Fifty members of the U.S. Congress have written to President Obama to express their deep concern about West Papua.
The Representatives strongly urged Pres. Obama to give West Papua a high priority in U.S. policy towards Indonesia and also called on him to meet with Papuans in his scheduled November visit to Indonesia.
The letter to the President “suggests that slow motion genocide has been taking place in West Papua and reviews findings by human rights organizations and scholars who have conducted extensive research about crimes against humanity and genocide by Indonesian security forces [Kopassus].”
“According to international agreements, other nations are legally obligated to intervene when a genocide is in process and Members of Congress remain hopeful that President Obama and the U.S. State Department will hold Indonesia accountable.”
The letter concluded by encouraging Obama to meet with Papuans during his upcoming visit to Indonesia, noting that President Obama has the opportunity to bring lasting change to this part of the world.
Papuan leaders have repeatedly tried to engage in dialogue with the Indonesian government, dialogues have failed to produce concrete results and Papuan leaders are now calling for an International Dialogue. In this context, signatories of the letter have asked President Obama to meet with the people of West Papua during his upcoming trip to Indonesia in November.
TheObamaAdministration has announced it will open contact with the infamous Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus).
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, visiting Jakarta July 22, announced the decision noting that the resumption of contact would proceed “in accordance with U.S. law, only on the basis of future reforms within Kopassus.”
Specifically, Gates told media that the U.S. would undertake a “gradual, limited program of security cooperation activities,” conditioned on “continued reform” (sic) within Kopassus and the TNI.
The engagement “may be initially limited to including Kopassus officials in “conferences and events involving non-lethal subjects like rule of law, human rights and the military decision-making process.
20% of Kopassus’s 5,000 personnel are stationed in West Papua. Human Rights Watch, in a June 2009 report, documented continued Kopassus human rights abuse targeting Papuans in the Merauke area. Political Prisoner Filep Karma, convicted of non-violent protest in 2001 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, told media in late July that U.S. assistance to Kopassus would simply increase the capacity of that unit to torture and kill Papuans.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion granting Kosovo the right to declare its independence can have implications for Papuans pursuit of self-determination.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. The ICJ decision has drawn broad international comment, much of it arising from the prospect that other cases involving secessionist movements might be advanced by this “Kosovo precedent.” The Kosovo case was the first case of unilateral secession to be brought before the ICJ.
Several principles established within the ICJ decision may apply to the call for a Papuan “right to self-determination.” These include the ICJ’s acceptance of the presumption in international law that civil and human rights, including the rights of minorities, should be protected. A Dutch government submission to the ICJ in the Kosovo case, for example, would appear to be relevant to the West Papua circumstance:
“The people of Kosovo had the right to self-determination and secession from Serbia because the Belgrade authorities systematically violated civil and human rights of Albanians for years. International law thus allows the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence.”
The violation of Papuan civil and human rights is well-established by UN reports, annual reports by the U.S. State Department and respected international NGOs and journalists.
These are highlights from a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) co-published with the East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). you can read the entire report by clicking here.