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The West Papua Report
September 2004

The following is the eighth in a series of monthly reports prepared by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights-Indonesia Support Group providing updates on developments in West Papua. The RFK Center has monitored and reported on the human rights situation in West Papua since 1993 when Bambang Widjojanto received the annual RFK Human Rights Award.

Summary/ Contents

  • Election of New President Raises Hopes in West Papua
  • The Carter Center Observations on Elections in West Papua
  • Report on Crimes Against Humanity in Wasior and Wamena Submitted to Attorney General
  • Government of Vanuatu Calls for Strong UN Action To Address West Papuans' Struggle for Self-Determination
  • U.S. Administration Portrayal of Indonesian Navy as Respecter of Human Rights Disproved by Navy Role in West Papua
  • Declaring Itself "Exonerated" in Timika Killings by U.S.G. Report, the Indonesian Military Pressures Its Domestic Critics and Launches Troop Buildup
  • Indonesian Parliament Passes Legislation Undermining Police Authority and Civilian Government's Control Over Military
  • Election of New President Raises Hopes in West Papua

    The overwhelming mandate secured by President-elect former Lt. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Indonesiaís September 20 run-off election has raised hopes for a more enlightened Jakarta approach to West Papua, stressing peaceful conflict resolution strategies instead of repressive military force directed at indigenous Papuans.

    Papuan analysts and other observers note that Yudhoyono was a proponent of dialogue with Papuan civil society during his tenure in the cabinet of President Abdurrahman Wahid. The Wahid administration fostered the convening of a Papuan assembly and held direct dialogue with Papuan civil society leaders about their aspirations. During the Megawati Administration, these
    hopeful initiatives were replaced with policies that ignored Papuan interests, including division of West Papua into three separate provinces absent consultations with the people of the territory. Under President Megawati, the military has had a much freer hand in West Papua, engaging in severely repressive operations, notably in West Papuaís Central Highlands.

    While Yudhoyono was Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs under Megawati, analysts suspect that he was regularly over-ruled by the hard-line military on policy regarding Aceh and possibly Papua. It remains to be seen if as president, Yudhoyono will have the power and inclination to return to the more progressive policies vis-a-vis West Papua that were developed under President Wahid.

    The Carter Center Observations on Elections in West Papua

    The Carter Center observed the run-off presidential election on September 20 with a 57 member team observing the voting in 21 provinces. Four members of the delegation were deployed in Manokwari and Timika in West Papua. Reports from these observers make clear that the administration of the election in West Papua was far weaker than in the rest of Indonesia. From the September 22nd press release of the The Carter Center:

    "Carter Center observers in the provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya noted a lack of funding and administrative failures that exceeded those observed elsewhere. In addition, while the participation of ethnic Papuans increased significantly from the 1999 elections, there continues to be a lack of informed engagement in the democratic process."

    Observers found stark differences between villages that were mainly indigenous Papuan and those with mixed Papuan/non-Papuan populations, in terms of both election officialsí and votersí degree of knowledge about the process.

    Report on Crimes Against Humanity in Wasior and Wamena Submitted to Attorney General

    The report recently completed by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has been submitted to the Attorney Generalís office.[see The West Papua Report-August] The investigation and its ensuing report, was carried out under Law No.26/2000. The law governs only two types of crimes ñ crimes against humanity and genocide, and governs the establishment of Human Rights Courts to try those accused of such crimes. A separate office with full time staff focused on human rights violations has been created within the Attorney Generalís office.

    No time limit is specified in Law No. 26 by which the AG must take action. Indonesiaís new president is likely to appoint a new Attorney General, whom it is hoped will take the necessary follow up action to issue indictments against those named responsible for the crimes.

    Plans to open a branch office of Komnas HAM in Jayapura have been completed and are awaiting approval by the full Commission.

    Government of Vanuatu Calls for Strong UN Action To Address West Papuans' Struggle for Self-Determination

    At the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, Vanuatu's foreign affairs minister Barak Sope made an impassioned speech calling on the UN to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to review the UN's conduct in relation to the now-discredited 1969 UN-supervised Act of Free Choice through which West Papua formally integrated into the Republic of Indonesia. He also called on the UN to send a fact-finding mission to examine the situation in West Papua and to re-instate West Papua on the UN's List of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

    According to Vanuatu-based press and the West Papuan People's Representative Office in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Sope told the General Assembly that, "The United Nations must be consistent in its decisions for the recognition and respect of the fundamental rights to self determination for the people of West Papua. The truth surrounding the so-called Act of Free Choice must be exposed to the Melanesian sisters and brothers of West Papua, and the rest of the international community. The saddest of all is the UN General Assembly resolution on West Papua in 1969. How can the UN continue to ignore the cries of over 3 million people for justice?

    "As world leaders, we have time and time again, expressed serious concerns and dissatisfaction that certain decisions and actions by the United Nations or its organs were not consistent with the purposes and intentions of the Charter. However, with the case of West Papua, absolutely nothing has been done to rectify the gross violation of internationally accepted practice. It is therefore our joint responsibility to address this grey area in history."

    Refering to the UN's role in brokering transfer of sovereignty over West Papua from the Dutch colonial administration to Indonesia and in supervising the Indonesian military government's 1969 "Act of Free Choice" in West Papua, Sope stated that, "In our opinion, the UN-conducted exercises were a total farce conditioned only to suit the geo-political climate of that period. The United Nations cannot and must not continue to turn a blind eye on its own past failures. It is morally, politically and legally wrong to do so." He added that "The Netherlands, which was the former colonial authority, in particular, should also recognize that they should shoulder some responsibility in helping to resolve the unfortunate situation of West Papua in a peaceful and transparent manner. Why is no one accountable for those unjust decisions affecting the lives of millions today?"

