Solomon Islands, Vanuatu condemn Papuan rights violations at UN hearing

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Students from Papua province shout slogans during a rally in front of the US embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, demanding a referendum for the West Papuan region. Image: Al Jazeera

The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have condemned the “unresolved” human rights violations in West Papua by Indonesian security forces, saying they have continued in spite of President Joko Widodo’s greater attention to the region.

Both countries say the agreed future visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Indonesia should also include West Papua.

The Vanuatu statement expressed its “deepest concerns on the deteriorating human rights situation” in the region.

“We continue to receive increasing reports of gross human rights violations in West Papua,” the statement said.

The Solomon Islands strongly endorsed the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) Forum in London on May 3 which called for an internationally supervised vote on the independence of West Papua.

The declaration had been endorsed by cross regional parliamentarians coming from 15 UN member states.

“Whilst we welcome the increased attention given by President Joko Widodo to West Papua, the violation of human rights against West Papuan remains unresolved,” said the Solomon Islands statement.

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“The Solomon Islands government receives regular reports of cases of arbitrary arrests, summary execution, torture, ill-treatment, restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and association, committed mainly by the Indonesian police.”

Statement by the Permanent Mission of Solomon Islands to the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council.
22 June 2016

Thank you Mr President,

The delegation of Solomon Islands would like to draw the attention of the Council on the human right situation in West Papua, Indonesia. We express our deep concerns on the eroding human rights situation of the indigenous Melanesian Papuans, who are the indigenous population of West Papua. As a Melanesian state, the incumbent chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and designated chair of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) would extend its solidarity to our fellow Melanesians in West Papua. We would encourage the Government of Indonesia to find peaceful and sustainable solution of the on-going conflict in West Papua through constructive engagement with the representatives of the West Papuans and respect their right as a people.

Whilst we welcome the increased attention given by President Joko Widodo to West Papua, the violation of human rights against West Papuan remains unresolved. The Solomon Islands government receives regular reports of cases of arbitrary arrests, summary execution, torture, ill-treatment, restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and association, committed mainly by the Indonesian police.

On 2 May 2016 alone, 2,109 people were arrested mainly indigenous Melanesian Papuans, while participating in peaceful demonstrations in several cities in West Papua and some Indonesian cities. The demonstrations were held in support of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) to be recognized as a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the commemoration of 1 May 1963 as Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua and to support the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) meeting. During the arrest, some of them experienced torture and ill treatment from the Indonesian security forces.

The Solomon Islands notes the recent outcomes of the Foreign Ministers Meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead group that was held last week in Fiji (14-17TH June 2016) where both Representatives of Indonesia and the ULMWP sat as MSG members during the deliberation.

This outcome envisages to establish a safe space for constructive engagement with all parties with a view to addressing the concerns of the MSG members about the recent developments in West Papua. In this regard, the Foreign Ministers further agreed to establish a Committee of High Level Representatives of the MSG members to accompany and facilitate this constructive engagement.

We also welcome the initiative of the MSG to work closely with the Indonesian government to visit the Melanesian Provinces of Indonesia at a later date. This important visit would allow for a clear, objective and independent view by the members of the MSG leaders and ministers.

We strongly endorsed the final declaration of this International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) Forum which took place in London on 3 May which calls for an internationally supervised vote on the independence of West Papua. The declaration has been endorsed by cross regional parliamentarians coming from 15 UN member States.

Journalists working on human rights are still prevented to have free and full access to do their work in West Papua. Our delegation is convinced that access of international community to West Papua, particularly to the UN Special Procedure, will provide an opportunity to improve the human rights situation. We reassure the Government of Indonesia to cooperate with the Human Rights Council by allowing the agreed visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Indonesia which should include to West Papua.

Finally, we encourage the Indonesian Government to facilitate the human rights fact-finding mission to West Papua that the members of the Pacific Island Forum have decided to conduct.

Thank you Mr President

Statement by the Republic of Vanuatu
22 June 2016

Thank you Mr President,

My delegation associates itself with the statement made by Solomon Islands.

Vanuatu wishes to express to the Council our deepest concerns on the deteriorating human right situation in West Papua. We continue to receive increasing reports of gross human rights violations in West Papua.

