonesia’s objective of repressing Papuans independence aspirations. Special Autonomy was not something born out of the desires of the Papuan community but rather something was based on Jakarta’s agenda with the hidden goal of repressing Papuan’s desire for independence.

Following the failure of Special Autonomy in Papua, Indonesia is now in the process of planning to pass certain Papuan Governance legislation. The fact that the draft of that legislation is but a copy of the Aceh Governance legislation has attracted concern from a number of circles. The Executive Director of the Organisation for Research, Investigation and the Development of Legal Assistance (LP3BH), Yan Christian Warinussy, commented that the draft was the work of a few people around President SBY acting recklessly and unconstitutionally in allowing the draft Papuan Governance legislation to slip through. That this draft legislation is but a copy and paste of Aceh’s legislation is indeed an embarrassment and poor reflection of the Presidency(

Indonesia has also tried the welfare (illusion) approach in its efforts to face up the movement of the Struggle of the Papuan nation. Then there has been the security approach, the legal and then the social-cultural approaches.  Not one of these approaches however will ever be successful in removing that ‘Papuan thorn’ in Indonesia’s flesh.  Indonesia must change its paradigm and undertake an approach based on wisdom to handle and bring an end to the Papuan problem.  As long as Indonesia has an attitude that the issue of Papua was finalised back in 1969 with the ‘Act of Free Choice’ and continues to defend its hold on Papua through a number of approaches that are but one of the same, so the problems of Papua will continue without cease, like a thorn that irritates Indonesia.

To avoid the Papuan issue attracting the constant spotlight of the international community, Indonesia should have taken real steps before now to deal with the problems in Papua, one of which should have been the mechanism of dignified dialogue between the nations of Indonesia and Papua.  As long as Indonesia continues NOT to take real steps to bring an end to the problems in Papua, the international community in turn will continue to keep the spotlight on Papua.

Or is Indonesia is actually waiting for the international community to intervene to sort out the Papuan problem? If Indonesia is not capable of sorting out the Papuan problem, then Indonesia should be honest about that before the international community including the UN. So that others can handle and bring an end to the problems. Indonesia has not only allowed the problems in Papua to continue too long already without any real steps or solutions to make’ Papua a land of peace’ but in fact  Indonesia has continuously taken actions intended to delay the time when the problems in Papua will be brought to an end.  Allowing the problems in Papua to continue will only lengthen the list of victims; And not only loss of human lives but also the loss of earthly things, time, and endless thoughts and feelings as a consequence of the oppression.

The international community including the USA, have again and again requested Indonesia to bring an end to the problems in Papua through means of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua. However until this time Indonesia has constantly  ignored pressure from the international community. Perhaps because Indonesia considers the matter of Papua was already finalised back in 1969. However this perception is so very wrong! If the problem of Papua had already been finalised why are there still constantly people in Papua losing their lives? Why is there relentless marginalisation and discrimination? And why are Papuans intentionally being increasingly made a minority on their ancestor’s land? All of which are amounting to an annihilation of the ethnic Papuan race.

These things have continued without ceasing from the origin of this political conflict commencing with the annexation of the nation of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia through a military and political invasion by Indonesia. It’s time that Indonesia left its longtime paradigm that closes the door on finding a solution and rather undertakes a democratic and dignified approach through dialogue and negotiations, to give rise to a dignified solution – as the first step towards bringing peace and prosperity to the land of Papua and its people.

 ‘Humans which value basic human rights are those who will protect and respect the rights of their fellow beings.’

Selpius Bobii is the General Chairperson of Front PEPERA West Papua & is a Papuan Freedom Political Detainee held in Abepura State Prison



22 May 2013
by Nafatli Edoway
A short while ago, Tapol, an NGO which is based in London, reported that up to March 2013, there where about forty Papuans in prison who have been found guilty of violating the law on treason – makar. [See Suara Papua: TAPOL Calls on the Indonesian government to  stop saying that there are no Political Prisoners in Papua]It is quite clear that Articles 106  and 214 of the Criminal Code are being used as a weapon by the Indonesian government  to clamp down on the nationalism of the Papuan people. In addition, military operations and intelligence operations.are still occurring.

