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Island nations call for investigation into human rights abuses in West Papua

West Papua

Call to investigate: Vanuatu Justice Minister Ronald Warsal at the United Nations, Geneva.

SEVEN Pacific island nations have called for a United Nations investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Indonesia’s West Papua and Papua provinces where a separatist movement has simmered for decades.

Vanuatu’s Justice Minister Ronald Warsal made the request during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on behalf of his country as well as Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands.

A fact-finding mission carried out by Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission provided the Pacific nations with some of the key evidence, as Mr Warsal accused Indonesia of serious human rights violations of indigenous Papuans including executions of activists, and beatings and fatal shootings of peaceful protesters.

CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt visited West Papua in February last year, and later released a 24-page report on the fact-finding mission “We Will Lose Everything”, based on interviews with more than 250 community leaders in Jayapura, Merauke, Timika and Sorong.

Mr Arndt sat in the audience in Geneva as the group of seven Pacific nations called on the UN to request a comprehensive report from the high commissioner for human rights and Indonesia’s co-operation in providing unfettered access to the two provinces.

He later spoke at a UN session, detailing his fact-finding mission to West Papua which he undertook with human rights advocate Josephite Sister Susan Connelly.

“We heard many stories of bashings, torture, murder, economic hardship, social marginalisation and cultural deprivation,” Mr Arndt said after returning from West Papua last year.

“There is clear evidence of ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by the Indonesian security forces.”

In a right of reply, the Indonesian delegation accused Vanuatu of “blatantly using human rights issues to justify its dubious support for the separatist movement in Papua” and said the government’s record of protecting human rights “speaks for itself”.

Pacific island leaders angered Indonesia last year when they used their speeches to the UN General Assembly to criticizse Indonesia’s rule in West Papua.

Jakarta accused them of interfering in Indonesia’s sovereignty and supporting groups that carryied out armed attacks.

Mr Warsal said the group of seven Pacific island nations also wanted to highlight the Indonesian policy of encouraging the migration of Javanese and other ethnic groups, which had led to the dramatic outnumbering of indigenous Papuans in their own land.

The Indonesian Government “has not been able to curtail or halt these various and widespread violations”, he said.

“Neither has that government been able to deliver justice for the victims.”

The CJPC report detailed what Mr Arndt said was “a slow motion genocide” – a marginalisation of Papuans economically, socially and culturally.

Indonesia maintains a tight grip on West Papua and restricts journalists from reporting there.

West Papua, a former Dutch colony, became part of Indonesia after a UN-supervised referendum in 1969 that involved only a small segment of the indigenous Melanesian population and was criticised as a sham.

Independence supporters want a second referendum.

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