Thursday, September 29, 2016


In an unprecedented move, seven UN member states from the Pacific raised their concerted voices on Papua during the prestigious 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

Nauru started the intervention by highlighting the issue of human rights violations in Papua, followed by a newcomer in the discourse of Papua: the Marshall Islands.

Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands followed suit and went one step further by specifically highlighting the issue of the right to self-determination for Papuans. Tonga emphasised the gravity of the problem and Palau, another novice, called for constructive dialogue with Indonesia to solve the Papua issue.

This was a historic moment for us as we have never had such unified high-profile intervention when it comes to the issue of Papua at the UN. Perhaps the only lone ranger used to be Vanuatu, which tried to break the silence of the UN fora.

This week’s debate at the UN General Assembly might remind us of a similar but much more colorful debate on Papua at the assembly in 1969, when the forum decided to close the chapter on Papua by accepting the result of the Act of Free Choice.

If in 1969 some African countries expressed opposition to the assembly’s decision to adopt the result of the 1969 Act of Free Choice for Papuans, today the Pacific nations are taking the lead.

Indonesia’s response, however, was highly predictable. Repeating the slogan of territorial integrity and sovereignty, the government’s response unfortunately does not provide us with facts and evidence of the improvement in the human rights situation in Papua.

It may be remembered that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo promised to solve the killing of four high-school students in Paniai on Dec. 8, 2014. The investigation into the case has been delayed for almost two years and we have not seen much progress.

The families of the victims recall that at least eight government institutions sent their respective fact-finding team to interview victims on the ground and personnel of the Army, the Papua Police, the National Police, the Air Force, the Papua Legislative Council, the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), the Office of Coordinating Security, Political and Legal Affairs Minister, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). None of these teams, however, has ever published their report for public consumption.

Similarly, the dossiers on the Wasior killings of 2001 and the Wamena case of 2003 have been pending for more than a decade at the Attorney General once Komnas HAM finished its investigation. These were not ordinary crimes but crimes against humanity, one of the most serious crimes punishable by Indonesian and international law. Unfortunately, both Komnas HAM and the Attorney General’s Office have argued over evidence and procedure for years.

Komnas HAM insists that it has provided conclusive evidence and has followed proper procedure. On the other hand, the Attorney General’s Office has argued that Komnas HAM has not met the requirement of a pro-justice investigation as investigators did not take an oath as required by the Criminal Law Procedures Code. Both institutions have overlooked the fact that victims continue to suffer.

Memories are still fresh on the surge in the arrests of Papuan youth when they took to the streets to express their opinions in public despite a constitutional guarantee of the right to do so.

The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) documented that at least 4,587 individuals, men and women, were arrested by the police for expressing their political views in 13 cities, namely Dekai, Fakfak, Jakarta, Jayapura, Kaimana, Makassar, Malang, Manado Manokwari, Merauke, Sentani, Wamena and Yogyakarta.

While most of the arrestees were released within 24 hours, the deployment of police in 13 jurisdictions across the country would not have been possible without the blessing of the National Police top brass.

While we were grappling with human rights conditions in Papua, we were shocked by the President’s decision to appoint Gen. (ret) Wiranto as the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister.

In February 2003, the UN-sponsored Special Panels for Serious Crimes of the Dili District Court, Timor Leste, indicted Gen. Wiranto, then the Indonesian defense and security minister and Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) commander for crimes against humanity in connection with the events in Timor Leste in 1999.

As we were yet to recover from the President’s unfathomable choice, we were presented with another unprecedented decision when the Indonesian Military TNI chief named Maj. Gen. Hartomo to lead the military’s Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS).

Hartomo was the commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) Tribuana X unit assigned to Papua when Theys Eluay was murdered. Hartomo and six other Kopassus officers were charged with Theys’ murder on National Heroes Day in 2001. He and his team were found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison by the Surabaya Military Court and discharged from the Army.

These all are simple facts that tell us the way our government commits to human rights in Papua and elsewhere, which the Indonesian delegation to the UN General Assembly describes as “robust and active”.

The writer, Budi Hernawan who obtained his PhD from the Australian National University, lectures in international relations at the Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, Jakarta.


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