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Call for urgent action on West Papua

There is no clear indication what steps the United Nations Human Rights Council will recommend to end violence in West Papua committed by Indonesian armed forces.

At the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif has expressed shock over reports of West Papua mutilations but did not outline what must be done to put an end to this.

West Papua was a Dutch colony known as Irian Jaya. It was decided in the 1950s that West Papua would be given independence, however this did not eventuate.

With geopolitical tensions arising from the Cold War, the United States negotiated an Indonesian handover to which no referendum was ever taken from the people who settled there thousands of years ago.

Since then the people of West Papua have been seeking independence while Indonesia does not want to let go of the resource rich Pacific nation.

Acting United Nations Human Rights Chief Nada Al-Nashif. Picture UN Geneva
At the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif has expressed shock over reports of West Papua mutilations but did not outline what must be done to put an end to this. Picture: UN Geneva

Pacific nations have sided with Indonesia on this issue however have called for violence to end. Last month, bodies of four West Papuan natives were discovered dismembered, in suitcases and thrown in a river.

Six Indonesian security personnel were arrested however claims were made that the four men were rebels on their way to purchase guns.

The family members of the four said they were on their way to buy agricultural products.

Ms Al-Nashif said the UNHRC had received reports of intensified violence, including clashes between the Indonesian security forces and armed groups resulting in unknown numbers of civilian casualties and fatalities and internal displacement.

“I am shocked by recent reports of the dismembered bodies of four indigenous Papuan civilians found outside Timika in West Papua Province on August 22,” she said in her global Human Rights Update.

“I note the Government’s initial efforts to investigate, including the arrest of at least six military personnel, and urge a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation, holding those responsible to account.”

She said the coming months will be a critical test to political will. These have merely been words but the reality of the things happening on the ground are different to what is being portrayed.

Last week, Governor Lukas Enembe of Indonesia’s Melanesian province of Papua was banned from travelling abroad by the state Directorate General of Immigration, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, preventing him undergoing vital medical treatment in the Philippines.

The Morning Star flag being raised in a province in West Papua. Picture Free West Papua Twitter
The Morning Star flag being raised in a province in West Papua. Picture: Free West Papua Twitter

Mr Enembe, 55, was due to go to Manila this month. However, his hope of getting treatment there has been dashed by the ban from the Directorate General of Immigration who claimed that submissions were received from the Corruption Eradication Commission.

The order preventing any overseas trip to Governor Lukas Enembe is in force until March 7, 2023. This is the fourth such attempt at Mr Enembe, three others have failed miserably.

There is now anger in West Papua as another conflict looms and with it possible clashes with Indonesian security forces.

Responding to Ms Al-Nashif’s speech, representatives of Indonesia confirmed that they had taken direct steps to legally process the suspects in the mutilation case.

It was stated that President Joko Widodo had directly ordered the TNI Commander to complete this case, and to prosecute all the perpetrators of these crimes.

Based on the report of the TNI Commander Andika Perkasa, it was explained that as many as nine suspects had been detained, examined, and underwent legal processes.

All the suspects face multiple charges, including premeditated murder. The UNHRC was told the suspects face possible sentences of 20 years in prison to life in prison.

All perpetrators who are members of the TNI will be dishonourably discharged. This proves the seriousness of the government in investigating the case, as well as affirming its commitment to upholding human rights in Papua.

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