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Rights activists slam Indonesia’s ‘baseless’ claims at UN

Minister tells UN rights body all cases of rights violations including those in restive Papua are investigated properly

Papuans hold a rally to oppose Indonesian government's proposal to break up the country's predominantly Christian region, by adding six provinces from the two existing provinces - Papua and West Papua, in Yahukimo district on March 15

Papuans hold a rally to oppose Indonesian government's proposal to break up the country's predominantly Christian region, by adding six provinces from the two existing provinces - Papua and West Papua, in Yahukimo district on March 15. (Photo supplied)

Published: November 11, 2022 11:58 AM GMT

Updated: November 11, 2022 11:59 AM GMT

Rights activists have criticized the Indonesian government for what they call baseless claims on rights issues at the UN Human Rights Council, including those related to the handling of the conflict in the Papua region.

Activists said various claims by the government in the 4th round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva on Nov. 9 are "contrary to the actual situation, which has also been reported by Indonesian civil society through an alternative report sent in March 2022."

In the UPR session, Indonesia was represented by the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna H. Laoly.

Laoly claimed that the government always cooperates with human rights defenders, civil society organizations, journalists, and other civil elements to ensure the protection of human rights.

While on the issue of impunity, the government emphasized the provision of reparations for victims and that non-judicial mechanisms were complementary to judicial mechanisms and promised to properly investigate past gross human rights violations.

The same applies to the issue of human rights in Papua, where he said that most cases of violence in Papua have been investigated and the perpetrators have been punished.

Nurina Savitri, campaign manager for Amnesty International Indonesia stated that the government "did not provide complete information on the human rights situation" in Indonesia.

Regarding the Papua issue, she said, “the reality is that there are no cases involving security forces in Papua, including extrajudicial killings, which have previously been successfully investigated and tried in an independent court. "

“In the report, the government only conveys the situation in Papua from the perspective of infrastructure development, and welfare, even though at the same time violence continues. Of course, it is unfair to answer all this violence only with the jargon of infrastructure development," she said in a statement.

She also highlighted the repeated violations of the Papuan people's right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the government's tendency to strengthen its security approach.

“The Indonesian government states that the international community must be able to distinguish between human rights issues in Papua and legal enforcement actions. The question is, has the Indonesian government been able to tell the difference?” Nurina said.

"Extrajudicial killings, silencing of expression, against Papuan civil society is not an act of law enforcement, it is a clear violation of human rights," she added.

Yuli Langowuyo, executive director of the Franciscan's Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Jayapura Diocese of Papua, said, “the Indonesian government needs to seriously make efforts to fulfill human rights, including freedom of expression in the context of Indonesia and Papua.

For example, she highlighted the current revised draft of the Criminal Code which still includes an article on asking for permission to hold demonstrations.

“This is against the spirit of democracy in Indonesia and will be increasingly repressive. Moreover, in Papua, the number of violence due to restrictions on the right to free expression can increase," she told UCA News on Nov. 11.

She also highlighted the government's claims related to many infrastructure developments which are presented as means to assist Papua but do not address the political status of Papua within Indonesia.

She said the situation in Papua was mentioned by approximately nine countries in the UPR session for Indonesia.

"This means that the eyes of the international community are not closed to see the situation of injustice in Papua," she said.

Papua is a former Dutch colony that declared independence in 1961. However, Indonesia annexed the territory through a referendum widely considered a sham.

A separatist movement for independence was born, prompting Indonesia to maintain a heavy military presence in the resource-rich but underdeveloped province.

This year 51 people were arrested and subjected to violence related to peaceful demonstrations, according to Amnesty International Indonesia. It reported that 95 civilians in Papua were victims of extrajudicial killings in 2018-2021.

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