The large number of political prisoners – tapol and napol [convicted political prisoners] – as well as the  many military operations which occur, and the impoverished condition of the Papuan people mean that there are many problems between the two sides.

Moreover, the most basic problem is not about welfare but about ideology. On the one hand, there are those who want an independent Papua, while on the other hand there are those who want to preserve the territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia  These two ideologies will continue to exist if the two sides stick firmly to their own beliefs and do nothing to resolve the differences between them.

There are altogether forty Papuans political prisoners who are in detention because of their  support for an independent Papua.  They have chosen this path for humanitarian reasons.  For the past fifty years,  Papuan humanitarianism has not been respected.  Instead, heavily armed members of the Indonesian security forces have been used against the Papuan people.

Their political rights were violated at the time of the Act of Free Choice in 1969 [See John Saltford: ‘The Role of the UN in the Act of Free Choice in Irian Barat, 1968-1969.]

It is highly regrettable that the Indonesian government continues to deny that there are any political prisoners.  According to the government all the prisoners in Papua are criminals.  So why has article on treason remained in force?

In fact, what the Indonesian government is doing in Papua is simply a repetition of what happened in the past.

Back in the days of the Indonesian struggle for independence, many people who opposed the Dutch government were arrested and exiled.  The Dutch government did everything possible to silence them because they were regarded as being treasonous separatists.  These are the names of men who were allegedly trying to undermine the Dutch colonial regime: Soedirman, Soekarno, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Mohammad Hatta, Sutan Syahrir and many others. Moreover, some of these leaders of Indonesia’s revolutionary struggle were shot dead by the Dutch.

In Papua,  there are a number of political  prisoners: Filip Karma, Selpius Bobii, Forkorus Yaboisembut, Dominikus Subarut, and others. They are referred to as separatists and have been put on trial and accused of violating the treason article. Their protests are regarded as being a violation of the sovereignty of Indonesia (NKRI).

The treason article is no longer in force  in The Netherlands which is where it was first enacted into law.  In former days, the article was only valid in the colonial system.  Subsequently, it was repealed because it was considered to be in violation of freedom of expression and opinion.

But the article has been kept in force and is being used by the Indonesian government for the Papuan people which means that the Papuan people are a colonised people.

So, what is to be done? I think that the Indonesian government should recognise the reality that there are political prisoners – tapol/napol – in Papua.

The second point is that the government should give an indication of its good intentions by repealing the article  because it is in contravention of the 1945 Constitution and the law on freedom of expression which is still in force in Indonesia and throughout the world. If it does not do so, it will automatically lead to more violations of human rights.

Finally, we can say that this treason article which has dragged down the Papuan people, in particular those who are now being treated as being tapol/napol, is  constantly being used by the government to safeguard the status quo, politically as well as economically in West Papua. And this is what is constantly being challenged by the Papuan people to the present day.

Translated by TAPOL

WPAT Comments on State Department’s Annual Country Report on Human Rights for 2012 – Indonesia/West Papua

May 17, 2013

Comments on the U.S. Department of State’s Annual Country Report on Human Rights for 2012 Concerning Indonesia/West Papua
By Ed McWilliams (West Papua Advocacy Team) with John M. Miller (ETAN)


The U.S. Department of State annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 includes a detailed review of Indonesia. As in past years, this portion of the Report devotes significant attention to developments in West Papua. The heavy focus on the region, which comprises only one percent of the Indonesian archipelago’s population, underscores the reality that human rights violations and impunity continue at very high levels in West Papua. (Please note we refer throughout to the western half of the island of New Guinea as West Papua. This is how people in the region commonly refer to the area that includes the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.)

Problems that afflict West Papua are also evident elsewhere in the archipelago, such as encroachment on indigenous lands, media intimidation, and violations of human rights by the military and police.

While this critique focuses on West Papua, we note that human rights violations continue throughout the archipelago. Problems that afflict West Papua are also evident elsewhere in the archipelago, such as encroachment on indigenous lands, media intimidation, and violations of human rights by the military and police. Issues of restrictions on freedom of assembly also affect religious minorities outside West Papua. (Ongoing attacks on freedom of religion are addressed in a separate Department of State report.)

