West Papua Report
This is the 82nd 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
http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at
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An Indonesian military tribunal failed to properly
prosecute military personnel for the torture of two Papuans whose agony was
viewed around the world online in October 2010. Instead, the tribunal convicted
three soldiers for the minor offense of "disobeying orders," sentencing them to
between eight and ten months imprisonment. This failure to prosecute the
soldiers to the full extent of the law and to try them in a civilian court was
broadly criticized by Indonesian and international observers, including the U.S.
State Department. U.S., UK and Australian organizations called for suspension of
foreign assistance to the Indonesian military which continues to violate human
rights with impunity, particularly in West Papua. President Yudhoyono's
pre-sentencing description of the torture as a "minor incident" was prejudicial
and contributed to an atmosphere of impunity. Papuans, organized by leading
Papuan churches and other organizations demonstrated in large numbers calling
for abolition of the Peoples Consultative Council (MRP). The body was created by
the widely-rejected 2001 "Special Autonomy" law. Prisoners of Conscience Filep
Karma and Buchtar Tabuni continue to languish in police custody following a
December 3 prison riot. They suffer from health-threatening conditions and do
not have regular access to their families or to legal counsel. Papua New Guinea
security personnel attacked villages and encampments of West Papuan civilians
living in PNG territory near the border with Indonesia. PNG authorities have
detained nine of the scores of people displaced, who were moved into camps or
have fled into the forests. Their plight, particularly those who were chased
into forests, is uncertain.West Papuan students continue to call for dialogue in
the wake of the failure of "special autonomy." They note that the central
government has failed to issue implementing regulations required to give the
decade-old law life.
No Justice for Papuan Victims of
A military court in Jayapura on January 24 sentenced three
military personnel to eight to ten, months imprisonment for the torture of two
Papuans in May 2010. The torture,
video of which was posted
online in October 2010, had become emblematic of the Indonesian military's
decades of abuse targeting Papuans. The Indonesian government's failure to
prosecute the perpetrators in a civilian court, and its acquiescence to military
insistence that the three only be prosecuted for the minor offense of
"disobeying orders" showed the persistence of military impunity for crimes
against humanity in West Papua. President Yudhoyono reinforced this sense of
impunity for military perpetrators by dismissing the torture as a "minor
incident" in prejudicial pre-sentencing comments to military leaders.
International condemnation of this miscarriage of justice
was swift and universal.
The conduct of the Indonesian
government showed a "total lack of respect for human rights.... What we have
here is an open and shut case of severe torture, with video evidence, and
the soldiers responsible will spend, at most, 10 months in prison and then
continue their careers in the Indonesian army - they won't even be
discharged. It is a disgrace - an absolute disgrace."
In addition to condemnation from human rights
organizations, the verdict prompted unusually blunt criticism from the U.S.
Government. U.S. State Department
spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the sentences "do not reflect the seriousness
of the abuses of two Papuan men depicted in 2010 video." He added that
"Indonesia must hold its armed forces accountable for violations of human
rights. We are concerned and will continue to follow this case."
On January 25,
Australian Greens legal affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam demanded
that the Government cut all military ties with Indonesia. He said the conduct of
the Indonesian government showed a "total lack of respect for human rights....
What we have here is an open and shut case of severe torture, with video
evidence, and the soldiers responsible will spend, at most, 10 months in prison
and then continue their careers in the Indonesian army - they won't even be
discharged. It is a disgrace - an absolute disgrace,"
Video of the torture shows the soldiers burn one man's
genitals, suffocate him with a plastic bag, and hold a knife to his throat. One
victim said he was beaten for two days, held over a fire and had chillies rubbed
into his wounds. "First the Indonesian authorities claimed their soldiers were
not responsible, and then charged them with 'disobeying orders'. It was a
pathetic response from a government that couldn't care less about the human
rights of the Papuan people," said Senator Ludlam.
He called on the Australian Government must cut military
and paramilitary ties with Indonesia: "Why are we helping to train and arm these
soldiers? Why do we fund the Indonesian National Police when its
Detachment 88, a so-called
counter-terrorism unit, has been linked to a series of human rights abuses?