    The government of Vanuatu also is lobbying to put the issue of West Papua on the Pacific Forum's agenda.

    U.S. Administration Portrayal of Indonesian Navy as Respecter of Human Rights Disproved by Navy Role in West Papua

    In pushing for resumption to the Indonesian military of the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, the Bush Administration is attempting to depict the Indonesian Navy as not culpable of human rights abuses. The move to extend U.S. military assistance would end years of congressionally imposed barriers to such cooperation.

    The depiction of the Navy as not culpable for the many crimes committed by the Indonesian military for decades, or for the endemic corruption of that institution, is incorrect. It is contradicted, for example, by the Indonesian Navy's principal role in the bloody suppression of a peaceful pro-independence rally staged over several days on the West Papuan island of Biak in July 1998.

    Eyewitness accounts by an American citizen and subsequent U.S. Embassy reporting revealed that the Indonesian Navy played the lead role in a brutal armed assault on the demonstrators. The Navy, operating from its base in Biak, dumped at sea the bodies of those killed at the demonstration site, and of detainees killed subsequently in Navy custody. The crime was revealed days later as bodies of those killed began to wash up on the shores of Biak. Indonesian Government claims that the dead bodies were victims of a tsunami that struck 375 miles to the east were discredited by the fact that some of the bodies had their hands tied and others bore bullet wounds. Embassy and other accounts point to scores killed. No Indonesian military personnel have been prosecuted for this massacre.

    Declaring Itself "Exonerated" in Timika Killings by U.S.G. Report, the Indonesian Military Pressures Its Domestic Critics and Launches Troop Buildup

    The Indonesian military (TNI) has publicly claimed that the June U.S. Department of Justice report on the killing of Americans in Timika in August 2002 has "exonerated" it of broad accusations of involvement in the murders.

    The exoneration claim, which the U.S. Government has not challenged publicly, appears to have emboldened the TNI which has launched legal and reportedly extra-legal pressures on its domestic critics. The TNI has sued human rights defenders for libel and appears to be behind acts of intimidation against those who have investigated the TNI's role in the attacks and who have assisted the FBI in its investigation of the incident. Contacts in Timika have reported break-ins and other acts of intimidation.

    Meanwhile, sources in the Timika area including recent observers report an ongoing TNI build up in the area that local residents fear is in preparation for violent military operations. In addition to a police search for the Papuan named in the U.S. indictment for the August 2002 murders, military personnel have been collecting intelligence apparently in preparation for operations targeting local independence fighters, particularly a local leader named Kelly Kwalik. In the 1996-98 period, Indonesian military operations targeting this faction led to widespread human rights abuse by the military including the dislocation of thousands of civilians and the deaths of scores and possibly hundreds of civilians.

    Indonesian Parliament Passes Legislation Undermining Police Authority and Civilian Government's Control Over Military

    In its final day, the Indonesian parliament passed a bill that significantly reinforces the power of the Indonesian military (TNI) and poses threats to Indonesian democracy. Many voices within Indonesian civil society, including democratic reformers, human rights organizations, the media, students, and academics, lobbied against the bill and until the final hours of the legislative session, it appeared that legislators would let the proposal die.

    Most importantly, the legislation retains the TNI's "territorial structure," the bureaucratic mechanism that amounts to a shadow government with military offices at every level of government stretching from the national to village level. For decades, that system has given the military virtual veto power over civilian government initiatives and appointments and has ensured the military's vast and often corrupt system of "businesses." By ensuring the TNI's continuing presence throughout the archipelago -- and by allowing the TNI to engage in business activities for another five years -- the legislation, in effect, gives a green light for the military to continue its illegal profit-generating activities, which include drug running in Aceh, prostitution rings in West Papua, and extortion targeted against domestic and foreign businesses such as New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold.

    The legislation also deals a direct blow to efforts to subordinate the military to civilian rule by making the commander in chief of the armed forces answerable only to the president. Under the new law, the TNI commander outranks the minister of defense. The prospect of increased TNI interference in civilian government is enhanced by a reversal of a reform dating to 1999 that barred active duty military officers from holding civilian government positions. The new legislation permits active duty military officers to hold key government positions, including within the Defense Ministry, the Narcotics Control Agency and on the Supreme Court. These positions would, for example, potentially give TNI senior personnel crucial authority in effectively blocking investigation or prosecution of TNI involvement in drug trafficking. It is unclear whether other ministries such as Mining and Energy are included.

    The new legislation also meets a TNI demand that it be given authority to engage in military operations other than actual war, to include fighting armed independence movements and terrorists. Heretofore, the national police had won recognition for their effective investigation and apprehension of terrorists such as those responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing. The TNI was known to have chafed at having lost this responsibility to the police and, along with it, the opportunity to receive significant foreign anti-terror assistance from the United States Government.

    The legislation completes the long-expected removal of the 38 un-elected TNI members of parliament. However, this is not seen as weakening the TNI as TNI political power has long-rested in the executive branch. Moreover, TNI influence over legislators remains extensive, as demonstrated by securing passage of the TNI bill itself.

    *Note: The RFK Center's Indonesia Support Group use West Papua to refer to the western half of New Guinea. In 1961 the West New Guinea Council, a democratic body of Papuan representatives, adopted the name "West Papua" to refer to the territory, which the Dutch colonial administration intended to transition to self rule. Papuan leaders continue to use the name West Papua, as do prominent international NGOs. During the past 50 years, the territory has been known by many other names: West New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea (under Dutch colonial administration); West Irian (under initial Indonesian rule); Irian Jaya (the official Indonesian name from 1973 until January 7, 2002); and Papua (the official Indonesian name until the 2004 partition of the territory by executive order of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri).



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