In December 2021 three Members of the European Parliament requested the Vice-President of the EU Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to provide a written answer regarding the human rights situation in West Papua. MPs Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó (NI), Antoni Comín i Oliveres (NI), and Clara Ponsatí Obiols (NI) raised a parliamentary question covering political prisoners, funds allocation, and access to West Papua. A written answer was given by High Representative/Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission on 21 February 2022.
Written Parliamentary Question
The written question points out that after a process of decolonisation from the Netherlands, West Papua was annexed by Indonesia in 1963, and that in the past six decades, Indonesian governments have been accused of indulging in policies against the West Papuan population, which could be defined as genocide. It also mentions that in 2020, 418 new West Papuan political prisoners were recorded as having been taken into custody. As of December 2021, 106 remain under detention awaiting trial or have been given long prison sentences, like Victor Yeimo, an independence movement symbol, who has been charged with treason. Continuous violations of human rights in West Papua are denounced every year in reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. It closes by stating that the EU signed a framework agreement with Indonesia in 2014 wherein ‘human rights’ were mentioned up to 17 times and that since 2016 negotiation rounds have taken place for an EU‑Indonesia free trade agreement. It poses three specific questions:
- Will respect for human rights in West Papua and the release of political prisoners such as Victor Yeimo be a condition for negotiating a free trade agreement with Indonesia in the 11th negotiation round?
- Will the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ask the Indonesian Government to authorise a visit to West Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?
- What amount of funds have been allocated to West Papua by the Commission since 2001 and for what purposes?
Written Answer by High Representative
The answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission reads as follows:
EU-Indonesia relations are underpinned by the 2014 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Recent discussions took place in the context of the Human Rights Dialogue (27 May 2021) and Joint Committee (22 June 2021). Since its democratic transition, respect for human rights in Indonesia has greatly improved. Nonetheless, the safeguarding of freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly remain matters of concern in West Papua. The EU supports Indonesia’s territorial integrity and encourages inclusive dialogue to address grievances felt by the local population and ensure respect for human rights. Respect for human rights, including fundamental labour rights, will also be embedded in any Free Trade Agreement, the 11th round of negotiations for which, took place on 8-12 November 2021.
The EU encourages Indonesia to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua and has urged Indonesia to extend standing invitations to all Special Rapporteurs and Mandate holders.
Since 2001, the EU has supported the government’s efforts to promote Papua and West Papua’s sustainable development, by allocating EUR 4.7 million specifically to these two provinces in the field of democracy, civil society, peace process, health care, education, and land-use planning. Additionally, the EU has funded projects in Indonesia for over EUR 112 million in the sectors of climate change, deforestation, education, health and human rights, which included activities also in Papua and West Papua.