While human rights abuses, while torture continues in Papua and Maluku, we can
not fund and train the people responsible."
The Australian Greens call for a substantive response by
the Australian government was echoed in
a joint statement by
the U.S. based West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT), the East Timor and Indonesia
Action Network (ETAN) and the UK-based TAPOL. They urged the U.S. Government to
suspend military assistance to the Indonesian military and called on the U.S.,
Britain. and the European Union to "promptly and publicly register with the
Indonesian government their deep concern over what is only this latest example
of decades of failed justice in West Papua."
|Military tribunal. Vhrmedia.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also
criticized the judicial travesty in Jayapura.
Amnesty International's Laura Haigh said "The fact that the victims were too
frightened to testify due to the lack of adequate safety guarantees raises
serious questions about the trial process."
Amnesty added that "as a state party to the
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
Indonesia is legally bound to prohibit torture and other ill-treatment in all
Elaine Pearson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s
called the outcome "disappointing" and highlighted irregularities in the
court-martial. "There were six men depicted in the video but only three were
brought to trial.... The military dragged their feet in this investigation and
showed minimum effort, and it shows that they were just trying to get the
international pressure off their back."
The reaction in Indonesia was also damning. Poengky
Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial),
urged that the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) take over the
investigation. “Although this court-martial has concluded, there is still the
torture charge and the need to try these soldiers at an independent human rights
tribunal,” Poengky told
the Jakarta Globe. She also called for systemic reform: “The government and
the House of Representatives must amend the law on military tribunals, which has
been a major obstacle in prosecuting military officials under civilian law.”
She added that while the Indonesian government had
ratified the UN Convention Against Torture more than a decade ago, the Military
Criminal Code and its Code of Conduct still failed to define torture as a
The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas
HAM) revealed that the Indonesian military did not use all the evidence
available. Komnas Ham commissioner Ridha Saleh told the Jakarta Globe that the
government agency had offered its own findings to the military “but to no
avail.” He added that Komnas Ham was conducting its own investigations, but
"whether those investigations will lead to re-prosecution, a recommendation or
the formation of a fact-finding team, we don't know yet.”
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing
Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras),
said that “lenient sentences were proof that the TNI was reluctant to
reform." Kontras member
Syamsul Alam Rizal said that the lenient sentencing would "solidify military
impunity." He warned further that "the lenient verdict would "justify torture as
a tool in extracting testimonies from civilians."
Sergeant Irwan Riskianto, deputy commander of Gurage
was accused of ordering the torture received 10 months in jail. Privates
Yakson Agu and Private Thamrin Makangiri - were sentenced to nine and eight
months respectively. The charge has a maximum sentence of 30 months.
WPAT Comment: The TNI response to the tsunami of
domestic and international criticism - a pledge to ramp up human rights training
for its personnel -has been employed before, notably in the late 1990's when it
even engaged the International Committee of the Red Cross to conduct rights
training. Such window dressing fails to address the central issue: TNI personnel
(and their commanders) know that violating the human rights of civilians,
especially Papuans, will merit only a slap on the wrist.
President Yudhoyono's calling the torture sessions, one of which extended
over a two day period, a "minor incident" only reinforces the impression among
TNI personnel that a uniform provides a license to torture.The resort to a
military tribunal to try military personnel for crimes against civilians is a
consequence of the 1997 Military Court Law which gives jurisdiction in such
cases to the military courts. There is no discernable efforts either within the
government or the parliament to reform this Suharto-era law.
Churches Lead Papuans in Renewed
Rejection of Special Autonomy Demand Dissolution of Powerless "Papuan Peoples
Papuans in late January
demonstrated peacefully and in large numbers called for the dissolution of
Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP) created by the 2001 Special Autonomy Law, but
widely viewed as a powerless institution.
Demonstrations were staged in
Sorong, Manokwari, Jayapura, Serui, Biak,
Nabire, Merauke, Mimika and Wamena. In Jayapura, demonstrators peacefully
occupied the MRP itself. For the first time since Indonesia's annexation of
West Papua, a broad array of Papuan church leaders took the lead in
organizing the demonstrations.
