UN Special Rapporteur speaks out against restrictions on free speech in Papua

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai ... concerned over the rise of cultural fundamentalism and nationalism. Image: UN

By Victor Mambor in Jayapura

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, has highlighted the issue of Papua in his report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council Plenary, he reported what was happening in Papua was a phenomenon which had a connection with cultural fundamentalism and nationalism.

He spoke of the domination of a particular culture, a particular language and even a particular tradition which was claimed to be superior than others.

 “My report documented about the phenomenon occurring in China that restricts the rights of assembly and association of Tibetans and Uighurs; in Indonesia against the West Papuans and in other places such as India and Mauritania against the individuals considered [to be] a lower caste,” said Kiai in his report in the plenary.

He also mentioned the significant rise of fundamentalism in the last few years, as seen in the rising popularity of many right-wing political parties, in particular in Austria, Denmark, Hungary and Switzerland.

“The fundamentalism cases initially may look different, but [they have] the same interest. In each case, the superiority has triggered the process of dehumanization or delegitimising of particular groups. Gradually, these groups would lose their humanity and rights. This process can lead to devastating consequences, because history has proved it many times,” said Kiai in his report.

In addition to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur, the civil society groups which are concerned about the Papua issue also reported about the restriction of freedom of expression in Papua.

Arbitrary arrests
Franciscans International, VIVAT International, International Coalition for West Papua, West Papua Nezwerk, Tapol, Minority Rights Groups International, Geneva for Human Rights and the World Council of Churches urged the UN Human Rights Council to ask the government of Indonesia to conduct an investigation into the arbitrary arrests in Papua and other places.

The Indonesian government was asked to guarantee the rights of freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association for Papuans.

“We also ask the UN Human Rights Council to urge the government of Indonesia to open the access on Papua for the international community and set a date for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression an allow other mandate holders to visit Papua,” said Budi Cahyono, the coordinator for Asia Pacific Franciscans International Programme in Geneva to Jubi through email.

Victor Mambor is chief editor of Tabloid Jubi.

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