The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Human Rights Report on Indonesia presents a detailed compilation of the extensive civil, political and worker rights abuse in Indonesia in 2010 and an impressive description of the Indonesian government’s poor record of holding accountable before the law those who perpetrated those abuses.
The report also usefully includes outstanding cases of human rights abuse from previous years for which there has been inadequate investigation and/or no judicial accounting. The report devotes significant attention to West Papua.
This reporting series remains seriously flawed insofar as it ignores social, economic and cultural rights which are also a central part of the Universal Declaration and have equal standing along with civil, political and worker rights in the declaration.
The Indonesian government’s performance in these areas, particularly in West Papua, clearly warrants international scrutiny.
For decades, the Indonesian government’s systematic failure to provide essential health and educational services to Papuans has contributed directly to their marginalization. Health indices for Papuans, along with educational achievement measurements, consistently rank as the poorest in the archipelago. The Indonesian government’s malfeasance in this regard has been the basis of growing charges that:
The Indonesian government’s policies towards the Papuans in particular, amounts to genocide.
The failure of the U.S. State Department human rights report to examine in detail the violation of social, economic and cultural rights in Indonesia renders the report incomplete and inadequate.
Indonesia has failed to control the destruction of natural resources that are vital to local populations. This assault on forests, fishing grounds, and river systems by Indonesian and international corporations, often aided and abetted by Indonesian security forces, has left many indigenous peoples, particularly Papuans, destitute.
The 2010 report commendably addresses what amounts to Indonesian collusion with local and international cooperation’s in the destruction of natural resources vital to the survival of indigenous peoples in West Papua. The report notes:
“During the year indigenous persons, most notably in Papua, remained subject to widespread discrimination, and there was little improvement in respect for their traditional land rights. Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and logistical problems to indigenous communities…”
“The government failed to prevent companies, often in collusion with the local military and police, from encroaching on indigenous peoples’ land. In Papua tensions continued between indigenous Papuans and migrants from other provinces, between residents of coastal and inland communities, and among indigenous tribes.”
Such explicit U.S. government criticism is unfortunately rare. The 2010 report shirks direct criticism in most cases of human rights violations by security forces and the concomitant failure of the Indonesian government to hold abusers accountable. For example, the report avoids direct criticism of the infamous “transmigration” program, an approach to population engineering through government-organized migration that amounts to ethnic cleansing in impact and perhaps intent. The program, developed under the Suharto dictatorship with international financial backing, was formally abandoned after the World Bank, citing human rights concerns, ended support for the program in the late 1980’s. It was reintroduced under the Yudhoyono administration and continues. Rather than criticize the transmigration program in its own voice, the report only notes that:
“Human rights activists asserted the government-sponsored transmigration program transplanting poor families from overcrowded Java and Madura to less populated islands violated the rights of indigenous people, bred social resentment, and encouraged the exploitation and degradation of natural resources on which many indigenous persons relied.”
The 2010 report only alludes to the dangerous inter-communal tensions created by transmigration, observing only that:
“in some areas relations between transmigrants and indigenous people are poor.”
The 2010 report similarly evades direct criticism of the Indonesian government with regard to the rare instances in which Indonesian security officials have been brought before courts for violations of human rights. Invariably they receive sentences which are not commensurate with the crimes they have committed.
This lack of accountability is particularly extensive in West Papua. Rather than offer criticism of this widely condemned practice in its own voice, the 2010 report simply notes weakly that:
“Some civilians criticized the short length of prison sentences imposed by military courts.”
The report notes that:
“Violence affected the provinces of Papua and West Papua during the year, but due to the remoteness of the area it was difficult to confirm reports villages were burned and scores of civilians killed.”
Indonesian security force “sweeping operations” have for decades forced villagers from their homes and into the forests in West Papua’s central highlands.
As a direct consequence of this forced flight, many of these civilians have died due to inadequate access to food, shelter and medical care. The security forces routinely declare off limits the areas affected by these military “sweeps.” As a result the affected areas are cut off from humanitarian relief operations and efforts aimed at monitoring the welfare of those forced from their villages. Lack of detailed reporting on these murderous security force “sweeps” is due not to the “remoteness” of the targeted areas but rather to deliberate measures taken by the Indonesian military and police to block effective monitoring by denying access to these areas. The State Department report’s failure to describe these sweeping operations more candidly is particularly inexcusable as both the UN Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture have both expressed deep concern over allegations of excessive force, widespread torture, and abuse by members of the armed forces and paramilitary groups in such military “sweep” operations in Papua.
Similarly, the report speaks only vaguely of “confusion around events in the provinces of Papua and West Papua” to explain the failure of efforts to document the killing in West Papua’s Puncak Jaya Regency of Pastor Kindeman Gire.
Again, Indonesian government’s restrictions on access to and movement within West Papua (acknowledged in an unrelated, separate section of the 2010 report) obstructs international efforts to document the facts in this or similar cases. Indonesian security force intimidation of local human rights investigations by NGOs and journalists also limits the ability of Indonesian monitors. The “confusion” is in fact a product of successful Indonesian government efforts to obfuscate and cover up.
The 2010 report describes the horrific, videoed May 2009 death of Papuan Yawan Wayeni while in custody:
“In August 2009 members of Brimob killed tribal leader and former political prisoner Yawan Wayeni at his house in Mantembu village, Yapen Island, Papua.”
The State Department report accurately notes that:
“the video showed the police taunting and providing no assistance to Wayeni as he was dying, but the video did not “show events leading up to his death,” adding that “police sources claimed Wayeni was armed with a home-made weapon, while Papuan activists claimed that he was unarmed.”
The contention that Wayeni may or may not have been armed in no way exculpates the Brimob forces involved. They had a responsibility to provide medical assistance to the clearly unarmed and critically wounded Wayeni. The report also fails to note that no disciplinary action was taken against those Brimob personnel who killed Wayeni. The case is similar in this regard to the December 2009 death of OPM leader Kelly Kwalik in Brimob custody. He bled to death from a thigh wound inflicted by Brimob forces while in their custody.
The 2010 report fails to criticize the Indonesian government’s repeated targeting for arrest and assault those who peacefully demonstrate. The report simply notes the arrest of Moluccans and Papuans who displayed what the Indonesian government labels as “separatist symbols.”
While noting that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have identified over 83 citizens incarcerated for such peaceful protest (in West Papua and elsewhere), the report does not criticize the practice. Nor does it note that in punishing such peaceful protest, Indonesia is in violation of its obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Rather than cite Indonesia for its violations of its citizens right to free speech and freedom of assembly the report misleadingly claims that:
“The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.”
The report does acknowledge, but without criticism, that:
“During the year police arrested participants in peaceful demonstrations that included the display of illegal separatist symbols.”
from the West Papua Report May 2011
The West Papua Report is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).