etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer


West Papua Report

September 2008

This is the 52nd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at


  • 40 Members of U.S. Congress Force Look at Justice in West Papua in the Cases of AI Prisoners of Conscience Filip Kamra and Yusuf Pakage

  • New Report Reveals Evidence of TNI Role in 2002 Murders of U.S. and Indonesian Civilians and U.S. Government Cover-up

  • Indicted War Criminal Removed From Post in West Papua ... and Promoted

  • Police Killing of Peaceful Papuan Protester Draws International Protest and Calls for Investigation

  • Human Rights Victims' Families in West Papua Meet to Discuss the Absence of Justice

  • Papuan Tribal Chief to Sue Freeport over Environmental Pollution

  • U.S. Court Action Regarding Exxon-Mobil Collusion with TNI Could Expose Freeport to Court Action in U.S.

  • UK Environmental Justice Group Urges UK Government to Press for Ecological Justice and Human Rights Protection in West Papua

  • Local Papuan Community Points to Central Government's Violation of "Special Autonomy" in Awarding Mining Contracts

  • 40 Members of U.S. Congress Force Look at Justice in West Papua
    On July 29, 40 members of the U.S. Congress, in support of an initiative by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), signed a letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono which called attention to injustice in West Papua. Specifically, members of the U.S. Congress asked President Yudhoyono to free imprisoned Papuan rights advocates Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage.

    The letter prompted intense criticism from various Indonesian politicians, many of whom mis-portrayed the letter as an assault on Indonesian sovereignty and territorial integrity. None addressed the persistent security force abuse of prisoners documented by the United Nations or the serial impunity accorded security forces involved in human rights abuse, also documented in UN reporting and by the U.S. State Department in its annual human rights report.

    Ultimately, the Indonesian Government chose largely to dismiss the letter, assigning responsibility for a response to the Indonesian Embassy in Washington.

    Dino Jalal, spokesperson for the President told the media that the members of Congress who signed the letter did not understand Indonesian issues and that "we’ve had our fill of such incidents." Jalal in 1999 served as spokesperson for the infamous military-sponsored Timorese militias that wrecked havoc in East Timor after the Timorese people voted for independence from Indonesia.

    Amnesty International USA, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), and the West Papua Advocacy Team issued a joint statement on August 19, responding to the criticism. They wrote:

    The letter is about universally recognized human rights and therefore it is appropriate and even required that those rights be addressed by members of the global community, such as the United States Congress, without dismissing these legitimate concerns as merely political."

    Given efforts to misrepresent the letter, the West Papua Report here presents the full text of the letter:

    Dear President Yudhoyono:
    We the undersigned members of the U.S. Congress respectfully call to your attention the cases of Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage who, in May 2005, were convicted and sentenced for their involvement in the legitimate and peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression in Abepura, Papua on December 1, 2004. Amnesty International has declared the two 'prisoners of conscience.'
    We also call your attention to reports by reputable sources that Mr. Karma was beaten by the police following his arrest. There are also reliable reports that police at the scene of the demonstration beat a human rights defender who sought to photograph the violent police action against peaceful demonstrators.
    The unjust imprisonment of Mr. Karma and Mr. Pakage occurs in the context of a crackdown on Papuan human rights defenders, which has included general public threats by senior military officials and intimidation directed at individuals by anonymous figures. This campaign of threats and intimidation has targeted Papuans who met with and gave testimony about human rights abuse to a senior UN human rights representative when she visited Papua at your government's invitation in June 2007.
    We urge you to take action to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Karma and Mr. Pakage. Any security officials who mistreated Mr. Karma or who may have employed inappropriate force against peaceful demonstrators should be prosecuted. Such steps would be an important indicator that Indonesia, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, takes its international obligations to fully respect universally recognized human rights.
    In accordance with all applicable rules and regulations, we thank you for your attention to this matter.

    New Evidence of Indonesian Military Involvement in Murder of Americans; Bush Administration Helped Cover-up
    A new report accuses the Indonesian military (TNI) of being behind the murder of two United States school teachers and an Indonesian colleague and the wounding of eight others near Timika in West Papua in August of 2002. It also presents evidence that the Bush Administration ignored evidence of the TNI's involvement.

    The report, which appeared in the peer-reviewed South East Asia Research Journal, said military agents had helped organize an ambush that killed three staff of U.S. giant Freeport McMoRan near its massive Grasberg gold and copper mine.

