By RNZ Pacific
Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have raised the issue of human rights abuses against West Papuans at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The two governments made a statement which also noted that Indonesia had not yet given access to Papua for the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
The statement was delivered at the council’s latest session by Sumbue Antas from Vanuatu’s Permanent Mission to the UN.
It followed weeks of protests and related unrest in Papua which left at least ten people dead and dozens of Papuans arrested.
The Melanesian countries told the council of their deep concern about ongoing rights violations against the freedoms of expression and assembly, as well as racial discrimination towards Papuans in the Indonesian-administered provinces of Papua and West Papua.
They echoed last week’s call from the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, for Indonesia to protect the fundamental human rights of Papuans.
“Related to this agenda item, we are concerned about the Indonesian Government’s delay in confirming a time and date for the Human Rights Commissioner to conduct its visit to West Papua,” Antas said.
For years, the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office has been trying to secure permission from Jakarta to visit Papua region.
Indonesia’s government has indicated that, for the time being, access to Papua would remain restricted because of the security situation created by the recent unrest, which was triggered by racist harassment of Papuan students in Java last month.
Six thousand extra Indonesian military and police personnel were deployed to Papua to respond to the widespread protests. The government also implemented restrictions on internet coverage in Papua, although this was gradually being eased as of last week.
However, even before the current surge in unrest, Pacific Islands countries voiced frustration that Jakarta had not responded sufficiently to repeated requests by the UN Commissioner for access to Papua.
At the recent 2019 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Tuvalu, regional countries called on both Indonesia and the UN Commissioner to finalise the timing of a visit to West Papua, and to submit an evidence-based report on the situation before the next summit in 2020.
“We call on the High Commissioner and the Government of Indonesia to expedite this arrangement so an assessment on the current situation is made, and a report can be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration,” Antas said.
- This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.