Demonstrations were staged in Sorong, Manokwari,
Jayapura, Serui, Biak, Nabire, Merauke, Mimika and Wamena. In Jayapura,
demonstrators peacefully occupied the MRP itself. For the first time since
Indonesia's annexation of West Papua, a broad array of Papuan church leaders
took the lead in organizing the demonstrations. Among those playing a key
organizing role were chairs of various synods including: Rev. Dr. Benny Giay,
Chairman of Christian Tabernacle Church (KINGMI), Rev. Yemima Krey, Chairman of
GKI Synod, Rev. Socrates Yoman, Chairman of Baptist Church and Rev. Tommy
Isfandy, Chairman of Synod Bethel Pentecostal Church.
The MRP, was established in 2005 as a cultural
representative institution of indigenous Papuans purportedly to address
accusations that the interests of the province’s native population were being
sidelined in favor of Java-centric government policies. It has been routinely
ignored by the central government. For example, Jakarta refused to consult it
regarding the division of West Papua into multiple provinces.
The demonstrators called for cancellation of plans to
select new members for the MRP. (The new members of the assembly are being
chosen by special committees set up in each district and city. The terms of the
current MRP members officially ended last October, but because of delays
starting the selection process, they were extended until the end of January.)
“We reject the special autonomy for Papua. Consequently, the council, which was
established following the granting of special autonomy, should be disbanded,”
Reverend Giay told the media. “Special autonomy” had failed to improve the
welfare of Papuans and only brought advantages to newcomers from other islands,
The Papuan people, through a council plenary session on
June 9-10, 2010, had called upon the provincial parliaments to return the
special autonomy mandate to the central government (See
Papua Report July 2010).
In Mimika on January 25, hundreds of Papuans rallied
outside the district legislature to protest over the selection of MRP members.
Protesters, calling themselves the Papua Solidarity Society, carried banners
that read “Disband the MRP;” “All Papuans Declare the MRP a Failure;” and “Send
the MRP Back to Jakarta.” Vincent Onijoma, the protest coordinator, said both
autonomy and the formation of the MRP had failed to bring to an end to
violations of human rights by the security forces. Those taking part in the
protest included representatives of churches, student groups, tribal
associations, and women’s groups.
June 2010 demonstration
in Jayapura. Vhrmedia.
Earlier in January,organizers of the demonstrations
distributed guidelines setting out their key objectives, also laid out in a
January 10 letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono. The religious leaders
called on the central government to respect the decision of the Papuan people to
reject "Special Autonomy" as expressed in
mass popular demonstrations in June (the "Musyawarah Besar") and the 11
resolutions which emerged from the mass gatherings (see
Papua Report July 2010). In their letter, the religious leaders called on
the governors of Papua and West Papua to forego the selection of new members for
the MRP and to sit jointly with the two Papuan parliaments to formally reject
"Special Autonomy." The religious leaders also renewed calls for a central
government dialogue with Papuans to address the legal and political status of
the region. Finally, the January 10 letter called on President Yudhoyono to
order an end to intimidation, terror, and repression of Papuan people.
Two Political Prisoners
Face Health Threatening Conditions in Legally Unjustified Police Detention
Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni, internationally recognized
political prisoners, have faced isolation, inadequate access to food and water,
and restricted contact with their families and legal counsel for nearly two
months. Police removed the pair from Abepura prison to detention at Abepura
police headquarters following a December 3, 2010 riot at the prison (See
Respect Rights of Papuan Prisoners Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni). Neither
has been formally charged in the riot and both contend that they had attempted
to mediate between prison authorities and inmates before the riot erupted.
January 18 letter to the Chief of Police in West Papua, Tabuni requested
that the police explain his legal status, and specifically whether he is a
detainee (tapol) or a convicted political prisoner (narapidana). He also asked
that if he is being held in police custody for a role in the December 3 riot
that he be presented with an arrest warrant. Tabuni also detailed his
deteriorating health due to inadequate food, water and access to fresh air and
sunlight. He said that during his detention, his father, under pressure of the
plight of his son, had "suffered a stroke, fainted and died." In late January
the police sought to declare Buchtar Tabuni a "suspect" in the December 3 riot.