    On the basis of findings presented in the article, reform elements within Indonesia's security forces are calling for the leadership to prosecute soldiers involved in the 2002 murder. "At this time it is unclear if a new Indonesian investigation will commence," said Dr. Eben Kirksey, an anthropologist and co-author of the article. Dr. Kirksey is also a member of the West Papua Advocacy Team.

    Indonesian courts, in a badly flawed court process, sentenced seven Papuan villagers of the murders. Among those convicted was the alleged ring leader, Antonius Wamang, a guerilla fighter in Papua's independence movement who also had ties to the TNI. Dr. Kirksey has dismissed the credibility of the courts. He observed that "three of the (jailed) men weren't even at the scene but had confessions extracted after the FBI detained them and handed them over to Indonesian authorities."

    Human rights advocates and others who have researched the incident on the ground have long argued that the FBI failed to pursue evidentiary lines that pointed to Indonesian military (TNI) involvement which would have complicated plans by the U.S. Administration to resume military to military engagement with the TNI.

    Anthropologist Kirksey, noted that while it had been widely reported that the Indonesian military was involved, the new report for the first time identifies the probable field agent who actually set up the operation."

    Over the years following the murders, analysts presented several possible motives that would explain why agents would target U.S. civilians. Chief among those was that the TNI was seeking to extort more money from Freeport McMoRan which pays the TNI for security. The murders were carried out shortly after Freeport McMoran had begun significant reductions in the amount of money it paid to the TNI.

    The report accuses the U.S. Government of participating in a cover up, specifically naming senior U.S. officials including the U.S. Secretary of State and the Attorney-General. Dr. Kirksey noted that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate hearing there was no evidence of Indonesian military involvement, even though the FBI possessed such information at the time.

    The article, titled "Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the Indonesian Military in Timika", draws on over 2,000 pages of Indonesian-language courtroom documents, recently declassified U.S. State Department cables, and over 50 interviews. The full article is available through university libraries and can be purchased on-line:

    see also New Study Links Indonesian Politician to 2002 Murder of U.S. Schoolteachers
    Indicted War Criminal Out of West Papua, But Promoted Instead of Prosecuted
    Following mounting international calls for his removal, Colonel Burahanuddin Siagian, indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999, has finally been removed from his post as regional military commander in West Papua. His new position will place him as third ranking military figure in East Java. In the reality of Indonesian military promotion politics Siagian has moved up. For senior TNI officers, a record of extraordinary abuse of human rights has never been a barrier to advancement. In 2003, Timbul Silaen was appointed chief of police in Papua despite being indicted on charges arising from his occupation of the same position in East Timor in 1999. Major-General Adam Damiri, former military commander of the East Timor region, was subsequently promoted to a senior command position in Aceh.
    The West Papua Advocacy Team renews its call for prosecution of Siagian and his active duty and retired TNI officers who continue to evade justice for their records of abuse and criminality. ETAN called the removal of Siagian from Papua "a welcome move," but has also urged that Indonesia "take the next steps and suspend him from any command and then hand him over for trial for the crimes he committed in East Timor."

    Siagian's record is notorious:
    On February 3, 2003, U.N.-backed Special Panel for Serious Crimes of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, indicted Siagian ('the Cailaco indictment') and on July 10, 2003 ('the Maliana indictment'). He was charged with crimes against humanity: torture, murder, persecution, and deportation or forcible transfer of a civilian population. The creation of the Bobonaro militia system that became one of the most repressive in the whole of East Timor was also attributed to him.
    Siagian in May 2007 publicly threatened to "destroy" anyone who "betrays" Indonesia in response to the Papuan activists who demanded a review of their history. The statement is reminiscent of Col. Siagian's statement in Maliana as military commander of the Bobonaro district of East Timor. As commander of the Bobonaro District Military Command (Kodim 1636), Maliana in pre-independence East Timor, Col. Siagian was quoted threatening to kill East Timorese independence supporters, which appeared to have directly led to a number of deaths among Timorese civilians. 
    Amnesty International Calls for Investigation of Police Shooting of Peaceful Papuan Protester 

    An August 18 Amnesty International (AI) statement called on the Indonesian Government to investigate the police shooting of Opinus Tabuni, a participant in a peaceful Papuan demonstration celebrating World Indigenous Day, August 9. Police used live ammunition to fire what police claimed were "warning shots" after some members of the crowd raised the banned “Morning Star” flag, regarded by Indonesian authorities as a symbol of the Papuan separatist movement. The crowd members also raised the UN and Indonesian flags, and one bearing the letters "S.O.S." the international symbol for distress. Tabuni was not among those crowd members who raised the flags. 

