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West Papua Report

October 2008

This is the 53rd 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


WPAT and ETAN Submit Statement on the operations of the Freeport McMoran Mine in West Papua at Senate Hearing

On September 24, the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) submitted a statement dealing with the Freeport McMoran Mine to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Human Rights and law. The hearing focused on “Extracting Natural Resources: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law.” The summary of that statement follows:

There are few more tragic examples of the negative impact of U.S. corporations on local peoples than the four decade operation of the Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine in West Papua which has entailed continuing violation of human rights and environmental destruction: Freeport makes direct payments to the military for “protection” while the military’s uses provocation and may engineer incidents to justify its continued presence. When local people protest the major social and environmental impact the mine has had they are repressed with force. This deadly cycle must end. U.S. policymakers can help by demanding transparency concerning U.S. corporate activities, and suspending military assistance until real reform occurs.

To read the full statement and to see additional documents submitted to the Subcommittee go to

Amnesty International Protests Torture of Imprisoned Papuan Political Dissident

On September 25, Amnesty International issued a public statement calling on the Indonesian Government to investigate the beating of imprisoned Papuan political dissident Ferdinand Pakage. Pakage was sentenced to 15 years in prison after what AI and others have described as an unfair trial for his alleged involvement in the violence in Abepura on 15 and 16 of March 2006. AI notes that Pakage and others were subject to torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation in order to force them to confess before the court that they were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused.

A portion of that statement (AI Index No: ASA 22/019/2008 25 September) 2008 follows:

The Indonesian authorities must take immediate action to investigate the torture of Papuan prisoner Ferdinand Pakage, who is detained at Abepura Prison, Papua.

Prison officers beat Ferdinand Pakage on 22 September causing serious injuries to his hands and legs. According to media reports, his left eye was also bleeding profusely when he was removed from solitary confinement and taken to the hospital for medical attention. The beatings were witnessed by other prisoners.

The organization calls for those responsible for the torture to be held accountable for their actions.

This incident clearly illustrates the failure to reform the Criminal Code, which does not provide sufficient legal deterrent to prevent state agents from committing acts of torture, which has directly contributed to the widespread use of torture during arrest, interrogation and detention.

(Note: Following the AI statement, Pakage was released to family members pending his recovery from the beating.)

Imprisonment in West Papua - A Death Sentence?

The peaceful raising of the Morning Star flag in Mimika District on September 23 has led to severe charges against two Papuans (see last item below for details). The charges posed the prospect of life imprisonment for purportedly "plotting against the Indonesian state." The men were among 18 people arrested early Tuesday. The other 16 detainees are in custody pending further investigation. The vastly disproportionate charges for a peaceful political act is increasingly commonplace in Indonesian-administered West Papua. Anyone convicted of displaying what Indonesian authorities consider to be "separatist symbols" may face a life in prison.

The reality of the dangers entailed in such disproportionate sentencing for peaceful political protest are stark enough. Detainees in Indonesian custody suffer threats of torture and even death. This brutal reality, revealed in the report above regarding Ferdinand Pakage, is systemic. Earlier this year, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, reported torture was common in certain jails and used to obtain confessions, punish suspects, and seek information that incriminated others in criminal activity. Torture, he added, typically occurred soon after detention and that detainees were beaten with fists, sticks, cables, iron bars, and hammers. Some detainees reportedly were shot in the legs at close range, subjected to electric shock, burned, or had heavy implements placed on their feet.

For its part Amnesty International in its Indonesia: Briefing to the UN Committee Against Torture ( ) described the violent world of Indonesian detention as follows: Suspects have been forced to sign confessions under threat of violence; or otherwise subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. All of these acts are in violation of the existing legal provisions and yet they occur, often without any adequate response from the authorities.

This failure in both law and practice has encouraged a culture of violence leading to torture and other ill-treatment of detainees Amnesty International has received many reports of individuals who have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated, sometimes resulting in death.

Human Rights Groups Refute U.S. State Department Report to Congress Regarding Human Rights Conditions in Indonesia, TNI Reform Progress and Rights Repression in West Papua

In the FY2008 "State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Act”, Congress required the State Department to report on progress made by the government of Indonesia in several areas of concern, including general human rights accountability and responses to East Timor's truth commission. The State Department report also addressed issues of military business and corruption, as well as the murder of human rights activist Munir.

WPAT, ETAN and Human Rights First responded to the report, concluding in part that while the State Department acknowledged no “sustained” progress in critical areas of accountability in the armed forces, the State Department report nonetheless included overly positive assessments based on examples that were outdated, incomplete, or not germane to the question. [The full report and response can be found at]

With regard specifically to developments in West Papua, the NGO response noted:

The report’s claim that "the Government of Indonesia is implementing plans to effectively allow public access to Papua and West Papua provinces," is suspect as there have been few specific procedural changes in recent years.