Tabuni, who was not accompanied by a lawyer when he was questioned. refused to
sign the police document.
The family of Filep Karma has also expressed public
concern over the state of his health, also noting the inadequate of food and
Under Indonesian law the police may hold a suspect for 60
days without charges. That 60 day limit expires on February 3.
Papua New Guinea
Military and Police Attack Villages and Encampments of Papuan Civilians in PNG
Papua New Guinea security forces have launched an
operation targeting purportedly West Papuans living illegally in the PNG town of
Vanimo and its environs near the northeast border with West Papua. The
operation, named "Sunset Merona," was originally justified as a law enforcement
exercise to counter the illegal flow of goods across the border from Indonesian
military (TNI) sources that were hurting indigenous PNG businesses. The
operation was also to ensure there were no illegal workers within the logging
companies from Malaysia and Indonesia operating in the border region. The
operation initially focused on remote border camps and villages and made arrests
of logging workers and Indonesian military personnel. Tt is believed these
initial arrestees were released to make way for refugee arrests after protest
from Indonesian diplomatic representatives in Vanimo.
Various sources located in Papua as well as Australia
(notably West Papua
Media Alerts edited by Nick Chesterfield) have reported on the ongoing
operation by a special "joint military and police taskforce" which has displaced
approximately 80 men, women and children, so far. More than 30 homes have been
destroyed. PNG authorities have placed many of the displaced in a temporary camp
while an unknown number of others have fled to the forest. (See
The large number of children among those displaced,
reportedly more than a third, has prompted expressions of concern by human
rights organizations and observers. The special taskforce police in charge of
the camps have reportedly refused to provide food for the displaced, but are
permitting the local Vanimo Roman Catholic Diocese to provide meals.
According to West Papua Media Alerts, PNG authorities have
charged nine men among those picked up with unspecified charges relating to
armed activities. Refugee advocates have denied, however, that these people are
resident of the camps raided. West Papua. As of late January none of the nine
have yet had access to legal representation.
On January 23, police and soldiers from Port Moresby
torched 19 houses at Blakwara refugee camp outside Vanimo and trucked the
residents to the Vanimo Police Station. According to Barias Jikwa, coordinator
of West Papuan refugees living in Vanimo, security personnel also destroyed food
and crops at the camp. In Yako, security forces burned 18 houses and destroyed
residents' possessions and food gardens. Yako camp housed over 50 families
forced out of Blakwara camp by threats from local landowners allegedly in league
with Indonesian military-linked logging interests.
The task force also attacked the villages of Dawi, Wara
Duanda, Musu, Dasi, Warakarap, Ambas, Bebfsi and Skotchiou. Security forces
razed houses at Dawi (4 houses), Bebfsi (3) and Musu (at least 4). Local human
rights monitors are still attempting to confirm the situation in other villages.
According to West Papua Media Alerts, there have been no confirmed reports to
date that any person has been shot or any weapons discharged in these
operations. There have been allegations of severe mistreatment (beatings) in
Blakwara and Yako, with at least ten people still in the Vanimo Hospital being
treated for their injuries.
PNG authorities have arbitrarily
decided that anyone found not be a citizen of PNG will be considered an OPM
activist and sent to the overflowing East Awin refugee camp.
Local sources also report that villagers and refugees fled
to the surrounding jungle prior to the raids. Among those fleeing reportedly
were large numbers of guerrillas who have been asked by PNG Defense Force to
Jerry Frank, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC)
commander of the joint forces for Operation Sunset Merona, told media that all
the arrested people are separatists despite clear information that almost all
refugees at the attacked camps had been registered as refugees and/or
"permissive residents" for many years, and many were non-political. Radio New
Zealand International reported that PNG authorities have arbitrarily decided
that anyone found not be a citizen of PNG will be considered an OPM activist and
sent to the overflowing East Awin refugee camp which is under the control of the
UNHCR and attended closely by Catholic relief agencies. However, PNG's acting
deputy police commissioner Fred Yakasa acknowledged that they cannot return
refugees to Indonesia to face possible arrest or execution. "It would be wrong
to send those people back to Papua to an unknown fate," Yakasa stated.
