West Papua torture, Indonesia’s attempt to hide killing of five students
2014 Nobel Peace nominee, Mr Benny Wenda claimed that up to 1000 police and military deployed to the Timika region in West Papua tortured people and burned down houses.
However, Mr Wenda is of the belief that the large deployment is a deliberate attempt by the Indonesian government to divert public attention away from the killing of five teenage schoolboys in Paniai last month. The shocking event took place when security forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration. The victims were aged 17 and 18 and were in school uniform.
In his statement about Indonesia’s Timika operation, Mr Wenda, also the spokesperson for the Free West Papua movement said up to 116 people living in the region surrounding the Freeport McMoran mine have detained and tortured since the deployment.
Another source reporting on the situation, Mr Andreas Wakerkwa from the group West Papua Interest Association told the bintangpapua.com website that 49 women and children have been freed by the police and military. However, 77 men are still being detained in very poor conditions at Timika.
The use of torture by the Indonesian security forces against indigenous Papuans is widespread. There is much documented evidence of this endemic behaviour and in recent years video footage (captured as ‘trophy footage’ by Indonesian soldiers) has been leaked and broadcasted on international news channels such as Al Jazeera and Channel 4 News.
As the world stand united in defiance at the killing of 17 people in Paris, France including Hebdo Charlie journalists, the world need to turn the same attention to West Papua where basic rights to freedom of expression have almost been completely denied for more than fifty years.
In the past 50 years, more than 500,000 civilians have been killed, thousands more have been raped, tortured, imprisoned or ‘disappeared’ after being detained. Basic human rights such as freedom of speech are denied and Papuans live in a constant state of fear and intimidation.
A paper prepared by the Yale Law School for the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign in 2004 found “in the available evidence a strong indication that the Indonesian government has committed genocide against the West Papuans”.
A further study carried out by the University of Sydney claims that the continuation of current practices in West Papua “may pose serious threats to the survival of the indigenous people of the Indonesian province of Papua.”
While a report by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHCR), reveal graphic detail of the alleged murder, rape and torture of more than 4,000 Papuans by Indonesian military in the late 1970s. The report, The Neglected Genocide – Human Rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977 – 1978 document violence that occurred when Indonesia launched several military operations around Wamena, in response to independence uprisings after general elections in 1977.
Many towns and villages have witnessed wholesale massacres of their people. One such example was the ‘Biak Massacre‘ in 1998, where over 200 people including women and children were rounded up by the Indonesian military, loaded onto vessels, taken to sea and thrown overboard.
Today the situation remains virtually unchanged. Any West Papuan expressing criticism of Indonesian rule and in particular aspirations for West Papuan independence can expect to be persecuted by the police and imprisoned as what has happened to villagers of the Timika region.
West Papua is currently off limits to international journalists. If discovered without permission they are arrested and deported by the Indonesian authorities. Some have even been attacked and imprisoned.
That was the case in August last year when French journalists Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29 were arrested and imprisoned by Indonesian authorities for breaking ‘immigration laws’. The conviction carries a jail term of five years, but the two were released on the back of international outcry two months later in October.
Reports from West Papua say, it very clear that Indonesian authorities will stop at nothing to keep the ongoing genocide they are directing in West Papua out of international media coverage. It has also become impossible for many NGOs to operate in West Papua.
In 2010 the International Red Cross were expelled, and in 2012 Peace Brigades International were forced to leave. International human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are also denied access to West Papua.