In November 2007, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, visited West Papua accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia. Rep. Faleomavaega subsequently sent a public letter to President Yudhoyono in which he described persistent interference with his visit by Indonesian security forces who attempted to prevent meetings with senior Papuan officials and civic leaders, as well as ordinary Papuans, and who arbitrarily truncated his visit. (

In June 2007, Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, visited West Papua. Following her departure, Papuans with whom she had met faced threats and intimidation. Ms. Jilani expressed concern about this retaliation in her report and in separate messages to the Indonesian government during her visit. Her report also cited restrictions on travel to and movement within West Papua, including restrictions on the National Human Rights Commission investigations of human rights violations there. ( )

Notwithstanding State Department claims, restrictions on travel to and movement within West Papua also extend to Papuans. In recent years, Indonesian security forces, including Kopassus special forces, have conducted military operations, notably in the central highlands, which regularly displace Papuan civilians. Indonesian security forces, as a matter of course, impede and at times prevent attempts by Papuan churches and humanitarian organizations to bring critical supplies to these displaced villagers, who face life threatening denial of food, medical care and shelter in the forests.

In 2005, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) wrote a letter to the President of Indonesia, signed by 33 colleagues, calling for lifting of restrictions on international access to West Papua. "The travel permit (surat jalan) system, requiring travelers to report their own movements to local intelligence agencies, is contrary to the freedom of movement that is essential to a functional democracy. In all areas of West Papua outside of major urban centers, foreigners are required to carry surat jalan travel permits...We call on you to abolish the travel permit system,” they wrote. The surat jalan travel permit system remains firmly in place.

The congressional letter also urged abolition of visa policies “that restrict access of international journalists, researchers, and NGO workers to West Papua.” These visa restrictions have not been abolished. It is currently possible for members of the international community to visit West Papua on a 30-day tourist visa. However, human rights workers, journalists, and researchers have been imprisoned and deported while visiting West Papua with these visas. Applications for longer visas are rarely approved and routinely subject to long­and sometimes limitless­"procedural delays".

The State Department report states: "We are aware of no cases where foreign diplomats, NGO officials or journalists were permanently denied permission to visit Papua or West Papua." Yet, in at least one specific case, which has been brought to the attention of U.S. Embassy personnel in Jakarta, volunteers with a major international human rights organization were denied visas to enter West Papua in early 2008.

Asian Human Rights Commission issues "Urgent Appeal" About Neglect of Health Services in West Papua

On September 26, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued an "urgent appeal" calling attention to the failure of the Indonesian government to address the effects of a cholera outbreak in West Papua, which has already taken hundreds of lives. The AHRC contends that the government's failure to act in the case violates issues of the basic right to health care and discrimination (against Papuans).

The outbreak in the West Papuan district of Dogiyai, according to the AHRC, has spread to adjoining districts. Local appeals for help have gone unmet despite 239 outbreak-related deaths thus far. The first cases of diarrhea in the Dogiyai District in Papua, Indonesia, were registered in April 2008. It has been confirmed that the cholera bacterium was the cause. Official casualty figures have been challenged by church and other local officials, suggesting that government officials have sought to play down the extent of the epidemic. Despite initial claims by the Ministry of Health that the outbreak was under control, suspected cholera cases erupted subsequently in the Lake Tigi and Painai areas in mid-August. Cases of diarrhea and deaths in Paniai continue.

The AHRC reports that the government has not taken appropriate action despite repeated requests asking for intervention from health authorities. Jakarta's neglect of provision of basic health services in West Papua is a recurring tragedy for Papuans. In 2006, as the AHRC notes, more than 200 people died in the West Papua District of Jayawijaya.

The AHRC in its alert explains that the health infrastructure in West Papua is "very poor" despite the fact that West Papua is Indonesia's most resource-rich region, with the area's timber and minerals providing enormous revenues for the government's treasury.

The revenue created by non-Papuan mining companies and the migration flows of Muslim traders from other regions of the country have not resulted in a visible upsurge in the living conditions of the predominantly Christian communities. Native Papuans blame past transmigration policies imposed by the government, as well as the exploitation of the natural resources, for undermining their livelihood, traditional culture, and way of life.

Under Indonesia's domestic law 23/1992, the government is required to provide sufficient health facilities throughout the nation and take action to combat both infectious and non-infectious diseases in order to decrease mortality rates. Given that the Indonesian Government has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and has also incorporated it into domestic law with the implementation of Law number 11/2005, the government must recognize the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and must maximize available resources to achieve full realization of this right.

