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West Papua Report

March 2009

This is the 58th 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 with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at


The US State Department's just-published Annual Human Rights Report for Indonesia candidly describes repression of Papuan rights including security force murder, beatings and torture of peaceful dissenters and security force collusion in people trafficking and theft of Papuans' traditional lands. Notwithstanding her Department's strong report, Secretary of State Clinton failed to discuss human rights or not meet with Papuans. Her failure to publicly raise human rights concerns prompts concern that the Obama administration may proceed with Bush Administration plans to pursue ties with Indonesian Special Forces and intelligence agencies notwithstanding their egregious human rights records. An ETAN spokesperson urged the Obama administration to utilize its leverage to spur reform of the Indonesian military. Buchtar Tabuni faces charges of subversion because of his peaceful dissent. An Indonesian Human Rights Commission official has accused the Yudhoyono government of failure to prosecute Indonesian military officers for "widespread abuses in Papua." A Jakarta human rights official has criticized Jakarta's "Special Autonomy" as failing to make a difference in the lives of Papuans. A Papuan, also commenting on "Special Autonomy" observed that funds intended to be made available to assist Papuans have been used to "build the military" and spur migrant displacement of Papuans.


  • US State Department Reports Repression of Papuan Rights in Annual Human Rights Report

  • Secretary Clinton in Jakarta Generally Ignores Human Rights Issues, Fails to Meet with Papuans

  • Human Rights Group Urges US to Use Its Leverage to Spur Reform of Indonesian Military

  • Buchtar Tabuni Charged Under Repressive Criminal Code Statues

  • Indonesian Government Human Rights Commission Accuses Government of Failing to Prosecute

  • Human Rights Crimes in West Papua and Elsewhere

  • Boiling Rocks in West Papua

  • Papuan Official Rejects "Special Autonomy"

State Department Human Rights Report Describes Brutal Human Rights Environment in West Papua
The US Department of State's Human Rights Report for Indonesia in 2008 (released 2/26) depicts the stark reality of repression and discrimination in West Papua. The report notes that "at least 30" Papuans, including one 16 year old boy, are incarcerated for peaceful dissent, specifically, for raising the morning star flag. The report notes repeated incidents in which Papuans suffered beatings and even murder at the hands of Indonesian military and police in retaliation for peaceful protest. The report cites the UN conclusion that torture is
systematic in Indonesian prisons. It also details the killing of some of these Papuans by security forces who act with impunity.
The report also describes extensive illegal activity by security forces in West Papua: "military and police were often complicit in trafficking (of persons) and in protecting brothels." The report also notes that NGOs and human rights advocates suffered monitoring of their activities as well as threats and intimidation.
The report is unflinching in its description of the repressive environment in West Papua: "During the year indigenous people, most notably in Papua, remained subject to widespread discrimination and there was little improvement in respect for their traditional land rights. The Government failed to prevent domestic and multinational companies, often in collusion with the local military and police, from encroaching on indigenous people's land."  See also Comments on the U.S. Department of State Country reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008

Secretary Clinton in Jakarta Generally Ignores Human Rights Issues, Fails to Meet with Papuans
Secretary Clinton failed to meet with any Papuans during her visit to Indonesia. As in her visit to China, the Secretary largely ignored human rights issues or the long-standing violations and record of impunity of the rogue Indonesian military. These omissions raised concern among human rights organizations that the Obama administration was prepared to set aside human rights as an impediment to bilateral cooperation on economic, financial and security issues.

While a member of the Secretary's staff did meet with a Papuan in the course of a large public event, the Secretary herself, except for one important meeting with the widow of slain human rights advocate Munir, avoided contact with human rights advocates or victims and did not reference concern about these issues in her public remarks despite at least one appeal from a prominent member of the US Congress that she do so.
"Secretary Clinton's willingness to largely ignore both human rights concerns and the failure of the Indonesian military to reform suggests that Obama policy vis-a-vis Indonesia is on auto pilot form the Bush era" said Ed McWilliams of the West Papua Advocacy Team. He added specifically, "we need to be concerned that the Obama administration will now move forward with Bush administration plans to begin cooperation with the criminal Indonesian Special Forces (KOPASSUS) and Intelligence agencies, crossing a red line that extends back over a decade."
Human Rights Group Urges US to Use Its Leverage to Spur TNI Reform
On the eve of Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Indonesia John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, publicly called on the Secretary to "break with the Bush administration's failed policy of engagement with the TNI." He urged that US "once again use military assistance as leverage to promote reform and human rights."

Miller observed that the Bush Administrations decision to resume military-to-military cooperation with the TNI "did not end the entrenched impunity of Indonesia's security forces for crimes against humanity and other serious violations committed in East Timor, West Papua and elsewhere." He observed that the TNI "continues to resist civilian control and emphasize internal security" and that "it resists attempts to dismantle its "territorial command" system which enables its continued involvement in business and politics." "The implementation of a law meant to end military involvement in business" he noted "has degenerated into farce, and its units are accused of involvement in a variety of illegal enterprises, including logging and narcotics trade."

Miller also warned against US collaboration with the security elements with the worst records of human rights abuse:

"In its last years, the Bush administration sought to train members of Kopassus, Indonesia's Special Forces, which was responsible for some of the worst human rights violations throughout the archipelago. U.S. assistance to Kopassus is currently on hold, and the new administration will have to decide whether or not to cooperate with the notorious unit. The U.S. should also avoid Indonesia's main military and civilian intelligence agencies (BAIS and BIN) which have long records of repressing human rights activists and other critics. Retired senior military officials working in Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency (BIN) are suspected of planning and ordering the 2004 assassination of Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's leading human-rights advocate."