    Indonesian security authorities initially sought to deflect blame from themselves, speculating that Tabuni might have died as a result of a stab wound, noting that some in the crowd carried traditional weapons. The AI statement made clear however that after police fired the shots into the crowd, "Opinus Tabuni was discovered dead by members of the crowd with a bullet wound clearly visible to his chest. The AI statement continued:

    "Indonesian authorities must ensure a prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigation to determine how it is that a peaceful protester was shot to death. The investigators should publicize the results of forensic tests, including an autopsy if it is performed,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “This incident highlights the heavy hand with which Indonesian authorities use in dealing with the people of Papua.”

    AI placed the incident in the context of a "deteriorating human rights situation (in West Papua) over the past few years noting that: 

    "The indigenous population, ethnically distinct from other parts of Indonesia, has increasingly questioned the Indonesian government’s policies regarding Papua’s natural resources and the migration of non-Papuans into the area. The Indonesian government maintains a heavy police and military presence, whose members are accused of repeatedly intimidating and threatening members of the local indigenous community who support greater autonomy or independence from Indonesia through peaceful means. Attacks are increasingly targeted against human rights activists and church leaders. Amnesty International recognises the numerous Papuans convicted or awaiting trial for displaying the banned “Morning Star” flag in a peaceful manner as Prisoners of Conscience."

    No Progress in Human Rights in West Papua

    Tapol has forwarded the following report:
    A two-day workshop in Jayapura at the end of August which was attended by victims of abuses and relatives of victims said in a statement that there had been no significant improvement in the human rights situation, which remained unchanged despite enactment of Law 39/1999 on Human Rights, Law 26/2000 in Human Rights Courts, Law 13/2006 on Protection for Witnesses and Victims, and Law 21/2001 on special Autonomy for the Province of Papua.
    The workshop was attended by among others Yonas Masoka, the father of Aritoteles, the chauffeur of Theys Eluay - murdered in November 2001 - who disappeared after he was seen entering the local unit of Kopassus, apparently to inform them of what had happened to Theys, Penias Lokbere, a victim of the Abepura 2000 incident, and Gayus Yomaki, the father of Herman Yomaki, who disappeared in Bonggo in 2000.
    All these cases had not been followed up by legal proceedings, nor have such cases as the Mapunduma 1998 case, the Bloody Biak incident in 1998, the 2001 Wasior case and the 2003 Wamena case.
    The workshop came to the conclusion that the central government was not interested or was not capable of resolving these cases, nor had it ratified the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. It called on the government to set up an inquiry by KPP-HAM into these disappearances. It also said the local government, DPRP, should draw up local regulations - perdasus and perdasi - to restore people's rights in relation to gross human rights perpetrated in West Papua.

    Papuan Tribal Chief Challenges U.S. Mining Giant over Its Pollution
    An August 11 AFP report notes that a tribal chief in West Papua has begun a David and Goliath campaign to win compensation from U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoran for its decades of environmental damage to his homeland.
    Fabianus, chief of the Kapiraya tribe, said tailings from Freeport's huge gold and copper mine in West Papua were causing more widespread ecological damage than was known. The tribal chief said several rivers in his tribe's Kaimana district had been polluted, killing wildlife and poisoning water sources for local people. Mine waste was also fouling parts of the Etna Gulf coastline. "The local village communities were now facing water shortages as their rivers were contaminated by the chemical pollutants from the company," he told local Indonesian media. Fabianus said he had hired lawyers to file a law suit against PT Freeport Indonesia over the alleged environmental damage.
    Ed McWilliams of the West Papua Advocacy Team who has visited the mine site on several occasions noted that in addition to chemical pollutants, acid mine drainage has seeped into the ground contaminating local water sources. The drainage is created when massive fissures, created by mining and road construction servicing the mine exposes mineral laden rocks to monsoonal rains. He added that miles of massive tailings flow had smothered trees along the Ajkwa river system which acts as a giant sluice. Among the trees destroyed is the sago, a key food source for local Papuans. As the tailing flow has now reached the Arafura Sea, tailings have been extended east and west by tidal action smothering mangroves which line the coast, he noted.
    Environmentalists say the Papua mine pollutes the World Heritage-listed Lorenz National Park and dumps copper-rich ore around the edge of its operations.
    Critics accuse Freeport of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for the mine. They also allege that the military's protection of the site leads to human rights abuses, a conclusion supported by findings of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (KPP-HAM).
    Freeport operates concessions totaling 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) stretching from the coast to the central mountain range at Timika, with its copper reserves estimated at 2.6 billion tonnes.
    Precedent for Legal Action against Freeport McMoran over Human Rights Abuse by Hired TNI Personnel?

