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West Papua Report

June 2012

This is the 98th 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://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.

Summary

The Indonesian Government's human rights record came under scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which convened a quadrennial review of Indonesia's progress on human rights protection. The focus on developments in West Papua was more intense than the last review with the denial of freedom of speech and the holding of political prisoners among the leading concerns. Indonesia promised to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech though it was unclear if he would be allowed to visit West Papua. The U.S. State Department released its annual global review of human rights observance. The report gave significant attention to human rights violations in West Papua with some focus on the role of the security forces. As in the past, the State Department report ignored the Indonesian government's failure to provide minimally adequate health, education and other vital services to the Papuan people. Amnesty International also issued its annual report on human rights with a significant focus on rights issues in West Papua. A detailed study revealed the Indonesian government's failure to protect Papuans from unscrupulous land developers in West Papua. Demonstrators in Vanuatu targeted their government's warming relationship with Indonesia, particularly with Indonesian security forces.

Contents Indonesia's Rights Record in West Papua Comes Under Fire in Geneva
 
UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. UN Photo  
UN Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré.  

On May 23, Indonesia's human rights record became the focus of attention at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review. Members of the Council must submit to such reviews every four years. (See http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/IDSession13.aspx)

TAPOL, in a May 23 press release, noted that concerns about human rights in West Papua increased sharply since the last review in 2008, with a significant number of member states also raising concerns about freedom of expression, human rights defenders and political prisoners in the region.
 
The Indonesian government claimed it had taken numerous concrete steps to put into effect the seven recommendations that Indonesia accepted from its last UPR review in 2008. These recommendations were to develop human rights education and training, sign and ratify various human rights instruments, support and protect the work of civil society, combat impunity by security forces, revise the Penal Code, and develop systems to improve and share best practices to support human rights.

 

However, various laws are on the books continue to be enforced that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious, and other views. Offenses in Indonesia's criminal code such as treason (makar) and 'inciting hatred' (haatzai artikelen) have been used repeatedly against peaceful political activists.


However, Human Rights Watch and the Indonesian human rights groups KontraS pointed out that the Indonesian Government report only painted a partial picture of the serious challenges that remain, especially regarding religious freedom, free expression, and accountability for serious abuses committed by security forces. In particular, the groups observed: "The right to freedom of opinion and expression are guaranteed by the Constitution and national laws. However, various laws are on the books continue to be enforced that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious, and other views. Offenses in Indonesia's criminal code such as treason (makar) and 'inciting hatred' (haatzai artikelen) have been used repeatedly against peaceful political activists."

Switzerland and Mexico were among those questioning Indonesia's worrying human rights record in West Papua, joined by regional neighbors New Zealand and Japan. The United States, echoing concerns by NGO's such as HRW, KontraS, TAPOL, WPAT and others, called for action on Indonesia's repressive treason laws. This call was backed by Canada and Germany who further called for the release of peaceful political prisoners. The treason laws (notably Article 106 of Indonesia's Criminal Code) have been employed extensively in West Papua to impose harsh prison sentences for peaceful dissent. These laws directly violate Indonesia's obligations under international law and its own constitution guaranteeing the right to freedom of speech and of assembly.

Germany pressed Indonesia on whether it intended to release Filep Karma and other political detainees who are being held arbitrarily and accused Indonesia of violating Article 20 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association." In November 2011 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion saying the Indonesian government is violating international law by imprisoning Filep Karma and called for his immediate release. Karma is serving a 15-year term in Abepura prison

Restrictions on access by foreign media and civil society were raised by a number of states, including France and Australia, while Germany called for immediate access for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was ejected from Papua in 2009.

In partial response to the sharp critiques, Indonesia announced on May 23 that it planned to issue an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue. It was not immediately clear, however, whether La Rue would be permitted to visit West Papua. In 2007, the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture was allowed to visit West Papua, but her visit there was monitored and following her departure Papuans with whom she met were harassed and threatened by Indonesian security elements.


 

U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Indonesia Includes Focus on West Papua

The U.S. Department of State on May 24 issued its annual report to Congress regarding human rights observance in most countries of the world. The report on Indonesia was for the most part detailed and comprehensive. (See full report here: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=186273 )

(Note: WPAT is preparing a more comprehensive analysis of the annual State Department Report. The following notes only the more significant elements of the report, including identification of several shortcomings.)

