Solomon Islands’ diplomat in Geneva has told the UN Human Rights Council’s 32nd session about an eroding human rights situation in Indonesia’s Papua region.
Barrett Salato told the session that whilst his country welcomes increased attention on West Papua from Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo, violations of Papuans’ rights remain unresolved.
Mr Salato said his government received regular reports from Papua of arbitrary arrests, summary execution, torture, restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and association, committed mainly by Indonesian police.
After the session, he said it was important to raise the issue globally.
“It will give the international commmunity some awareness about what’s going on (in Papua),” he said.
“Not much information goes out to the international commmunity about what’s happening so we take it here to the right body of the UN to raise the voices of our fellow human beings that does not have a voice in the human rights council.”
West Papua was singled out for attention at the session by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai.
He said what is occurring in Papua was a phenomenon connected with cultural fundamentalism and nationalism seen in other parts of the world.
“In each case, the superiority has triggered the process of dehumanization or delegitimizing of particular groups,” said Mr Kiai in his report.
Barrett Salato pointed out to the Council session that on 2 May 2016 alone, over 2000 West Papuans were arrested for participating in peaceful demonstrations in several cities in Papua and eastern Indonesian cities.
“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,” he said.
MSG focus on Papuan rights
Solomon Islands is currently occupying the chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. In this capacity it has been pushing for increased engagement with Indonesia’s government over the situation in West Papua.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua was granted observer status at the MSG last year and is seeking full membership in the group, with a decision to be made at an upcoming MSG leaders summit in Honiara next month.
Indonesia, which has associate member status in the MSG, has been opposed to greater representation within the group by the ULMWP.
Indonesia’s delegate at last week’s MSG Foreign Ministers meeting in Fiji was reportedly unhappy about having to sit alonside the Liberation Movement representative for discussions.
The Solomons government, however, was upbeat about the impact of getting Indonesians and West Papuans together at the same table.
The MSG Foreign Ministers meeting concluded with agreement to establish a Committee of High Level Representatives of MSG members to facilitate constructive engagement between Jakarta and West Papuans as concernd parties on the issues of rights abuses against Papuans.
Jakarta establishes team to address Papuan rights abuses
Indonesia’s government has been making efforts to respond to the ongoing international concern about rights abuses in West Papua.
While the UN Human Rights Council was discussing Papua in Geneva, Jakarta has been pushing ahead with the establishment of a team tasked with addressing a number of cases of human rights abuses in Papua region.
The team is being created under the watch of the Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, who has invited regional monitoring for the team’s inception.
Mr Luhut told media the team would consist of the chairmen of both National and Provincial Human Rights Commissions and several human rights commissionaires.
But Papua‘s Governor Lucas Enembe and various Papuan civil society figures have voiced concern that the team would not be independent and would be restricted in its scope.
Jakarta is under increasing pressure to be transparent about its efforts in Papua.
According to Barrett Salato, the Solomons would continue to urge Jakarta to accept MSG and Pacific Islands Forum fact-finding missions to Papua, and open up Papua to international access.
“Journalists working on human rights are still prevented to have free and full access to do their work in West Papua,” he said.
“Our delegation is convinced that access of international community to West Papua, particularly to UN Special Procedure, will provide an opportunity to improve the human rights situation.”