Miller cited several Indonesian human rights advocates as well as East Timor's official Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation as calling on the US to employ military cooperation and assistance as "leverage" to spur real reforms in the Indonesian security structure. Miller concluded by urging Secretary Clinton to "open a new chapter in U.S. relations by making clear that future support for the Indonesian military is contingent upon real reform and genuine accountability for human rights crimes." [see

Buchtar Tabuni Charged Under Repressive Criminal Code Statutes

The trial of Buchtar Tabuni for subversion got underway February 18 with Suharto-era trappings represented by hundreds of heavily armed military-police (BRIMOB). Approximately 300 Tabuni supporters demonstrated outside the Jayapura courtroom. Buchtar was accompanied at the hearing by 25 of the 53 lawyers listed as his legal advisers.

The prosecutor accused Tabuni, 29 and deputy secretary of the Central Mountain Papua Indonesia Students Alliance (AMPTPI), of coordinating formation of the London-based "International Parliamentarians for West Papua" (IPWP). The IPWP is an international assemblage of parliamentarians launched in London in October 2008. The prosecutor also alleged that Tabuni had twice coordinated mass demonstrations at the University of Cenderawasih and had delivered political speeches that were deemed to be a threat to Indonesian sovereignty. The prosecutor also referred to banners displayed at the rallies which was written slogans such as 'Referendum Yes, Otonomi Khusus (Special Autonomy) No', 'West Papua Problem is not Indonesia Problem', 'We want to International dialog.'

On the basis of these alleged activities Tabuni was charged under Articles 106, 160 and 212 of the Criminal Code for state subversion and for resisting personnel of the state (the armed policemen and military). This law dates back to the Dutch colonial era and was utilized extensively during the Suharto dictatorship. It has been widely condemned by human rights advocates inside and outside Indonesia as in contravention of Indonesia's international obligations to protect the free exercise of peaceful political speech. If found guilty, Tabuni, who is also accused of instigation and resisting arrest, could face 20 years in prison.
Government Human Right Commission Accuses Indonesian Government of Failure to Prosecute Human Rights Crimes in West Papua and Elsewhere
The Jakarta Globe, February 19, highlighted an accusation by the Indonesian Commission for Human Rights (Komnas Ham) that the Attorney General had failed in his duties to prosecute human rights violations. The Commission also accused President Yudhoyono of helping to shelter senior Indonesian military officers from prosecution. Saharuddin Daming, a Komnas Ham commissioner, among other things, noted that the Indonesian government had failed to successfully prosecute officials guilty of "widespread TNI abuses in Papua." Komnas HAM, he said, uncovered human rights violations by the military in Papua between 1963 to 2002.

According to the 2000 Law on Human Rights Courts, Komnas-HAM, the AGO, and the ad hoc Human Rights Court were to share responsibility for handling human rights cases, he said, with Komnas HAM conducting investigations, the AGO handling prosecutions and the court trying and deciding cases.

"Most people blame [Komnas HAM] for the unresolved cases," he said. "They should ask the attorney general to clear up these issues, as all the BAP [investigation reports] have been handed to them."

Ultimately, however, the problems with finding justice for human rights victims lay not only with the AGO, but with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Saharuddin said, suggesting that the former general had helped shelter TNI officials accused of human rights violations.

AGO spokesman Jasman Pandjaitan called some of Komnas HAM's reports, "incomplete," offering only that additional investigations were needed to look into the unresolved cases. He declined to comment, however, on which cases remained incomplete and any plans the AGO might have to reinvigorate investigations into some of the nation's darker periods.
"Boiling Rocks" In West Papua
The Indonesian daily, Kompas, February 14, carried a report that underscores the failed implementation of "special autonomy" in West Papua. Citing Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial)'s Poengky Indarti, the report noted the rights' advocate as stating that "between 2005 and 2009 Papua's human development index has been in 33rd position out of the 33 provinces in Indonesia, notwithstanding the fact that every year funds are poured into Papua in amounts reaching the trillions of rupiah."

The article noted that data gathered by Franciscan International demonstrated that that as many as 80 percent of the indigenous Papuan population was living in poverty. In addition to this, as many as 36.1 percent of the population have no access to healthcare facilities.

The article pointed out, "the massive exploitation of Papua's natural resources has not had any significant impact on the progress or prosperity of the Papuan people. Moreover, it added, "human rights violations against the Papuan people that are yet to be resolved." Quoting from a statement by a Papuan figure, Indarti said, 'Waiting for justice to come from the central government is like boiling a rock."
Papuan Official Rejects "Special Autonomy" as Aimed at Increasing the Migrant Population/Building the Military/Appropriating Papuan Land
The Secretary of the Papua Customary Council in Sorong, Yoab Syatfle, issued a February statement from Sorong broadly rejecting Jakarta's "Special Autonomy" policy as a failure. He said in part: "after eight years the government has completely failed to properly implement the law (Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001) and address the issues of concern to Papua's indigenous people. In fact, they have used (the law) to tighten their grip on West Papua by misusing 'special autonomy' funds to increase the migrant population, build up the military, and push a development model that is based on appropriating land from indigenous West Papuans for economic exploitation by the migrant community."

In his statement he accused the central government of attempting to divide West Papua into up to four separate provinces "to tighten their grip on West Papua's natural resources."

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