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
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:
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
"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."
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
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.
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
genocide or any other
act of violence.
Indigenous peoples have
the right to the
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
activities shall not take
place in the lands and
territories of indigenous
peoples, unless otherwise
freely agreed upon by the
on the Rights
People, The United
on Human Rights