Human Rights
and the Resistance Movement

The source of the human rights problems in West Papua is the colonisation and subsequent dispossession of the lands and resources of the indigenous peoples. They have been prevented from exercising their fundamental freedoms, including their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests.
A frequent and pervasive cause of dispute has been over land rights. The appropriation of tribal or clan land for development projects, from forestry, mining or road construction to Transmigration settlements, has resulted in large numbers of indigenous people being removed from their traditional land, invariably leading to conflict with the armed forces as well as physical and emotional harm for the people affected. Since the takeover of West Papua by Indonesia in 1963, violations of human rights have been widespread. Many of the violations have occurred in the context of on-going conflict between the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or Free Papua Movement) and the Indonesian forces.
Since the takeover there has been a popular peaceful resistance, supported across the province. According to Amnesty International's 1994 report, there are over 140 political prisoners from West Papua currently serving sentences of between two years and life imprisonment for subversion. Many of these are prisoners of conscience, jailed for their non-violent political activities or beliefs.
During the 1960s and mid 1970s, a number of rebellions took place in Manokwari, Enarotali and other regions including the Baliem Valley. The Freeport mining installations were attacked by the OPM with the local Amungme people in 1977. The army exacted a heavy toll in response to these attacks, bombing and strafing villages and killing thousands of civilians. As ABRI (Indonesian armed forces) troops were incapable of penetrating the jungle to discover guerrilla camps, they resorted to reprisals. To stamp out armed resistance, villages were attacked and suspected subversives were summarily executed. Others were forcibly resettled in low altitudes, where twenty per cent of infants died because of lack of resistance to malaria.
The army also conducted operations to undermine support for the resistance by persecuting the families of people believed to be fighting in the bush. The wives of guerrillas were assaulted, their parents arrested. Villages suspected of supporting the OPM were destroyed, people chased from their homes, livestock killed and property looted. It is difficult to put an exact figure on the number of West Papuans killed since Indonesia took , control in 1963, but estimates vary from between 70,000 to 200,000.

The United Nations and International Humanitarian Law

In 1990, Protocol I of the Geneva Convention was adopted, providing for the protection of civilians. "The parties to a conflict must always distinguish between civilians and combatants. Starvation of civilians and attacks on the natural environment are specifically prohibited." Under the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1974:
"All forms of repression and cruel and inhuman treatment of women and children, including torture, shooting, mass arrests, collective punishment and destruction of dwellings and forcible eviction, committed by belligerents in the course of military operations or in ocupied territories are to be considered criminal".
The legal status of combatants struggling against colonial and racist regimes for the right to self-determination was defined by the UN General Assembly in 1973. The principles agreed were as follows:
"Such struggles are legitimate and in full accord with the principles of international law.
Attempts to suppress struggles against colonial and racist regimes are incompatible with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples as well as with the Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Co-operation Among States. Such attempts constitute a threat to peace and security."
Participants in resistance movements and freedom fighters if arrested are to be accorded the status of prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention.
Amnesty International, while not permitted to enter the territory, has received many reports of ill treatment and torture of political detainees. Prisoners are said to be beaten, submerged in water tanks, burned with lighted cigarettes and given electric shocks. Lawyers who have visited some of the detainees report that they do not receive adequate medical attention. Many political prisoners have been transferred to Java without notice to the prisoners, their relatives or their lawyers. It is not only the psychological effect of such separation that can cause problems. In Indonesia prisoners often rely on food, clothing and medicine brought by visitors to supplement that which is received through the prison system and this separation raises a humanitarian concern, particularly for those who are elderly or in poor health.
One of the most common ways of showing peaceful defiance has been to hold flag raising ceremonies. One such event took place in December 1988, when approximately sixty people were arrested after gathering at the Mandala sports stadium in the capital, Jayapura. The ceremony began with a prayer reading, followed by the raising of the "West Melanesia" flag and the singing of the national anthem "Tanahku Melanesia" (My Country Melanesia). Before the ceremony could conclude, military vehicles arrived and soldiers detained all those present. Over the next month, thirty-seven of those detained, including priests, university lecturers and civil servants were found guilty of subversion and sentenced to terms of between 2 and 20 years in prison. The wife of the group's leader was gaoled for nine years for sewing the flag.
Two of the better known cases of human rights abuses are those of Mecky Salosa and Arnold Ap. Salosa, one of many ill-treated West Papuan refugees involved in border crossing events in recent years, was murdered after being returned to Indonesia by the PNG government in 1901. Arnold Ap, anthropologist, traditional musician and cultural figure, was tortured and executed by Indonesian authorities in 1984.
The most recent abuses have occurred between June 1994 and March 1995 in an area close to the US based Freeport McMoRan copper and gold mine. Eyewitness accounts of events report that 22 civilians and 15 alleged guerrillas have disappeared or have been killed by the military, assisted by security forces employed by the Freeport McMoRan mine. Others were arrested, beaten, tortured or forced to flee into the jungle. The incidents occurred because of protests by the Amungme, Dani and other indigenous people, who with members of the OPM were demonstrating against the expansion of Freeport's huge mine at Tembagapura. It is also reported that the Indonesian government is to relocate a further 2000 people from the Tembagapura area to the lowlands during 1995, leading to possible further human rights abuses and deaths in the resettled area due to malaria.
Australia has become the most important foreign provider of military training to Indonesia, displacing the United States, which cancelled all such training following the 1991 Dili massacre. The number of Indonesians training at Australian defence installations jumped from 5 in 1991 to 225 in 1995, increasing to 375 by 1996. Many of these will be instructors, who will in turn pass on their skills to others in the armed forces (ABRI). The scheme costs the Australian taxpayer $3.2 million. Kopassus, the Indonesian Special Forces Command, which has been involved in the program, has been criticised for human rights abuses in West Papua, East Timor, and other parts of Indonesia.
Australia also takes part in combined military exercises with ABRI, and is a supplier of arms to Jakarta. This is an issue of concern for many Australians, and Foreign Minister Evans and Defence Minister Ray should be made aware of the disquiet felt by many people in this country and abroad. (Refer to 'Further Action' section).

"Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and to full guarantees against genocide or any other act of violence. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation, restoration and protection of the total environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources, as well as to assistance for this purpose from States and through international cooperation. Military activities shall not take place in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples, unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned."

Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, The United Nations Commission on Human Rights


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