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NGOs allege government impunity in Papua

A Papuan woman carrying her son in Papua. The region is one of Indonesia's poorest. Approximately 35 percent of the Papua's 2.6 million inhabitants live below the poverty line
A Papuan woman carrying her son in Papua (Jefri Aries/IRIN)

The right to be free from torture is recognized in Indonesia's constitution, but not its penal code, giving police and security forces little incentive to rein in excessive violence, say activists.

Challenges to long-standing government impunity concerning "gross violations of human rights have been obstructed for political reasons", states a recent report by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a Hong Kong-based NGO.

AHRC released a video in October this year showing the military's apparent torture of indigenous groups in West Papua Province, in the western half of New Guinea island and home to a decades-long separatist movement that has pitted pro-independence fighters against the military.

But it is not clear whether evidence of apparent government-led torture can lead to punishment, according to International Crisis Group (ICG).

"There is a strong sense that the government has been unwilling to punish those who are involved in such cases," said Sidney Jones, ICG's senior adviser for Asia programmes.

While the government's coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Djioko Suyanto, acknowledged that soldiers acted "excessively" in the beatings, he said the government's priority for Papua Province was to create political stability, which will then bring development.

"We have to remember there have been shootings [by separatists] targeting Freeport [US gold mining company] employees this year and last. So there are still security disturbances. The [military] and police are there in the context of enforcing the law and maintaining security."

A heavy-handed emphasis on security has resulted in other, less publicized, abuses against residents in Papua, said Haris Azhar, coordinator for local human rights NGO, Kontras. "There is no justice for victims of violence. The Papuan indigenous people [are] a minority there. Our fear is that Papuans will be like the [native Americans] of the United States or the aborigines of Australia."

In addition to alleged human rights violations in both Papua and West Papua provinces, the AHRC report highlighted attacks against religious minorities, human rights activists and corruption in the Indonesian judiciary.

Potentially positive human rights developments include the selection of a new attorney general in November, the signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the creation of a judicial "mafia" taskforce to fight impunity.

"However, none of these steps [has] as yet resulted in more accountability for perpetrators of serious human rights violations," wrote AHRC.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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