Frustration among members of the indigenous community about the lack of government response has sparked riots in Moanemani. A history of harassment, torture and other forms of human rights violations directed against the indigenous population in Papua means that communities have a high level of distrust towards authorities of the central government. Some have even expressed suspicion that the delay in providing aid is a deliberate failure on the part of the government, intending to harm the indigenous people.

(Information regarding the Commission's appeal can be found at To send an appeal letter go to

Mystery Attacks Strike Freeport Property in September

Attacks targeting Freeport facilities in the Timika area in September have prompted various theories about the attack's authors: Were the series of small explosions the work of the small armed Papuan opposition which coincidentally or not this month renewed calls for Freeport's closure? Were they the work of corrupt local businessmen in league with illegal miners of Freeport waste? Were they carried out at the instruction of Indonesian military forces which have in the past used such attacks as a means of extorting funds from Freeport?

Regardless of who is responsible, these attacks and the prospect of retaliatory strikes by Indonesian security forces which harm Papuan civilians are part of Freeport's dark legacy. That legacy entails historic and continuing violation of human rights and environmental destruction. For Papuans and particularly the local Amungme and Kamoro, the 41 year operation of the Freeport mine has entailed torture and murder at the hands of Freeport's hired thugs, the Indonesian military and police, and utter destruction of the Ajkwa river system, poisoning of local water sources due to acid mine drainage and the marginalization of the local population as a consequence of a massive infusion of non-Papuans organized by the Indonesian government and Freeport to operate the mine. Prostitution and other criminal enterprises that have accompanied this invasion has debased Papuan society and culture. (See "Development Aggression,"

Papuans have responded to this systematic assault on their culture, lifestyle and livelihood with peaceful demonstrations in the region. Fellow Papuans have staged sympathetic demonstrations in Jayapura and even Jakarta. Indonesian security forces have responded to these peaceful protests with harsh repression. The Indonesian "justice system," rather than defending the right to peaceful assembly and protest, has partnered with the security forces, meting out harsh sentences to those who dared to raise their voices to demand their rights, including the right to self-determination.

Over the years of occupation, Indonesian security forces repeatedly have conducted "sweeps' purportedly aimed at eliminating just such armed resistance to Indonesian occupation. These "sweeps" have been devastating to rural Papuans, entailing burned houses and churches, destruction of gardens and displacement of civilians to the surrounding mountains and jungles where many perished due to inadequate food, shelter and access to medical care. These sweep operations were vastly disproportionate to the "threat" posed by the small armed Papuan groups. Indonesian military blocking of humanitarian missions to the besieged displaced populations gravely exacerbated the human costs of these sweeps.

International calls for peaceful assertion of human rights and avoidance of violence are important and must be made in the context of the Papuan experience: The Indonesian response to Papuan dissent, whether peaceful or not, continues to be brutal. But Papuans must understand that their greatest strength is in the undeniable justice and righteousness of their cause.

Indonesian Government Confusion over "Threat" Posed by Papuan Flag-Raising

As noted above, on September 23 Indonesian police authorities named Papuans Paulus Kiwing and Matius Magai of Kwamki Baru as the latest official "suspects" for their role in the peaceful act of raising the "Morning Star" flag. The flag is a powerful cultural and political symbol for Papuans. Both men have been formally charged with involvement in a flag raising ceremony, which authorities claim is a "violation of the emergency law and show of rebellion against the government." Kiwing allegedly dug the hole for the flag pole, while Magai purportedly offered a prayer as the flag was hoisted. If convicted the two could face life in prison.

Recently, visiting Indonesian parliamentarians told a few of their U.S. Congress counterparts that such flag raisings constituted a manifestation of Papuan "separatism." A similar charge was made in an Aide Memoire from the Indonesian Embassy in Washington to 40 US Congress members who earlier protested mistreatment of Papuan prisoners of conscience involved in similar peaceful flag raising protests (see West Papua Report no. 52 August).

Not so says the Indonesian Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono. Speaking to media during a visit to Australia, the Minister said that raising of the Morning Star flag should be considered an attempt to seek attention rather than as an act of separatism. He added that it was impossible to conclude that Papuans sought separation just because they hoisted a flag. Rather than punishing Papuans involved in such peaceful actions Jakarta should seek to address the roots of Papuan discontent. Sudarsono's view is similar to that of former Indonesian President Abdurrhman Wahid (Gus Dur). He allowed raising of the Morning Star flag, so long as it was hoisted in conjunction with the Indonesian national flag. Under his rule peaceful actions involving the Morning Star flag were not systematically prosecuted.

Wahid also encouraged political/economic development within West Papua and sought expanded dialogue with Papuan civil society and Papuan political leaders. Since Wahid was forced from office, security forces and prosecutors have used force and pursued stiff sentences against peaceful flag raisers. Wahid's successors, Presidents Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also have shown little interest in dialogue with Papuans.

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