Defiance: A Papuan activist shouts slogans during a demonstration to commemorate the West Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule in Jakarta on Dec. 1, 2015. The Police fired tear gas to disperse more than 100 Papuan protesters during the rally.(JP/DMR)
In an unprecedented move, seven UN member states from the Pacific raised their concerted voices on Papua during the prestigious 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.
Nauru started the intervention by highlighting the issue of human rights violations in Papua, followed by a newcomer in the discourse of Papua: the Marshall Islands.
Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands followed suit and went one step further by specifically highlighting the issue of the right to self-determination for Papuans. Tonga emphasised the gravity of the problem and Palau, another novice, called for constructive dialogue with Indonesia to solve the Papua issue.
This was a historic moment for us as we have never had such unified high-profile intervention when it comes to the issue of Papua at the UN. Perhaps the only lone ranger used to be Vanuatu, which tried to break the silence of the UN fora.
This week’s debate at the UN General Assembly might remind us of a similar but much more colorful debate on Papua at the assembly in 1969, when the forum decided to close the chapter on Papua by accepting the result of the Act of Free Choice.
If in 1969 some African countries expressed opposition to the assembly’s decision to adopt the result of the 1969 Act of Free Choice for Papuans, today the Pacific nations are taking the lead.
Indonesia’s response, however, was highly predictable. Repeating the slogan of territorial integrity and sovereignty, the government’s response unfortunately does not provide us with facts and evidence of the improvement in the human rights situation in Papua.
It may be remembered that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo promised to solve the killing of four high-school students in Paniai on Dec. 8, 2014. The investigation into the case has been delayed for almost two years and we have not seen much progress.
The families of the victims recall that at least eight government institutions sent their respective fact-finding team to interview victims on the ground and personnel of the Army, the Papua Police, the National Police, the Air Force, the Papua Legislative Council, the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), the Office of Coordinating Security, Political and Legal Affairs Minister, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). None of these teams, however, has ever published their report for public consumption.
Similarly, the dossiers on the Wasior killings of 2001 and the Wamena case of 2003 have been pending for more than a decade at the Attorney General once Komnas HAM finished its investigation. These were not ordinary crimes but crimes against humanity, one of the most serious crimes punishable by Indonesian and international law. Unfortunately, both Komnas HAM and the Attorney General’s Office have argued over evidence and procedure for years.
Komnas HAM insists that it has provided conclusive evidence and has followed proper procedure. On the other hand, the Attorney General’s Office has argued that Komnas HAM has not met the requirement of a pro-justice investigation as investigators did not take an oath as required by the Criminal Law Procedures Code. Both institutions have overlooked the fact that victims continue to suffer.
Memories are still fresh on the surge in the arrests of Papuan youth when they took to the streets to express their opinions in public despite a constitutional guarantee of the right to do so.
The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) documented that at least 4,587 individuals, men and women, were arrested by the police for expressing their political views in 13 cities, namely Dekai, Fakfak, Jakarta, Jayapura, Kaimana, Makassar, Malang, Manado Manokwari, Merauke, Sentani, Wamena and Yogyakarta.
While most of the arrestees were released within 24 hours, the deployment of police in 13 jurisdictions across the country would not have been possible without the blessing of the National Police top brass.
While we were grappling with human rights conditions in Papua, we were shocked by the President’s decision to appoint Gen. (ret) Wiranto as the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister.
In February 2003, the UN-sponsored Special Panels for Serious Crimes of the Dili District Court, Timor Leste, indicted Gen. Wiranto, then the Indonesian defense and security minister and Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) commander for crimes against humanity in connection with the events in Timor Leste in 1999.
As we were yet to recover from the President’s unfathomable choice, we were presented with another unprecedented decision when the Indonesian Military TNI chief named Maj. Gen. Hartomo to lead the military’s Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS).
Hartomo was the commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) Tribuana X unit assigned to Papua when Theys Eluay was murdered. Hartomo and six other Kopassus officers were charged with Theys’ murder on National Heroes Day in 2001. He and his team were found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison by the Surabaya Military Court and discharged from the Army.
These all are simple facts that tell us the way our government commits to human rights in Papua and elsewhere, which the Indonesian delegation to the UN General Assembly describes as “robust and active”. _______
The writer, who obtained his PhD from the Australian National University, lectures in international relations at the Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, Jakarta.
The government is expected to have a hard time defending its human rights record in front of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) after a group of civil society organizations submitted a condemnatory report to the UN.
The group, consisting of human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), submitted last week 15 reports, which detailed the government’s failure to protect human rights.
The UPR is the first international human rights mechanism to address all countries and all human rights by periodically examining the human rights performance of all 193 UN member states every four-and-a-half years.
It is a compulsory mechanism for any UN member, regardless of its size or influence.
The UPR working group is expected to use the submitted report from the civil society groups as a reference for when Indonesia’s human rights record will be reviewed in its third session, to be held in Geneva in May 2017. “The first report is a general report that highlights human rights violation cases in Indonesia,” HRWG executive director Muhammad Hafiz said.
In general, the government has done a poor job in protecting human rights as it only followed up 20 percent of the UPR’s recommendations, made after Indonesia was last reviewed in 2012, he said.
Indonesia received 180 recommendations, of which 144 were accepted by the government and the remaining 36 recommendations are set to be reviewed for further consideration.
There were some recommendations that were fully implemented, such as ratifying international conventions on migrant workers and on disabled people, Hafiz said.
Other recommendations, meanwhile, were only partially implemented, such as revising the bill on religious harmony, which was undertaken by the Religious Affairs Ministry in 2014, only for the revision process to get bogged down, he added.
Another recommendation that was not followed up was related to the issue of abuse of the freedoms of expression and religion, a problem that has been escalating in recent years.
A religious freedom watchdog, the Wahid Institute, recorded 190 violations of freedom of religion and faith in 2015, a 23 percent increase from 154 cases in 2014. The violations were mostly in the form of sealing places of worship and the prohibition of their construction, as well as obstructing celebrations or the performance of rituals of certain faiths.
Abuse of freedom of religion also comes in the form of discriminatory bylaws, as there are 57 bylaws across the country that discriminate against certain religious groups and could endanger the country’s pluralism, according to data from rights group Setara Institute.
With the government failing to implement most of the UPR’s recommendations as well as recent developments on human rights violation cases, such as the government’s decision to expedite the execution of death row convicts, Indonesia will have an even more difficult time answering questions from the UPR, ICJR executive director Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono said.
“There must have been a lot of critical questions for Indonesia, such as the use of the death penalty and makar [treason] in Papua,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Supriyadi was referring to the Indonesian authorities’ decision to use articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code to criminalize dozens of peaceful Papuan pro-independence political activists over the last decade.
During the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Pacific countries expressed their deep concern over continuing human rights violations in West Papua and called on the UN to take concrete measures to address the matter and urged the Indonesian government to solve the problems.
The statements were strongly rejected by Indonesia’s delegation, saying that the criticism was politically motivated and designed to draw attention away from problems in their own countries.
Nara Masista Rakhmatia, an official at Indonesia’s permanent mission to the UN, accused the countries of interfering in Indonesia’s national sovereignty.
“Their politically motivated statements were designed to support separatist groups in the said provinces, who have consistently engaged in inciting public disorder and in conducting armed terrorist attacks,” she said.