Thursday, February 21, 2019

1) Indonesia: UN experts condemn racism and police violence against Papuans, and use of snake against arrested boy

2) How NZ decking timber choices compound a human rights crisis in West Papua

1) Indonesia: UN experts condemn racism and police violence against Papuans, and use of snake against arrested boy

Published on 21 Feb 2019

GENEVA (21 February 2019) - Prompt and impartial investigations must be carried out into numerous cases of alleged killings, unlawful arrests, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of indigenous Papuans by the Indonesian police and military in West Papua and Papua provinces, say a group of UN human rights experts*.
In the latest reported case, a video was circulated online of a handcuffed indigenous Papuan boy being interrogated by Indonesian police with a snake wrapped around his body. The boy, who was arrested on 6 February for allegedly having stolen a mobile phone, is heard screaming in fear while the laughing police officers push the snake’s head towards his face.
“This case reflects a widespread pattern of violence, alleged arbitrary arrests and detention as well as methods amounting to torture used by the Indonesian police and military in Papua,” the experts said.
“These tactics are often used against indigenous Papuans and human rights defenders. This latest incident is symptomatic of the deeply entrenched discrimination and racism that indigenous Papuans face, including by Indonesian military and police,” they added.
Representatives of the Indonesian police have publicly acknowledged the incident, and apologised for it. However, the UN experts say that prompt and impartial investigations must be carried out.
“We urge the Government to take urgent measures to prevent the excessive use of force by police and military officials involved in law enforcement in Papua. This includes ensuring those, who have committed human rights violations against the indigenous population of Papua are held to account,” the experts said.
“We are also deeply concerned about what appears to be a culture of impunity and general lack of investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Papua,” the experts stressed.
The incident in which the boy was mistreated comes amid an ongoing military operation in Papua, which became part of Indonesia in 1969 and which has seen the growth of an increasingly vocal pro-independence movement in the past decades.
(*) The UN experts: MsVictoria Tauli Corpuz, **Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; **Mr. Seong -Phil Hong (Republic of Korea),Chair -Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMr.Michel Forst **(France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; **Mr. Nils Melzer (Switzerland), Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentMs E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page — Indonesia
For more information and media requests please contact: Ms Julia Raavad (+41 22 917 9288 /
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /
Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.
Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.#Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at

2) How NZ decking timber choices compound a human rights crisis in West Papua
 | Guest writer

A New Zealand ban on kwila would send a signal that we’re serious about protecting our planet, its ancient forests and the people whose lives depend on them, writes Maire Leadbeater of West Papua Action Auckland
Deforestation is said to contribute about 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Brazil and Indonesia logging and forest conversion are the main source of the carbon emissions that have propelled them both into the list of the world’s top ten carbon polluters. Combating deforestation and helping to restore degraded forests could be the key to meeting the global target of no more than 2% rise in global temperature by 2030. Alarmingly, Brazil’s new development-minded President, Jair Bolsonaro has designs for mines and farms that threaten to escalate the destruction of the Amazon, and in our region West Papua’s paradise forests face multiple threats – escalating illegal logging, gigantic palm oil conversion projects and a highway project that will cut deep into intact forest abutting the World Heritage Lorentz National Park.
Almost all the rainforest kwila (or merbau) that comes to our shores originates in Indonesian ruled West Papua. Kwila used to grow across the Asia Pacific but these days it is close to extinction as a species and is only present in commercial quantities on the island of New Guinea. Merbau takes 75 to 80 years to grow to maturity and it grows sparsely, usually only five to 10 trees per hectare. Kwila isn’t suitable for plantation planting and targeting it for logging cannot be done without the collateral damage caused by building roads.
Kwila is an attractive wood that stands up well to climate extremes, so it has been sought after for decking and outdoor furniture. It is now over a decade since Greenpeace exposed the vast scale of illegal logging of kwila. A ‘Don’t Buy Kwila’ campaign got under way in New Zealand and a number of retailers agreed to cease selling kwila furniture. Unfortunately, in 2008, a Labour-led government decided not to regulate against kwila imports and illegally logged wood, instead opting to encourage importers and consumers to do the right thing. A subsequent National-led government reinforced this approach. The New Zealand Imported Timber Trade Group (NZITTG) developed a voluntary code that commits its members to source their wood from third party certified sustainable/responsible sources. On paper government backs listing kwila with the Convention on the International Trade in endangered species, but it hasn’t actively pushed the issue.
Despite the good intentions of the NZITTG, these half-hearted measures have failed. Kwila decking continues to pour into New Zealand and unsurprisingly there are importers who don’t subscribe to the voluntary code and source “dodgy” kwila at lower prices. TradeMe has a policy that requires sellers of new kwila to provide certification of sustainability but current listings suggest it is not enforcing its pledge. As far as I am concerned, none of it, certified or not, can be viewed as sustainably supplied. We don’t certify ivory, we ban it because we want the elephants to survive and we should follow the same preventative strategy for kwila.
At the end of last year, on-the-ground reports provided damning evidence that West Papua’s extensive forest cover is under renewed attack. A report published by the well-respected Indonesian journal Tempo set out the subterfuges used to get around the Indonesian government’s weak system of policing illegal logging. The report described “timber laundering” that included the manipulation of barcodes and the taking of timber from unpermitted community forests. Investigators compared the satellite imagery showing recent deforestation with the quantities of kwila and other tropical timber being exported and estimated that only about one third was being officially accounted for.
New Zealand is not the main market for West Papua’s kwila – Europe and China cannot get enough of it – but we contribute to the problem.
Linked to the logging scandals are industrial scale palm oil conversion scandals.
Plans for the “Tanah Merah” project would see 2,800 square kilometres of forest (larger than the size of Stewart Island and Lake Taupo combined) logged out to make way for palm oil. Tribal people were reportedly pressed for their consent under military and police intimidation, and environment groups are pushing the Indonesian President to revoke the web of permits.
Since Indonesia took control of West Papua in 1963, indigenous rights have taken a distant back seat as Indonesia and multinational companies exploit the territory’s timber and mineral resources. Jakarta touts development as the answer to Papuan discontent, but disrupting traditional subsistence living causes nothing but hunger and misery. This land grab is a significant contributory factor to a human rights crisis which is so bad it is a kind of “slow genocide”.
A New Zealand ban on kwila would not end illegal logging or stop climate change, but it would send a signal that New Zealand is serious about protecting our planet, its ancient forests and the people whose lives depend on them.

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