PNG is home to around 12,000 West Papuan refugees who fled
Indonesian state violence in several major waves since Indonesian annexed West
Papua in 1962. Several hundred refugees accepted facilitated repatriation last
year with guarantees of land. In PNG, "permissive non-citizens" are allowed to
work but not to gain any legal certainty in housing, education or citizenship.
The refugee relief NGO WPRRA called for the PNG government
to be held accountable for its "inhuman operations against refugees who took
refuge in PNG due to Indonesian brutality," and that the governments of Vanuatu,
New Zealand and others assist these displaced West Papuan refugees in seeking
asylum in a third country. WPRRA has also called on the international community
to assist in "ensuring the fundamental rights of West Papuans in PNG are
respected and protected according to the international law on refugees and human
West Papua Media Alerts reports that the UNHCR is
concerned about the attacks on refugees and the potential for inappropriate
actions to escalate. "Our PNG Representative is closely monitoring the situation
and in contact with the relevant authorities to ensure the principle of non-refoulement
is being respected as the situation becomes clearer," said Richard Towle,
Australia/ PNG Regional Representative for UNHCR.
Papuan Students Say Special
Autonomy Has Failed and Mediated Dialogue Is Essential
Jakarta Post report highlights efforts by Papuan students in Jakarta to
persuade the Indonesian government to cancel the 2001 "Special Autonomy" law for
West Papua. The students accused the central government of failing to properly
implement special autonomy and called for dialogue mediated by a third party to
find a solution to the many problems plaguing the region.
Marten Goo from the National Forum for Papuan Students
demanded a government review of the 2001 law, arguing that Article 78 of the law
requires that the implementation of the law be evaluated every year, with the
first evaluation conducted three years after the inception of the law. Marten
contended that the government was responsible for existing conflicts in West
Papua and even created new conflicts to retain control over Papua’s natural
“With so many problems, including poverty, human rights
violations and corruption," he said, "the central government is halfhearted in
implementing special autonomy.” Marten added that the government had
deliberately not issued regulations to implement the law in order to keep Papua
on a leash. “There is no implementing regulation to support the 2001 law.
Therefore everything must be consulted with the central government, which has
the power to intervene,” he said. Marten also called for the Papua People’s
Council (MRP) to be disbanded and to call off its plans to elect members for the
2011 tenure. (See above for details protests across West
Papua calling for the abolition of the MRP.)
“Special autonomy was touted as a
win-win solution to protect Papuans in terms of empowerment and welfare. But
what has happened is that we barely feel safe now...There are also numerous
cases of human rights violations by security forces, including torture and
“The central government never listens to the Council,
which represents Papuans. The government also tried to infiltrate the Council
through a Home Ministry decree on Jan. 13, which violates the autonomy law,” he
said. That ministerial decree defines Papuans as Melanesians from Papuan
indigenous tribes and/or those who are accepted and recognized as indigenous
Papuans. (WPAT Comment: There have been allegations
that the central government sought to infiltrate non-Papuans into the MRP
through this decree.)
Agus Kosay from the Central Mountain Papua Indonesia
Students Association (AMPTPI) also speaking in Jakarta on January 27, called
special autonomy was “a new form of colonialism." “Special autonomy was touted
as a win-win solution to protect Papuans in terms of empowerment and welfare.
But what has happened is that we barely feel safe now,” he said. Agus
highlighted the fact that many Papuans still faced discrimination. “There are
also numerous cases of human rights violations by security forces, including
torture and shooting.”
He said Papuan students and activists faced threats for
expressing their opinions. Marten agreed, saying that the central government was
in violation of its own law. “Articles 43 to 45 of the autonomy law refer to the
protection of indigenous Papuans and their rights. But the military keeps
torturing and intimidating Papuans,” he said.