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UN seeks answers over Papua human rights abuses

Special rapporteurs want explanations from Indonesian government over issues including enforced disappearances
UN seeks answers over Papua human rights abuses

Residents of Bilogai and Kumpalagupa villages take refuge in Bilogai Church in Intan Jaya district on Oct. 29 due to the conflict between Indonesian security forces and rebel groups. (Photo supplied)

Published: February 15, 2022 03:42 AM GMT
Updated: February 15, 2022 03:59 AM GMT

Human rights abuses in Papua have come under the spotlight of the United Nations with the global body's special rapporteurs seeking explanations over several issues including enforced disappearances.

The matter came to light after a document was sent by the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to officials in response to the request, which was later leaked to the media.

The document, which was accessed by UCA News on Feb. 14, included a letter to the Indonesian government signed by Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

They stated that they had received allegations indicating several instances of extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearances, torture and inhuman treatment as well as the forced displacement of indigenous Papuans.

The three mentioned cases including the death of a two-year-old child and the injury of a six-year-old child after being shot in a gun battle between security forces and the West Papua Liberation Army in Sugapa, Intan Jaya district, on Oct. 26, 2021.

In addition, there is the case in Sugapa of Samuel Kobogau, 31, who was reported as a victim of enforced disappearance by military personnel and whose whereabouts have not been known since Oct. 5, 2021.

Any disproportionate or abusive use of force, including lethal force, is counter-productive and can only aggravate the conflict

They also asked for clarification regarding the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) — estimated at 60,000 to 100,000 — due to the conflict that has spread to at least seven districts in Papua.

“The growing number of internally displaced villagers has reportedly provoked an unknown number of deaths of villagers because of lack of food, medical care and weather conditions,” they said.

They also stated that the Red Cross, church charities and other aid organizations have been restricted in delivering basic humanitarian assistance to IDPs, while members of the National Human Rights Organization have faced security restrictions hampering their ability to independently access and document the situation on the ground.

They recommended the Indonesian government review the modus operandi and rules of engagement of its security forces, establish an independent and credible mechanism to investigate allegations of violations of the right to life, to personal security, to integrity and to deprivation of liberty to ensure accountability for acts of violence, improve justice and regain the confidence of local communities.

“Any disproportionate or abusive use of force, including lethal force, is counter-productive and can only aggravate the conflict,” they said.

The Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs had planned to discuss the letter on Feb. 14 in a meeting attended by high-ranking officials including military and police leaders.

However, Rina Soemarno, the ministry’s deputy for foreign policy coordination, told CNN Indonesia that the meeting was postponed due to the absence of many officials.

She explained that the meeting was aimed at "correcting false facts, demonstrating the law enforcement process and affirming Indonesia's respect for universal human rights values."

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the request by the special rapporteur is a standard procedure carried out by the UN to examine the condition of human rights in a country.

However, the fact that the UN pays special attention to the issue of Papua must be taken seriously by the government.

He said the government must follow up by conducting a credible investigation on issues of concern to the UN.

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