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Disturbed by violence in Papua, UN rights office calls for Indonesia to start 'inclusive' dialogue

Radio New Zealand - December 3, 2020

Indonesia has been urged by the United Nations to engage with West Papuans in an inclusive dialogue to address long-standing grievances.

The UN Human Rights Office says it is disturbed by escalating violence and increased arrests of people for simply exercising their basic rights in the Indonesia-ruled Papua region.

Identifying a trend in increased conflict since 2018, the office said repeated reports of extra-judicial killings and excessive use of force were linked with the reinforcement of Indonesian security forces in Papua region where a decades-long independence struggle has not abated.

The UN office noted various reports of violence over recent months, including a series of killings in Papua's highlands region and a stream of deadly exchanges between Indonesia's military and guerilla forces of the pro-independence West Papua Liberation Army since 2018.

UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani voiced concern about reports that both armed elements and nationalist militias had been actively involved in the violence.

"We call on the authorities to pursue thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence, in particular killings, and for all perpetrators – regardless of their affiliations – to be held accountable," she said.

The office was also about worried about ongoing mass arrests in Papua. It cited last month's case of 84 people in Merauke Regency close to the border with Papua New Guinea.

Those arrested in Merauke by security forces included Wensislaus Fatuban, a human rights advisor to the Papuan People's Council and seven of its staff members.

Their arrests came ahead of a public consultation organised by the Council on the future of Papua region's Special Autonomy Law – which is to expire next year – and has been the subject of recent public mobilisations by West Papuans.

Shamdasani called on Indonesia's government to uphold basic human rights in Papua, in line with its international obligations.

"UN human rights experts have also repeatedly expressed serious concerns regarding the intimidation, harassment, surveillance and criminalisation of human rights defenders for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

At a time of discussions relating to Special Autonomy, all involved parties should act to prevent further violence, Shamdasani said.

"We call for the creation of a platform for meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua, to address long standing economic, social and political grievances.

"There is also a clear need to ensure accountability for past and recent human rights violations and abuses."

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/432032/disturbed-by-violence-in-papua-un-rights-office-calls-for-indonesia-to-start-inclusive-dialogu