Advocacy group calls on Senator Wong to press Jakarta over latest West Papua atrocities report

"'The kids had all been tortured’: Indonesian military accused of targeting children in West Papua" . . . The Guardian's investigative report on Indonesian atrocities in West Papua on 25 September 2023. Image: The Guardian/Screenshot/ APR

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian advocacy group supporting West Papuan self-determination has appealed to Foreign Minister Penny Wong to press Indonesia to halt all military operations in the region following new allegations of Indonesian atrocities reported in The Guardian newspaper.

In a letter to the senator yesterday, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) protested against the report of torture and killing of civilians in West Papua.

According to an investigative report by Mani Cordell in The Guardian on Monday, Indonesian security forces tortured and burned to death a 17-year-old high school student, Wity Unue.

Quoting Raga Kogeya, a West Papuan human rights activist, the report said:

“Wity had been interrogated and detained along with three other boys and two young men under suspicion of being part of the troubled region’s rebel army.

“They were taken by special forces soldiers who rampaged through the West Papuan village of Kuyawage, burning down houses and a church and terrorising locals.

“Transported by helicopter to the regional military headquarters 100km away, the group were beaten and burnt so badly by their captors that they no longer looked human.

“Kogeya says Wity died a painful death in custody. The other five were only released after human rights advocates tipped off the local media.

“‘The kids had all been tortured and they’d been tied up and then burned,’ says Kogeya, who saw the surviving boys’ injuries first-hand on the day of their release.”

The AWPA letter by spokesperson Joe Collins said: “Numerous reports have documented the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua, the burning of villages during military operations and the targeting of civilians including children.”

The most recent cited report was by Human Rights Monitor titled “Destroy them first… discuss human rights later” (August 2023), “brings to attention the shocking abuses that are ongoing in West Papua and should be of concern to the Australian government”.

Quoting from that report, the letter stated:

“This report provides detailed information on a series of security force raids in the Kiwirok District, Pegunungan Bintang Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province (until 2022 Papua Province) between 13 September and late October 2021.

“Indonesian security forces repeatedly attacked eight indigenous villages in the Kiwirok District, using helicopters and spy drones. The helicopters reportedly dropped mortar grenades on civilian homes and church buildings while firing indiscriminately at civilians.

“Ground forces set public buildings as well as residential houses on fire and killed the villagers’ livestock.”

The AWPA said Indonesian security force operations had also created thousands of internal refugees who have fled to the forests to escape the Indonesian military.

“It has been estimated that there are up to 60,000 IDPs in the highlands living in remote shelters in the forest and they lacking access to food, sanitation, medical treatment, and education,” the letter stated.

In light of the ongoing human rights abuses in the territory, the AWPA called on Senator Wong to:

  • urge Jakarta to immediately halt all military operations in West Papua;
  • urge Jakarta to supply aid and health care to the West Papuan internal refugees by human rights and health care organisations trusted by the local people; and to
  • rethink Australia cooperation with the Indonesian military until the Indonesian military is of a standard acceptable to the Australian people who care about human rights.

A New Zealand advocacy group has also called for an immediate government response to the allegations of torture of children in West Papua.

“The New Zealand government must speak out urgently and strongly against this child torture and the state killing of children by Indonesian forces in West Papua this week,” said the West Papua Action Aotearoa network spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

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