Efforts to challenge impunity and to establish accountability for past human rights crimes continue to fail. An “ad hoc tribunal to investigate and prosecute the disappearance of human rights activists” in 1997-98 has yet to be established. Prosecutors have so far rejected Komnas HAM findings that the government’s anti-Communist purges of 1965 and 1966 “which included killing, extermination, enslavement, eviction or forced removal of the population, the deprivation of personal freedom, torture, rape, and enforced disappearance, constituted a crime against humanity.” The truth commission and human rights courts authorized by the 2006 law on Aceh have yet to be established. Accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Indonesian forces in Timor -Leste or West Papua do not appear on either the Indonesian agenda and are not mentioned in the State Department report’s Indonesia chapter.

Fundamental Rights

The report is generally comprehensive and accurate, with some exceptions. However, the report continues to ignore the gravest, most systematic abuse afflicting West Papuans: The failure of the central government to provide essential fundamental health, education and other services to the West Papuan people. This policy of deliberate neglect severely affects Papuans, especially those in rural areas, as reflected in all national and international development indices. Statistics, including those of the Indonesian government, consistently identify West Papua as suffering the worst health , education and development levels in the archipelago and more generally in all of Southeast Asia. It is Indonesia’s poorest region.

The Department of State’s failure to acknowledge this fundamental violation of Papuan economic, social and cultural rights renders this annual report incomplete.

The obligation of governments to provide essential services to their populations is clearly set out in international agreements and covenants to which the Government of Indonesia is signatory or otherwise obligated. These include the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Articles 25 and 26), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Papuans have been systematically marginalized in their own land by this policy of neglect and the “transmigration” policy through which the Indonesia government sponsors and subsidizes migration from elsewhere in the archipelago. The Department of State’s failure to acknowledge this fundamental violation of Papuan economic, social and cultural rights renders this annual report incomplete.

Women face special challenges, and the report says, “Women in many regions of the country, particularly in Papua, complained about differential treatment based on gender.”

The report also fails to acknowledge that for five decades, West Papua has not been afforded its right to self-determination. U.S. government was deeply involved in the international community’s acquiescence in Indonesia’s 1963 takeover of the territory and its 1969 annexation through the fraudulent “Act of Free Choice.” The U.S. itself is culpable in the denial of this fundamental right.

The Business of the Security Forces

“The [Indonesian official] claims that the Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations,” says one cable.

The report’s Executive Summary misleadingly contends that “security forces reported to civilian authority” during 2012. Indonesian security authorities, in particular the Indonesian military, in reality are not fully subordinate to civilian authority. The Indonesian military maintains streams of revenue that enable it to operate outside the government budgetary process. These include legal and illegal businesses directly controlled by the military and its extortion of civilian businesses. This rogue behavior persists despite Indonesian law which required the military to divest itself of its businesses by 2009. Military businesses interests are especially extensive in West Papua where often illegal logging operations and the extortion of domestic and foreign businesses, such as the mining giant Freeport McMoran have continued for years.

State Department reports made available through Wikileaks demonstrate its full awareness of the military’s role in illegal logging: “The [Indonesian official] claims that the Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations,” says one cable. Other cables report Freeport officials acknowledging that they “make payments directly to the commanding officers responsible for security at the mine.”


More importantly, the Indonesian military, particularly the Indonesia Special Forces (Kopassus) and the U.S.-funded and trained Detachment 88, continue to enjoy broad impunity for criminal behavior, notably violations of human rights. Military personnel are not subject to civil criminal prosecution or civilian courts for their abuse of civilians. Rather, in those cases which draw public attention, low- and mid-level military personnel may be subjected to military investigation and prosecution in military court. Invariably, the defendants are either absolve the accused or render light sentences.

This reality is particularly apparent in West Papua which suffers under a very large military presence and where human rights violations, as noted in the State Department Report, are extensive. As a consequence of this broad impunity for security force abuse of human rights and other criminality, the criminal justice system fails to inhibit continuing abuses. While the State Department report acknowledges civil society criticisms of “the short length of prison sentences imposed by military courts.” The U.S. government should speak out more forcefully for a change in jurisdiction.

