‘A climate of fear’ PDF Afdrukken

‘A climate of fear undeniably prevails in West Papua…’ says the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani, in her report to the UN Human Rights Council, published in January. The situation of human rights defenders has not eased despite the adoption of the Special Autonomy Law in 2001, she concludes. As if to underline the gravity of the situation, a number of human rights defenders whom she met were specifically targeted during and after the end of her June 2007 mission.

The Special Representative’s concerns were previously highlighted in a statement issued following her visit.i The full report provides further details of the disturbing situation she encountered.

Incidents involving arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment through surveillance were reported.  She expressed particular concern about allegations that when defenders expose abuse of authority or other forms of human rights violations committed by the security apparatus, they are labeled as separatists in order to undermine their credibility.  This places them at greater risk and must be discouraged by the authorities, said the Special Representative.

Defenders ‘working for the preservation of the environment and the right over land and natural resources (deforestation and illegal logging) frequently receive threats from private actors with powerful economic interests but are granted no protection by the police’.  The Special Representative reminds the Government that it has a responsibility to protect its citizens against the harmful activities of non-State actors.

This climate of fear has reportedly worsened since the Abepura incident in March 2006, when five members of the security forces were killed after clashes with protesters demanding the closure of the Freeport mine, she said. Lawyers and human rights defenders involved with the trial received death threats. The harassment of these lawyers and defenders around the trial was interpreted as a warning to the community of human rights defenders, who have decreased their activities out of fear of harsh treatment.

Tight restrictions on freedom to monitor and investigate violations
Interference with freedom of movement and with defenders’ efforts to monitor and investigate human rights violations was also reported.  The Special Representative says that she was perturbed to hear that the National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM, is prevented by law enforcement authorities from carrying out its official duties. She was particularly disconcerted by reports that Albert Rumbekwan, Director of Komnas HAM in West Papua, was intimidated and threatened on several occasions by the police and unidentified persons in the course of his fact-finding activities. At one point his team were warned that if they continued with an investigation they would be killed.

The Special Representative was ‘disturbed by reports that international human rights monitors and journalists entering West Papua are subject to tight restrictions and only a few are permitted to operate, resulting in a scarcity of information on the human rights situation in West Papua, mostly with regard to allegations of human rights abuses occurring in remote areas. Despite guarantees given by Jakarta to allow visits to West Papua, local authorities often deny access.’

Defenders threatened and intimidated

The Special Representative draws attention to several cases of human rights defenders being threatened and intimidated during and after her visit.   They included Federika Korain, Rev Perinus Koyoga, and Barthol Yomen of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Jayapura (SKP Jayapura) whose vehicle was hit by a car driven by intelligence officers, Yan Christian Warinussy, Director of the Manokwari-based NGO, LP3BH, who the day after meeting the Special Representative and subsequently was subjected to surveillance from a vehicle used by intelligence agents and received threatening text messages linking his human rights work to the separatist movement, and Albert Rumbekwan, who received death threats on his mobile phone.ii

The case of Albert Rumbekwan was the most worrying, says the Special Representative. He was told: ‘You who are reporting about the human rights situation in Papua are trying to destroy the people. You want evidence of people being killed, I will kill your tribe, your family and your children will become only bones to show that there is only a zone of peace in Papua’.

Despite Government assurances that Mr Rumbekwan was given police protection, the Special Representative said she ‘remains concerned at reports that threats against Mr. Rumbekwan and his family persist, indicating that the measures taken by the police are ineffective and should be reinforced’.

Father John Jonga
A case not referred to by the Special Representative is that of Catholic priest, John Jonga, who has been living in the sub-district of Waris, district of Arso, on the border with PNG, for seven years. The Jakarta daily, Suara Pembaruan, reported on 20 September 2007 that he made a formal complaint to the MRP, the Papuan People’s Assembly, that he had been subjected to threats and intimidation since August 2006.

‘I described what happened to me and to the people of Waris.’ He said he had sought protection from the local police because of the threats and intimidation he has experienced from the military. The threats began ‘when I described the security situation in Waris where there is an army post located in every kampung ’ He had submitted a report (on the situation) to the Indonesian government in 2004 but there was no response.

During the seven years he has been in Waris, he has had many very bad experiences, he said, but following the arrival of Kopassus (the army’s special forces command) the situation got even worse. ‘They frequently ask very intimidating questions such as ‘who is hiding guns?’ or ‘who is a member of the OPM?’ or  ‘do you possess a Morning Star flag?’

The chief of police of the district admitted that the number of complaints had increased following the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur, Hina Jilani. He told Pastor Jonga that there was little that the police could do and advised him to convey his concerns to the military commander of West Papua.

On 24 September, Amnesty International expressed fears for Father Jonga’s safety, and said that ‘he had been advised not to return to Waris for the time being’. The Kopassus commander had allegedly threatened to kill the priest and bury him in a 700-metre deep gorge. They accused him of spreading false allegations about conditions in Waris to local and international NGOs and of being a provocateur and betraying the Indonesian state.

Adverse political conditions to blame
In her conclusions, the Special Representative says she remains concerned about the situation of human rights defenders in West Papua and ‘believes that their ability to defend human rights is adversely affected by the political conditions generated by the increased military presence in the province. The non-implementation of the Special Autonomy Law has heightened tensions that result in protest against repressive policies and targeting of human rights defenders who raise such issues.’