Reflecting the particularly egregious violations of human rights in West Papua, much of the report focused on developments there. The Executive Summary notes that "Major human rights problems included instances of arbitrary and unlawful killings by security forces and others in Papua and West Papua provinces." However, the sentence preceding this accurate account contends that "security forces reported to civilian authorities." That contention can be interpreted to mean that the "arbitrary and unlawful killings by security forces" accurately described in the succeeding sentence is somehow undertaken on behalf of "civilian authorities." In reality, Indonesian security forces have long been a rogue force perpetrating human rights violations with near impunity. This reality is alluded to indirectly in the report which acknowledges in the Executive Summary that "the government attempted to punish officials who committed abuses, but judicial sentencing often was not commensurate with the severity of offenses, as was true in other types of crimes as well." The body of the report includes examples of failed justice, notably in addressing human rights crimes committed by security force officials in West Papua, are cited with good detail.

The Report provides accounts of numerous violations during the 2011 reporting period, usually with appropriate detail. For example, in describing the security force assault on the October 16-19, 2011 Third Papuan National Congress the U.S. State Department accounts writes:

"...police and military units violently dispersed participants in the Third Papua People's Congress, a gathering held in Jayapura October 16-19. Activists displayed banned separatist symbols and read out a Declaration of Independence for the 'Republic of West Papua' on the final day of the gathering. Police fired into the air and detained hundreds of persons, all but six of whom were released the following day. Three persons were found shot and killed in the area. Police spokesmen claimed that the police were equipped only with rubber bullets and other non-lethal ammunition. Police beat many of those detained, and dozens were injured. At year's end, six of the leaders of the Third Papua People's Congress faced charges of treason and weapons possession."

The State Department writes that "the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) found that Demananus Daniel, Yakobus Samsabara, and Max Asa Yeuw, whose dead bodies were found near the Congress area, had been shot. Komnas HAM called for an investigation."
 
The report acknowledges that violence continued to afflict the Papuan people on a massive basis. Troubling, the report downplays a key element of that violence, i.e., the impact of security force "sweeping operations." These operations in 2011, as in previous years, continued to drive villagers from their homes and often into life-threatening refuge in nearby forests. The report raises doubt about the human impact of sweeping operations by claiming that the remoteness of these operations precludes accurate accounts of that impact:
"Violence affected the provinces of Papua and West Papua during the year. Due to the remoteness of the area it was difficult to confirm reports of burned villages and civilian deaths. Much of this violence was connected to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and security force operations against OPM. For example, OPM forces wounded three soldiers in a July 5 exchange of fire. In another incident on July 12, attackers, whom the government alleged were OPM-affiliated, injured four soldiers and two civilians. On October 24, alleged OPM-affiliated attackers shot and killed the chief of the Mulia police station.

This U.S. Government rendering of the harming of civilians entailed by the "sweeping operations" also seeks to implicate the armed Papuan resistance, the OPM. The State Department report fails to note that Indonesian Government claims of OPM activities as constituting triggers for the sweeping operations are widely suspect.

The State Department acknowledges that security forces continue to resort to torture: "During the year the Legal Aid Institute of Jakarta conducted a survey on the prevalence of torture in Papua that found 61 percent of survey respondents suffered physical abuse while being arrested and 47 percent of respondents suffered physical abuse during questioning."

 

Contending that the number of transmigrants in 2011 fails to take into account the hundreds of thousands of transmigrants who have been re-located to West Papua over the years by the government and that those transmigrants continue to receive formal and informal Government support.


The State Department Report usefully notes that the Indonesian Government regularly interferes with and intimidates human rights monitors, including journalists:

"However, some government officials, particularly in Papua and Aceh, subjected the organizations to monitoring, harassment, and interference as well as threats and intimidation. Activists said intelligence officers followed them, took their pictures surreptitiously, and sometimes questioned their friends and family members regarding their whereabouts and activities."
The report, however, fails to relate this repression to the intimidation of journalists, such as in the case of the stabbing of Banjir Amarita who reported on the police rape of two women in Papua, nor does it note that foreign human rights monitoring in West Papua continues to face persistent government restrictions. The report does note that the Indonesian Government continues to ban the International Committee of the Red Cross from reopening of its office in West Papua, which was closed by the government in 2009.