In the recent months more than a thousand of West Papuans were arrested by Indonesia police for participating in peaceful demonstrations. This contradicts the responsibility to protect and facilitate protests that advocate for political and cultural views that differ from, and even oppose, those espoused by the Government.

Whilst we acknowledge and welcome the Report by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom and of association, which gave example of West Papuans whose rights to freedom of assembly and of associations are restricted by the Indonesian Government, Vanuatu would like to call upon the Human Rights Council to do more.

We call on the Council to work with Indonesia Government to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to visit West Papua to get objective and independent views of the situation on the ground in that region.

West also call on the Government of Indonesia to allow free and full access of international journalist to West Papua and allow the human rights fact-finding mission by the Pacific Islands Forum.

Thank you Mr President

Right of Reply of the Indonesian Republic
22 June 2016

Mr Vice President,

This right of reply is to respond to the statements made by the delegations of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and one NGO on the matter of Papua.

My delegation reject categorically the Statements made by those Delegations today. Those statements represent an unfortunate lack of understanding of the current state and development in Indonesia, including in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Those statements lacks good faith and are politically motivated that can be construed as supporting the separatist group in those provinces who have been engaged in inciting public disorder and in armed terrorist attacks toward civilians and security personnel.

Such support clearly violates the purposes and objectives of the UN Charter and principles of international law on friendly relations among states and on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.

Let me be clear, Indonesia, as a democratic country, is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, including by taking necessary steps to address the allegations of human rights violations and abuses in Papua. As no one is perfect, we are always open to have dialogue on human rights issues. But we reject politicization of those issues. We deplore the way Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have abused this Council and the universal principles of the promotion and protection of human rights by supporting the cause of separatism.

Mr Vice President,

President Widodo has personally instructed relevant government agencies to take steps to settle past human rights issues, including those related to Papua, and to put in place measures to prevent future incidences.

In this regard, the government is addressing a number of cases of alleged human rights violations in Papua. To expedite the process of addressing those cases, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs has set up an integrated team that includes the National Human Rights Commission.

Provinces of Papua and West Papua enjoy wide-ranging autonomy, and democracy, as guaranteed by the national laws. Provincial and local governments are directly elected by, and headed as well as administered by the Papuans. Moreover, it should be noted that the budget per capita in the two provinces are among the highest in Indonesia.

Mr Vice President,

It needs to be underscored here that Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are far from being perfect in their implementation and protection of human rights. They are still facing serious human rights problems.

Corruption is rampant in all segments in the society and government.

Trafficking in persons continues to take place. Children are facing continued harsh punishment, and violence against women sadly is a daily routine. It will be for the betterment of their population if the government of Solomon Island and Vanuatu give attention and priority to seriously address their respective domestic human rights shortcomings.

I thank you.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. West Papua Action Auckland has written as follows to the Prime Ministers of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to congratulate them for this initiative:
    Dear Prime Ministers,
    West Papua Action Auckland would like to congratulate your Governments for the very important representations made by your diplomatic representatives at the Geneva meeting of the Human Rights Council.
    We fully support the principled stand that your governments have taken in support of the people of West Papua who continue to suffer from grievous human rights abuses. Along with you, we have been very disturbed by the large number of arrests of young people that have taken place across the territory in the last two months. We understand that those arrested were doing nothing more than attempting to express their political aspirations and their support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
    In the last few days our concerns have increased as we read the reported statement of the Police Chief in West Papua, General Paulus Waterpauw, who said that there would be ‘legal consequences’ for those in groups who advocate for ‘separatism’. He appeared to be threatening young people with a criminal record should they take part in a demonstration that could be seen as anti-government. If this report is accurate then it has serious implications. We strongly believe that the essence of democracy is the right to peaceful dissent.
    We therefore back the call you have made to Indonesia to invite the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to visit West Papua. Furthermore, as Indonesia has not welcomed the request for a fact-finding mission supported by the Pacific Island Forum, we are pleased that you have raised this important proposal in Geneva.
    For our part we will do our best to encourage our own Government to follow your inspiring lead.
    Your sincerely,
    Maire Leadbeater
    For West Papua Action Auckland

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