    In a development which could have negative implications for the giant Freeport McMoran copper and gold mining operation in West Papua, a U.S. Federal court ruling in late August ordered that a trial could proceed against U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, which stands accused of supporting the Indonesian military's alleged killings and torture in Aceh. The decision would appear to expose multinationals regularly paying the Indonesian Military for protection to similar legal challenges. Specifically, the decision may open the way for suites by victims in West Papua to seek justice for violence inflicted by the military on behalf of Freeport McMoran over many years. Freeport McMoran, in its latest annual report, acknowledged that it had paid nine million dollars in 'support costs' to the Indonesian military and police in 2007 to protect its operations.

    UK NGO Calls on British MP's To Defend Climate Justice and Human Rights in West Papua 

    In its August newsletter, "Down To Earth," an NGO pressing for ecological justice in Indonesia, reports that in June, it met with UK parliamentarians and called on the British government to take action on a range of issues related to human rights and development. The meeting focused in part on developments in West Papua. Its recommendations to the UK Government regarding West Papua included the following: 

    The UK government is urged to help improve the situation for Papuans by encouraging the Indonesian government to:

    • Account for its failure to implement special autonomy in Papua.

    • Look carefully at the role of the military (TNI) in Papua, in particular at the use of the TNI to repress the indigenous population; to investigate Human Rights abuses by the TNI and other elements of the security forces; and to fulfill its obligations as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to fully respect and protect the rights of the Papuan people.

    • Allow the Papuan people to voice their concerns and aspirations by exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly without hindrance or intimidation; and release unconditionally all Papuans imprisoned for peacefully exercising those fundamental rights.

    • Allow free and unfettered access to Papua by foreign journalists and international human rights organisations.

    • Ensure that Human Rights Defenders in Papua can carry out their work without fear of intimidation and violence with the more systematic implementation of the EU Guidelines for the protection of Human Rights Defenders in the field and the recommendations of the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.

    Impunity: as a contribution to efforts to end impunity, UK parliamentarians are requested to:

    • Encourage the FCO to make impunity a priority issue in its relations with Indonesia and press Indonesia to implement in full the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Committee Against Torture.

    • Press for an end to the culture of impunity in West Papua and for the resolution of those cases which the National Commission on Human Rights has found to be gross violations of human rights.

    The recommendations were all supported by: CAFOD, TAPOL, PBI, DTE, FWPC and Progressio. The full briefing is available here.

    The Central Government Pushes Mining Expansion, Ignoring Local Preference for Fisheries Development and Tourism
    The Jakarta Post, August 18, reported on a dispute between a Papuan community and the Jakarta Government which is emblematic of the government's failure to observe the law or spirit of "special autonomy."

    A traditional tribal community in Waigeo, Raja Ampat regency, in West Papua, is challenging the government's authorization permitting nine mining companies to operate in the region. Community representatives explained to the media that the central government had neglected their rights as traditional people as stipulated under the law on regional autonomy by failing to notify or consult with them regarding the issued mining licenses.

    A spokesperson, Christine Ayello of Maya Kawei's women's group, explained that the community was able to benefit from the riches of the land without resorting to industrial mining. "Just from fishing, we can earn Rp 60,000 to Rp 100,000 a day. Our sea is very rich in fish," the spokesperson explained. The community feels that as they live in harmony with their land, neither depleting its natural resources nor damaging the environment, that mining companies should have no right to operate in the area.

    Local traditional community leader Korinus Ayello called on the administration to involve the traditional community in issuing mining licenses, noting that the body was obliged by law to take into account the rights of traditional people. He said it would be more prudent for the government to develop Raja Ampat regency as a marine industry rather than as a mining site, citing that a fishing industry would benefit from the region's abundance of fish and would not damage the local tourism industry.

    Albert Nebora, chair of Conservation International Indonesia for Sorong region, supported the local community perspective, noting that a marine-based development concept could preserve the environment and create more jobs in environmentally-friendly industries.

    Back issues of West Papua Report

    Support ETAN's Work for Justice!

    "I’ve long admired ETAN’s work. For well over a decade, ETAN has conducted some of the most effective grassroots campaigns I know. With limited resources, they helped free a nation and fundamentally changed policy toward one of the U.S.’s closest and most repressive allies, Indonesia." —Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!

    Make a monthly pledge via credit card

     click here






    make a pledge via credit card here

    Bookmark and Share

    Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

    ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |