Amnesty International Australia and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman urge the Australian government to raise the human rights situation in West Papua during bilateral talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo this week.
Fifty-six indigenous West Papuans and one Jakarta-based Indonesian are currently held behind bars for treason in seven cities across Indonesia. They are currently awaiting trial and face life imprisonment.
“These people were arrested when expressing their opinion during mass protests against racism and for the independence referendum in August and September 2019 and during commemoration of West Papua’s national day on 1 December 2019,” Koman said.
“We demand their immediate and unconditional release.”
A joint military and police operation in Nduga regency of Papua province has taken place since early December 2018. As a result, according to a regency official, as many as 45,000 people, half of the regency’s population, are displaced in neighbouring areas.
The Humanitarian Volunteer Team, a local grassroots community, has been collecting data on the operation’s casualties and reported that as of 2 February 2020, 243 civilians have died due to violence by the security forces and hunger and illness from the displacement.
“We also have concerns with the increased troop deployment and activities in Intan Jaya regency of Papua province since December last year. Indonesia must end these operations and immediately withdraw troops from Nduga and Intan Jaya regencies so the indigenous West Papuans can return to their homes and be free from living in constant fear,” Koman said.
Amnesty International emphasised that both countries, members of the UN Human Rights Council, have an increased responsibility to advance human rights. Amnesty called for Australia to encourage Indonesia to realise its promise to let the UN Human Rights investigators unimpeded access to West Papua.
Amnesty International takes no position whatsoever on the political status of any province of Indonesia, including on calls for independence. However, we consider that the right to freedom of expression protects the right to peacefully advocate for independence or any other political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.