FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 20 October 2011
Indonesian crackdown on Papuan
Congress sparks outrage
statement by TAPOL (UK), the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT, US) and East Timor
Action Network (ETAN, US)
at the Third Papuan People Congress under arrest. Photo:
Wednesday, a meeting of thousands of indigenous Papuans in Jayapura, West Papua,
became the scene of a brutal crackdown by Indonesian security forces. Indonesian
troops and police Mobile Brigades reportedly fired hundreds of shots to disperse
the crowd, pistol-whipped participants and beat them with batons and rattan
canes. They arrested around 300 participants. According to the Indonesian press,
security forces turned violent when Papuan indigenous leaders, who had gathered
to discuss their basic rights, issued a declaration of independence.
appalling display of excessive force has no place in a modern democracy,” said
Lord Avebury, Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group. Avebury
called on the Indonesian government to immediately release detainees and conduct
and publish a full investigation into the incident.
people are confirmed dead, with many more injured and five charged with treason.
Among those arrested were Congress organiser Mr Selphius Bobii, and prominent
indigenous leader Mr Forkorus Yaboisembut, head of the Papuan Customary Council
(Dewan Adat Papua). The arrests are a provocative response to a peaceful
gathering, targeting one of West Papua’s most respected tribal leaders, said the
US-based West Papua Advocacy Team.
It is bitterly ironic that when Papuans meet to
discuss their basic rights, Indonesia responds by violating those rights. The
daily discrimination and violations experienced by Papuans are bad enough, but
an attack of this nature on a democratic congress is an absolute outrage.
The meeting is the third of its kind to take place in West Papuan history,
and was reportedly attended by around 4,000–5,000 people. While the Congress
attracted thousands more to the surrounding area, many were prevented from
gaining entry to the event by security forces, or were too afraid to enter.
bitterly ironic that when Papuans meet to discuss their basic rights, Indonesia
responds by violating those rights,” said Carmel Budiardjo, senior campaigner
for the UK-based NGO TAPOL. “The daily discrimination and violations experienced
by Papuans are bad enough, but an attack of this nature on a democratic congress
is an absolute outrage,” she continued.
use of the infamous ‘makar’ or treason laws to deny the right to freedom of
expression and assembly is an increasing problem in Papua, suppressing activists
and fuelling simmering resentments among the indigenous population. On
Wednesday, US Congressmember Mr Eni Faleomavaega expressed concerns about the
arrests, calling for the immediate release of Mr Forkorus Yaboisembut. The
US-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network has also condemned the
arrests. “The right to gather and speak out is a fundamental freedom, it doesn’t
just disappear because the government doesn't like what is being said,” said
John M. Miller, the network’s National Coordinator.
situation in Jayapura last night was tense amidst fears of reprisals and further
actions by security forces against local residents and those involved in the
Congress. TAPOL, WPAT and ETAN call on the
international community to urge Indonesia to show restraint, release the
detainees, and commit to a peaceful resolution of the West Papua conflict.
Paul Barber, Coordinator, TAPOL, +44-20-8771-2904
Ed McWilliams, West Papua Advocacy Team, +1-575-648-2078
John M. Miller, East Timor Action Network, +1-917-690-4391
Photos and video
Photos of victims
available from TAPOL on request, including victims suffering gunshot wounds and
West Papua Media Info
for breaking news and video clips direct from West Papua.
Background notes for editors
The Third Papuan People’s
‘Affirming the basic rights of the indigenous Papuan people for the present and
the future’ was planned to last for three days. It opened in Abepura, Jayapura,
on 16 October 2011 with between
in attendance representing more than
200 tribal groups
from across the territory. Over
gathered in the vicinity of the Congress. The organisers were forced to hold
the event in an open field as requests to hold it at a more suitable venue were
For the first two days
the Congress proceeded peacefully, but the atmosphere was increasingly tense due
to the build-up of
members of the security forces in Jayapura. According to local sources reported
West Papua Media Info,
troops encircled the conference with around 70 vehicles including Army Pansers,
a water cannon, Armoured Personnel Carriers and Barracuda armoured jeeps. On the
third day at the close of the conference, Indonesian troops armed with automatic
weapons, along with units of Brimob, the notorious mobile brigade of the
Indonesian police, reportedly
opened fire in
an attempt to disperse the Congress.
History of the Papuan People’s
First Papuan People’s Congress
was held on October 16–19 in 1961, and issued a
declaring their independence. The Second Congress held in May–June 2000 issued a
affirmed their sovereignty as a people and led to the establishment of the
representative body, the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP). Just over a year later,
in November 2001, the PDP chairman, Theys Eluay was kidnapped by a unit of
Indonesia’s Kopassus Special Forces and
a travesty of justice which characterises the problem of impunity for security
forces in Indonesia, the perpetrators were
between two and three and a half years.
Elsewhere in Papua: strikes at
At the same time as the
Congress was underway, thousands of Papuan workers employed by the massive
Freeport copper-and-gold mine in West Papua
strike to demand a substantial rise in wages. The
strike, which has
at the multibillion dollar company, which is losing
been met by security force violence. Since the late 1970s Freeport has been the
largest taxpayer to the Indonesian state, while the majority of Papuans continue
to live in dire poverty: the Papuan provinces remain the
poorest in Indonesia.
West Papua Conflict
One of the world’s
longest-running conflicts, the independence struggle between the Free West Papua
Organisation (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM) and the Indonesian state has been
raging for 48 years, since Indonesia took control of West Papua on 1 May 1963.
The conflict escalated when West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia
following the controversial
Act of Free Choice
A period of heightened
political activity in the middle of 2011, including the holding of a
Papua Peace Conference
in Abepura from 5-7 July and calls for dialogue with the central government,
generated positive signs that tentative progress is being made towards resolving
the Papuan problem, but was followed by a series a
and human rights violations. The outcomes of the Peace Conference, organised by
the Jaringan Damai Papua (Papua Peace Network) led by Father Neles Tebay,
for a peaceful Papua with a series of ‘Indicators of Papua, Land of Peace.’
The term West Papua covers the whole territory of West Papua, which in 2003 was
divided into two provinces: Papua and West Papua.
West Papua Report