The report also accurately describes government culpability in the exploitation of Papuans by foreign and domestic firms exploiting resources:
"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 tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other provinces, between residents of coastal and inland communities, and among indigenous tribes."
The report, however, pulls its punches in describing the impact of the Indonesian government's social engineering entailed in the "transmigration" program:
"Some human rights activists asserted a government-sponsored transmigration program transplanting poor families from overcrowded Java and Madura to less populated islands violated the rights of indigenous people, bred social resentment, and encouraged the exploitation and degradation of natural resources on which many indigenous persons relied. However, the number of transmigrants as compared with spontaneous economic migrants was relatively small. During the year, 7,274 families participated in government-sponsored transmigration programs. In some areas, such as parts of Sulawesi, the Malukus, Kalimantan, Aceh, and Papua, relations between transmigrants and indigenous people were poor."
Contending that the number of transmigrants in 2011, 7,242 families, was small, fails to take into account the hundreds of thousands of transmigrants who have been re-located to West Papua over the years by the government and the reality that those transmigrants continue to receive formal and informal Government support. Government support for these transmigrants is a key factor in the systemic marginalization of Papuans.

WPAT Comment: The gravest omission in the State Department's evaluation of human rights in West Papua is its systematic failure over the years to address the Indonesian government's neglect of fundamental services for Papuans. Jakarta continues to ignore its obligation, as set forth in international human rights agreements, to provide basic health and education services for Papuans or to foster employment. This neglect has had a devastating impact on Papuan communities, notably in rural areas, where health and education outcomes are among the worst in the world. Despite a relatively meticulous account of human rights abuses in West Papua, and of the impunity granted to the perpetrators of those abuses, the report ignores Jakarta's decades old policy of malign neglect which has had a genocidal impact on the Papuan people.

Amnesty International Highlights Human Rights Abuses in Its Report on Indonesia for 2011

Amnesty International logoAmnesty International (AI) highlighted human rights abuse in West Papua, Aceh and Maluku in its 2011 report on Indonesia. The report observed that "peaceful political activities continued to be criminalized in Papua and Maluku." Specifically it observed that "the government continued to criminalize peaceful political expression in Maluku and Papua" and that "at least 90 political activists were imprisoned for their peaceful political activities."

The AI report cited several incidents to document this denial of the right of freedom of expression:
  • In August, two Papuan political activists, Melkianus Bleskadit and Daniel Yenu, were imprisoned for up to two years for their involvement in a peaceful political protest in Manokwari town in December 2010.
  • In October, over 300 people were arbitrarily arrested after participating in the Third Papuan People's Congress, peaceful gathering held in Abepura town, Papua Province. Although most were held overnight and released the next day, five were charged with "rebellion" under Article 106 of the Criminal Code. The charge could carry a maximum life sentence. A preliminary investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) found that the security forces had committed a range of human rights violations, including opening fire on participants at the gathering, and beating and kicking them.
The AI report also noted that throughout Indonesia "police accountability mechanisms remained inadequate" and that "security forces faced persistent allegations of human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment and use of unnecessary and excessive force."
"Perpetrators of past human rights violations in Aceh, Papua, Timor-Leste and elsewhere remained free from prosecution. The Attorney General's office failed to act on cases of serious human rights violations submitted by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). These included crimes against humanity committed by members of the security forces."
Amnesty noted that repression of those engaged in the defense of human rights and of journalists continues to be a problem in Indonesia:
"Some human rights defenders and journalists continued to be intimidated and attacked because of their work. AI provided examples of this abuse:
  • In March, journalist Banjir Ambarita was stabbed by unidentified persons in the province of Papua shortly after he had written about two cases of women who were reportedly raped by police officers in Papua. He survived the attack.
  • In June, military officers beat Yones Douw, a human rights defender in Papua, after he tried to monitor a protest calling for accountability for the possible unlawful killing of Papuan Derek Adii in May.
AI documented the continuing practice of torture and physical abuse perpetrated by security forces: "Security forces faced repeated allegations of torturing and otherwise ill-treating detainees, particularly peaceful political activists in areas with a history of independence movements such as Papua and Maluku. Independent investigations into such allegations were rare."

In January, three soldiers who had been filmed kicking and verbally abusing Papuans were sentenced by a military court to between eight and 10 months imprisonment for disobeying orders. A senior Indonesian government official described the abuse as a "minor violation."

