UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Council of Churches express concern over the aggravation of violence in West Papua

Two international organisations, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), have voiced concerns regarding the aggravating human rights situation in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces Papua and Papua Barat. The statements were published only two months before Indonesia will undergo its fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in November 2022.

The UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Nada Al-Nashif (see photo on top, source: OHCHR), opened the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 12 September 2022 with her Global Update statement. Besides the issues of internal displacement as a result of the armed conflict, she raised particular concerns about the recent extra-judicial killing and mutilation of four indigenous Papuans by members of the military and civilian perpetrators. She urged the Government of Indonesia to conduct a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the case.

“In the Papua region (Papua and West Papua Provinces) of Indonesia, we have reports of intensified violence, including clashes between the Indonesian security forces and armed groups resulting in unknown numbers of civilian casualties and fatalities and internal displacement. I am shocked by recent reports of the dismembered bodies of four indigenous Papuan civilians found outside Timika in West Papua Province on 22 August. I note the Government’s initial efforts to investigate, including the arrest of at least six military personnel, and urge a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation, holding those responsible to account.”, she said

Previously the WCC adopted a statement on the human rights situation in West Papua during its General Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, on 8 September 2022. The statement reads as follows:

“The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, once again expresses the grave concern of the international ecumenical fellowship regarding the situation in Tanah Papua – the Papuan provinces of Indonesia. The Indigenous Papuan people – the vast majority of whom are Christians – continue to suffer serious and systemic violations of their physical security and human rights, including arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings as well as sexual and gender-based violence, while independent journalists, international humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors are allowed restricted or no access to the territory.

In addition, the consequences of deforestation and environmental degradation are threatening Papuan traditional livelihoods and culture. Meanwhile, both Indonesian and international corporate interests exploit the resources of the territory – including gold, copper, nickel, uranium, gas, oil and coal, as well as forest, marine and cultural resources – without any adequate economic redress to the Papuan people.

Recently, the violence and violation of rights have been compounded by new political arrangements in the territory which have been imposed on the people of Papua against their will. The systemic marginalization of and discrimination against the Papuan people in their own land is accelerating and intensifying. Moreover, the increasing deforestation of the rainforests of Papua is contributing to the destruction of the ‘lungs of the planet’ and accelerating the global trajectory towards climate catastrophe. Protection of the rainforest and of the marine ecosystems of Papua – with the vast biodiversity they host – is an urgent necessity.

The Assembly:

Commends the initiatives and actions taken by the WCC to respond to this situation since the Busan Assembly, including especially the international ecumenical delegation visit to West Papua in February 2019.

Encourages continued and intensified engagement by the WCC (including advocacy in UN human rights forums, and consideration of the establishment of an ecumenical working group on West Papua).

Urges all WCC member churches and partners to increase their awareness, accompaniment and support for the people and churches of Tanah Papua in the midst of this longstanding and worsening crisis.”