West Papua Report August 2010
West Papua Report August 2010
This is the 74th 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. Beginning with this edition the West Papua Report will include a Bahasa Indonesia translation of the summary and subject titles. 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.htmQuestions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifty Members of U.S. Congress Write to President Obama over "Strong Indications" of Indonesian Genocide in West Papua
The Chairs of the U.S. Congressional Subcommittees on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, and Chairman Donald M. Payne of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health have spearheaded an effort in Congress calling upon President Obama to "make West Papua one of the highest priorities of the Administration."
As a result of their efforts, 50 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to the President stating that there is strong indication that the Indonesian government is committing genocide against Papuans. Many of those who signed the letter are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The signatories include men and women who fought for civil rights in America in the 1960s. In addition to the Congressional Black Caucus, many others who are long-time advocates of human rights joined this request to the President of the United States, including members of the Hispanic Caucus. The last remaining member of the Kennedy family in Congress, Rep. Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island, also joined the letter to President Obama.
An August 1 press release from Representative Faleomavaega's office notes that the letter to the President "suggests that slow motion genocide has been taking place in West Papua and reviews findings by human rights organizations and scholars who have conducted extensive research about crimes against humanity and genocide by Indonesian security forces."
The press release also observes that "according to international agreements, other nations are legally obligated to intervene when a genocide is in process and Members of Congress remain hopeful that President Obama and the U.S. State Department will hold Indonesia accountable."
Members concluded their letter by encouraging the President to meet with the Team of 100 from West Papua during his upcoming visit, noting that President Obama has the opportunity to bring lasting change to this part of the world. While Papuan leaders have repeatedly tried to engage in dialogue with the Indonesian government, dialogues have failed to produce concrete results and Papuan leaders are now calling for an International Dialogue. In this context, signatories of the letter have asked President Obama to meet with the people of West Papua during his upcoming trip to Indonesia in November.
One of the Kopassus officers upon the policy debate has focused is Lt. Col, Tri Hartomo who was convicted in 2003 of the "torture murder" of Papuan political leader Theys Eluay. Hartomo was sentenced to 42 months in prison. That sentence, and even shorter sentences handed down against the other six Kopassus personnel convicted in the case, pale beside those handed out to Papuans for nonviolent crimes such as displaying the Papuan "morningstar flag." Moreover, Hartomo upon release returned to Kopassus ranks. General Sjafried Sjamsuddin, appointed deputy Defense Minister earlier this year, is a Kopassus officer similarly charged with egregious human rights abuses, notably in East Timor. The U.S. administration's casual claim that the general was "only implicated' and not "convicted" of numerous human rights abuses begs the broader reality that Sjamsuddin, like so many other senior Kopassus and TNI officers, has managed to evade any trial for his behavior in Indonesia's flawed justice system. The U.S. administration's willingness to look the other way regarding Sjamsuddin contrasts with its decision in September 2009 to deny Sjamsuddin a visa to visit the U.S.
The U.S. Administration's decision to move forward to resume ties to Kopassus notwithstanding its insubstantial reforms has particular relevance for West Papua. Twenty percent of Kopassus's 5,000 personnel are stationed in West Papua. Human Rights Watch, in a June 2009 report, documented continued Kopassus human rights abuse targeting Papuans in the Merauke area. Political Prisoner Filep Karma, convicted of non-violent protest in 2001 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, told media in late July that U.S. assistance to Kopassus would simply increase the capacity of that unit to torture and kill Papuans.
International Court of Justice Ruling of Kosovo Independence May Have Relevance for West Papua
The International Court of Justice ruled, July 22, 2010, that the Kosovo 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. The decision flowed from the submission of a question by the government of Serbia to the ICJ which won the support of 77 members of the UN General Assembly (including Indonesia). That initiative sought (unsuccessfully) to secure an ICJ ruling that the Kosovo declaration was illegal under international law.
