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Letter to New Zealand Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on West Papua

West Papua Action Aotearoa - August 18, 2023

Rt Hon Chris Hipkins
Prime Minister
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament Buildings
n.mahuta@ministers.govt.nz; c.hipkins@ministers.govt.nz

18 August 2023

Kia ora Prime Minister Hipkins and Minister Mahuta,

In November 2022, New Zealand's representative at the UN Human Rights Council, made a statement to the 41st session of the UN Periodic Review: Indonesia. Included in the recommendations for Indonesia was the statement: New Zealand recommends that Indonesia upholds, respects and promotes its human rights obligations in Papua, including freedom of assembly, speech, expression, the press, and the rights of women and minorities.

Sadly, Indonesia is responsible for ongoing and extremely serious human rights abuses in West Papua, and we therefore urge that the New Zealand Government renew its representations by calling on Indonesia to allow the long-delayed visit of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to take place. Please also insist on humanitarian access to the region.

The two case examples we cite here have been well-documented and widely publicised.

1. Each year on 15 August activists mark the anniversary of an ominous date in their history, the 1962 signing of the New York Agreement which effectively sealed West Papua's fate by paving the way for Indonesia to take over the territory. This year on 13 August 21 young activists were arrested on as they attempted to distribute leaflets calling for a peaceful demonstration to mark the New York Agreement and the racism troubles that Papuan students suffered in Surabaya, Central Java, in August 2019.

On 15 August several peaceful rallies took place. However, even though the organisers had submitted an official letter announcing their intentions, riot police attacked demonstrators in three locations close to Jayapura. Water cannon was deployed and up to 20 demonstrators were injured, some with bleeding head wounds. Freedom of speech and assembly is a fundamental right protected by the United Nations Charter. The right is being repeatedly abused by the Indonesian Security Forces.

2. We call to your attention the recent shocking report detailing the continuing aggravated attack and serious human rights violations against the Ngalum Kupel people, who live in the Star Mountains region of West Papua, not far from the border with Papua New Guinea. The Ngalum Kupel villages are close to the Indonesian military base at Kiwirok. The 'Report on the continuing aggravated attack serious human rights violations of Ngalum Kupel people' by Matthew Jamieson which was produced by the PNG Integral Human Development Trust (PNG Trust) report can be found here:https://www.friendlyjordies.com/post/report-on-the-continuing-aggravated-attack-serious-human-rights-violations-of-ngalum-kupel-people. There is also an accompanying documentary 'Paradise Bombed' made by Australian media outlet 'Friendly Jordies', which can be found on the same site. A further report just released by Human Rights Monitor adds additional weight to evidence of grave human rights crimes at Kiwirok. It is titled 'Destroy them first...discuss Human Rights Later', an investigation of Indonesian Security Forces Operations in Papua's Kiwirok under International Law'. https://humanrightsmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/HRM_Destroy_Them_First_Special_Report_2023.pdf

In 2021, apparently in response to an attack on Indonesian government facilities in Kiwirok, the villagers were attacked from the air by rocket fire and bombs dropped from a helicopter and several drones. The punitive raids conducted by Indonesian military forces against several villages destroyed houses, livestock, subsistence gardens, and the destruction of Churches and community facilities. Investigators have now been able to identify the weapons used in the attacks such as the Thales FZ68 rockets fired from helicopters, likely to be Fennec attack helicopters of Airbus manufacture. Although no direct connection can be made it is worth noting that the New Zealand Government permits the export of mortar fire control equipment to the Indonesian security services.

As a result of this deadly attack the whole community of some 2,000 people fled into the forest, and some have since become refugees in Tumolbil, Papua New Guinea. Across West Papua some 60,000 additional people have also been displaced due to the heightened military operations which have been taking place since 2018.

The PNG Trust report details the testimony of eyewitnesses to the events and examined the physical evidence found in the area: mortar fragments, unexploded mortars, shrapnel, and rocket fragments. Several civilians were killed in the 2021 attack and tragically the death toll has continued to mount as the displaced people succumb to diseases and malnutrition. They cannot return home because military operations are ongoing. The witness testified to 284 deaths from starvation, 15 extra judicial killings and 6 persons killed in the initial aerial attacks.

Although it is difficult to test the accuracy of these testimonies and the numbers of deaths, clearly wide-scale death and destruction has taken place and a once self-sufficient community of indigenous people continue to live in fear and great deprivation.

We appreciate the good efforts that the government is making towards resolving the deeply concerning hostage crisis and working to free pilot Philip Mehrtens. However, this evidence of escalating state violence against the indigenous Papuan people should not go unaddressed.

In addition to calling for the visit of the Human Rights Commissioner, New Zealand should also advocate for humanitarian access for national and international humanitarian organisations and government agencies to the Kiwirok District. Humanitarian aid should be provided without involving security force members to ensure that displace persons can access aid without fearing reprisals. International journalists should be allowed to access the region.

Nga mihi,

Catherine Delahunty, Maire Leadbeater and Rev. Brian Turner (wpa.aotearoa@gmail.com, maire@pastfinder.co.nz)

Source: https://hail.to/west-papua-action-aotearoa