Political Prisoners

The Executive Summary highlights the Indonesian government’s application of “treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression.” However, in the body of the report (in the section on Freedom of Speech and Press) the Report avoids direct criticism of the government, referring only to allegations by NGOs and others that “government application of treason laws in cases of peaceful calls for separatism in Papua limited the rights of individuals to engage in speech deemed to be proseparatist.”

The report, citing NGO reports, says that “between June and September, authorities arrested more than 60 people in Papua for flag-related offenses.” Most were briefly detained before their release. Several Papuans continue to serve long prison terms for raising the banned morning star flag. Political prisoners from the Malukus continued to serve long sentences for raising a banned flag.

U.S. security assistance must be curtailed, absent an end to such egregious human rights violations and credible prosecution and sentencing of the perpetrators of these crimes among Indonesia’s military, police, and “anti-terror” forces.


The report clear acknowledges that the “government continued to restrict foreign media, NGOs, and government personnel from traveling to the provinces of Papua and West Papua by requiring them to request permission to travel through the Foreign Ministry or an Indonesian embassy. The government approved some requests and denied others ostensibly for reasons regarding the safety of foreign visitors.” This should have been highlighted at the top in the Executive Summary. These restrictions clearly affect the ability of the U.S. government to verify and follow up on reports of human rights violations in the territory. The restrictions have been the subject of criticism by the U.S. Congress, to whom the report is directed.

Torture and Killing

The Executive Summary does highlight “killings by security forces, abuse of prisoners and detainees, harsh prison conditions,” problems that are especially common in West Papua. The body of the report, while including details of security force operations in rural areas of West Papua, does not acknowledge the extraordinary abuse associated with ongoing assaults on rural communities by security forces conducting “sweeping operations.” These operations are inherently abusive of human rights. Civilians are frequently forced to flee into surrounding mountains and forests where many become ill and die due to a lack of access to food and medical care.

The report commendably details specific examples of harsh prison conditions and extrajudicial killings such as that of Mako Tabuni. The report usefully includes the June military assault on a neighborhood in Wamena during which 767th battalion soldiers burned 87 Papuan homes. “[A]uthorities had not arrested or disciplined any members” by the end of the year, the report says.

Under the heading of “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” the report notes that the Indonesian government failed to assure full accountability of security officials for torture, which remains “commonplace in police detention.” The NGO Commission on the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has reported that 98 of 243 victims of torture between July 2011 and June 2012 were in West Papua.

The State Department also reports that Indonesian authorities required “jailed Papuan independence activist Filep Karma to raise the money” for his own medical care. And that during 2012 other such activists such as Forkorus Yaboisembut receive prison terms for peaceful protest.

Indigenous Rights and Land

In one of its strongest critiques, the report speaks plainly about the systematic denial
of rights to Papuans:

During the year indigenous persons, most notably in Papua, remained subject to widespread discrimination, and there was little improvement in respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and logistical problems to indigenous communities.

“During the year indigenous persons, most notably in Papua, remained subject to widespread discrimination, and there was little improvement in respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and logistical problems to indigenous communities. The government failed to prevent companies, often in collusion with the local military and police, from encroaching on indigenous peoples land. In Papua and West Papua, tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other provinces, leading to several killings of migrants in the restive provinces.”

The Report similarly offered a detailed critique of government policies targeting the land rights of indigenous people. We note that Papuans are among the principal victims in this regard:

As the government did not recognize indigenous people, it also did not recognize indigenous lands. The government did recognize some communal ownership rights. However, access to ancestral lands continued to be a major source of conflict throughout the country. Large corporations and government regulations displaced people from their ancestral lands. Some land-rights NGOs asserted that ineffective demarcation of land led to denying individuals access to their own land. Central and local government officials reportedly extracted kickbacks from mining and palm oil companies in exchange for land access at the expense of the local populace. Land-rights advocates reported receiving threats from government and private parties after publicizing these issues. The government program of transferring migrants from the crowded islands of Java and Madura diminished greatly in recent years. However, communal conflicts often occurred along ethnic lines in areas with sizeable transmigrant populations.

see also


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2012 Recipient of the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor)

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
Phone: +1-718-596-7668   Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
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