The ICJ decision has drawn broad international comment, much of it arising from the prospect that other cases involving secessionist movements might be advanced by this "Kosovo precedent." The Kosovo case was the first case of unilateral secession to be brought before the ICJ.
A second principle established by the July 22 ICJ ruling of possible relevance to West Papua addresses the "right to self-determination" itself which the ICJ earlier found in the case of East Timor to be jus cogens, a fundamental principle of law accepted by the international community, and that this right extends to all peoples, not only those emerging from a colonial context. The right is also enshrined in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Indonesian is a party to both covenants.
Statistics revealed by consultation participants underscored the extent to which Papuans remain marginalized in their own lands: Poverty among Papuans stands at over 81 percent while 70 percent of residents with HIV/AIDS In West Papua are indigenous Papuans. Underscoring Giay's point regarding failure of special autonomy to address Papuan needs, the consultation revealed that 95 percent of local budget funds "are spent outside Papua."
According to the Jakarta Post, Agus Alua, spokesman for the Papuan Peoples Consul (MRP), noted that Jakarta has declined to draft regulations that would allow the Papuan MRP and the provincial legislature to issue regulations, including affirmative action for indigenous people and the settlement of human rights abuses.
Muridan S. Widjojo of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), who was assigned by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005 to identify the most serious problems in Papua, spoke candidly about the current situation. He told the Jakarta Post that the Indonesian Government "should learn from now independent Timor-Leste and the peace talks ending the war with separatists in Aceh. In Timor Leste, he said, "we relied too much on the Indonesian Military and the National Intelligence Agency."
As in the Suharto era, Jakarta has relied heavily on the "security approach" to address Papuan discontent and, also as in the Suharto era, has sought to hide the resultant suffering of the Papuans behind a a curtain of restrictions that impede or bar journalists and others from covering developments in West Papua.
A July 27 Jakarta Post article, authored by prominent Papuan religious leader Father Neles Tebay, argued that the symbolic action of handing back the Special Autonomy law would complicate an already difficult situation for the government, specifically in its diplomatic efforts to convince the international community that the autonomy law is fully implemented and has improved Papuan prosperity.
The report comments that "Abepura Penitentiary has a wretched security record, with mass breakouts occurring regularly at the facility. In May, 18 inmates escaped during a protest by correctional guards over the sacking of then chief warden Antonius Ayorbaba.
In June, 26 prisoners broke out by scaling down a prison wall using a rope strung together with bed sheets. Only two inmates have been recaptured.
"Several correctional guards refuse to cooperate with the new warden, leading to gross derelictions of duty that have left security at the penitentiary in an appalling state," Nazaruddin said after the June breakout.
Separate reporting of prisoner beatings, failure to provide adequate medical care are common. A UN Special Rapporteur in 2007 detailed systematic abuse of prisoners. More recent reporting by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have reconfirmed those findings.
A resolution addressing the detention of Papuan political prisoners is currently gaining co-sponsors in the U.S. Congress.
Recent studies by the Indonesian Seafarers Association (KPI), reported in the July 28 Jakarta Post, document security force failure to protect Papuan sea resources as well. The KPI study revealed that although the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry had stopped issuing permits to foreign fishing vessels, thousands were still freely operating. The foreign vessels, mostly from the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, fish illegally with impunity due to the failure of the Indonesian Navy and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry ships to protect Indonesian waters. Instead, "many Navy and Ministry ships regularly patrol the waters - not to catch illegal fishing vessels but to extort money from them," according to KPI chairman Hanafi Rustandi.
The Seafarers study also revealed that the government's failure to control the operation of foreign fishing vessels, contributed to an increase in cases of HIV/AIDS in the country's eastern regions of Papua and Maluku. The KPI study revealed that the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases are in two fishing ports in Maluku and in and Papua's coastal regencies, including Merauke, Mimika and Fakfak.
KPI Chairman Rustandi noted that foreign ships cost Indonesia dearly in terms of fish, and have caused incalculable damage in terms of facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.