Indonesian Government Allows Foreign Corporation to Rip-off Papuans

Clear-Cut Exploitation coverAn international environmental group accused a Hong Kong-owned palm oil developer with paying traditional Papuan landowners as little as $0.65 per hectare for their land. (See full report at: Clear-Cut Exploitation.)
 
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), joined in conducting its research by Indonesian partner "Telapak" found that PT Henrison Inti Persada paid less than $1,000 for 15 square miles of forest from the Moi clans of West Papua. When the Hong Kong-based commodities conglomerate Noble Group purchased a majority stake in the company in 2010, analysts calculated that the plantation would be worth US$162 million when developed.

The company paid as little as $25 per cubic meter to landowners for timber harvested during clearance of their forests, including for valuable merbau. The company made millions by then selling the exported merbau for $875 per cubic meter.

The EIA/Telapak research highlighted a history of legal irregularities in the plantation's development and in timber harvesting - crimes never pursued by government officials tasked with safeguarding West Papua's forests and people. Violations include forest clearance and timber utilization prior to permits being issued, and failure to develop smallholder estates in line with legal requirements. Impoverished landowners never received promised development benefits such as houses, vehicles and education.

EIA Senior Forest Campaigner Jago Wadley said: "Papuans, some of the poorest citizens in Indonesia, are being utterly exploited in legally questionable oil palm land deals that provide huge financial opportunities for international investors at the expense of the people and forests of West Papua."
 

The company paid as little as $25 per cubic meter to landowners for timber harvested during clearance of their forests, including for valuable merbau. The company made millions by then selling the exported merbau for $875 per cubic meter.


The briefing also describes how Norway has a stake in the plantation via the multi-million dollar shareholdings of its sovereign wealth fund -- the world's largest -- in Noble Group. Norway has been internationally feted as a climate change leader following its significant political and financial investment in the Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program in Indonesia and elsewhere.

These contradictions highlight how, if left unreformed, investment and commodity markets will continue to destroy forests and undermine local communities in spite of efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, argue EIA and Telapak.

"That Norway - Indonesia's biggest REDD+ donor - will also profit from this destructive exploitation is ironic in the extreme. Norway could be paying Papuans to maintain their forests instead of profiting from deforestation in West Papua," said Telapak Forests Campaigner Abu Meridian.

Vanuatu Citizens Support Papuan Rights

A May 16 report  by Johnny Blades of Radio New Zealand provides a timely update regarding tensions in Vanuatu between those who support the rights of their fellow Melanesians in West Papua and Vanuatu officials who have been lured by offers of Indonesian assistance to support Jakarta, which has offered police training and other assistance in exchange for Vanuatu's silence on human rights violations and the denial of the right to self-termination.

A police crackdown and the arrest of 24 protesters who demonstrated against the arrival of an Indonesian military plane highlighted these tensions. The demonstration in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila was peaceful and did not violate any local laws. The Indonesian Hercules aircraft reportedly was carrying equipment to assist in an upcoming meeting between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union.

Under a recently signed cooperation agreement, Indonesia will provide police and paramilitary training to Vanuatu. West Papuan leaders living in exile in Vanuatu have called on its government to reconsider its policy in regard to Indonesia, which in 2011 became an observer of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

 

Jakarta has offered police training and other assistance in exchange for Vanuatu's silence on human rights violations and the denial of the right to self-termination.


Andy Ayamiseba, speaking to Radio New Zealand  from jail after his arrest at the airport protest said that "If there is any such force to train Vanuatu police, Indonesia should be the last on the list. These people, they're committing atrocities on other Melanesian people."

Opposition Vanuatu MP, Sela Molisa, said the people of Vanuatu strongly opposed the cooperation with Indonesia: "The government can get assistance from anywhere including Indonesia. But people have different opinion from the government. In as far as the NGOs and members of the public are concerned, they do not agree with the government making any deals with Indonesia, that's in opposition to the situation in West Papua," he said.

Molisa witnessed the arrests and condemned the police and government actions. He said people had the right to express themselves and that no permit was required for holding banners in a peaceful way at the airport.

WPAT Comment: In addition to bullying small regional neighbors, Jakarta has successfully employed its powerful regional status to ensure that governments throughout the world limit their public criticism of its policies in West Papua. The international movement of solidarity with the West Papuan people, including NGO's, some media, a growing number of Parliamentarians, and concerned individual activists like the Vanuatu protesters continue to play the role of the international community's conscience.

Link to this issue: http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/2012/1206wpap.htm

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