UN Special Adviser on Genocide concerned about human rights situation in West Papua

On 4 July 2023, UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, in her opening remarks during the 22nd Meeting of the 53rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, expressed concerns regarding the human rights situation in the easternmost provinces in Indonesia. She highlighted the harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention of Papuans, which had led to the appropriation of customary land in West Papua. She encouraged the Indonesian Government to ensure humanitarian assistance and engage in “a genuine inclusive dialogue”

“In Indonesia, the human rights situation in Papua remains deeply concerning. This includes alleged harassment, arbitrary arrests, and detention of Papuans in non-recognition of the rights of indigenous Papuans that has enabled the alleged appropriation of indigenous lands. Humanitarian assessment and assistance, as well as a genuine inclusive dialogue to address underlying grievances, is encouraged.

In many of the situations, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Yanomami in Brasil, the Guarani-Kaiwa in Brasil, and the Papua people, risk factors cannot be mitigated without addressing the role of extractive industries and exploitation of natural resources. We know all to well the devastating impact and legacies across generations that genocides have on victims, targeted communities, and societies.

The imperative to prevent genocide is hence legal and moral.

This includes acting early at community, national, regional, and international level on the warning signs and indicators of risk, including violence and discrimination based on identity, hate speech, and systematic violations of fundamental rights against civilian populations.

The failure to promptly respond to those warning signs allows genocide to happen. Prevention of genocide and related crimes is closely linked to ensuring accountability. Failing to hold perpetrators accountable and allowing impunity to take hold increases the risk of future genocides.”

A recording of the speech is available on UN Web TV starting at minute 13:15.

Indonesian response

The Indonesian Government responded promptly to the statement. A diplomatic delegate declared that the allegations presented on West Papua were not in line with the Special Advisor’s mandate and other issues discussed in her speech. She underlined that the Indonesian Government was fully committed to overcoming the challenges of armed violence in West Papua by promoting development, security, and stability to all Papuan citizens.  

“[…], Indonesia echoes with others, that have condemned genocide. However, on this occasion, we would like to raise our strongest objection to the issue raised earlier by the Special Adviser on Papua. The issue that the Special Advisor brought to this august forum today in relevance to the situation of human rights in Indonesia had no bearing on the report she presented nor her mandates. We are apprehensive about her objectiveness in assessing this issue.

The Government of Indonesia is fully committed to addressing the current challenges in Papua through accelerating development, humanitarian assistance, and ensuring security and stability.

However, we regret that the current terror of armed criminal groups continues to threaten the safety of civilians in several regions in Papua. As a duty bearer, the Government has to safeguard the safety and security of its citizens, including protection against acts of terrorism perpetrated by criminals. Obviously, this subject is far from our discussion today.”

A recording of the reply is available on UN Web TV starting at 1:08:00.