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Human Rights Still Lacking in Papua

May 24, 2012

Australian Associated Press (AAP)
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Human Rights Still Lacking in Papua

Karlis Salna, AAP South-East Asia Correspondent

Indonesia is facing fresh criticism over its human rights record
following a year of continued unrest and the jailing of leading
political activists in Papua.

In its annual report on the state of human rights around the world,
Amnesty International has also criticised the Indonesian government
over what it described as an inadequate response to persistent attacks
on religious minorities.

But the report reserved its heaviest criticism for allegations of
torture and unnecessary use of excessive force by the military,
especially in the restive provinces of Papua and Maluku.
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It points to a raft of violations in Papua in 2011, including in
October when security forces opened fire on participants at an
independence rally in the town of Abepura, after which three people
were found dead.

"In most cases of violence by the security forces, including during
the Freeport strike and the Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress in October,
no one has yet been held accountable, perpetuating a climate of
impunity in Papua," Amnesty spokesman Josef Benedict said.

Amnesty International lodged a request in January seeking access to
Papua but is yet to receive a response from the Indonesian government.

Foreign journalists and non-government organisations are effectively
barred from entering the province.

More than 300 people were arrested while video of the aftermath of the
rally in Abepura showed police beating unarmed protesters, including
children.

Five Papuan leaders were later charged with treason and sentenced to
three years in prison after declaring the province’s independence at
the rally.

The report also raises questions over the failure of authorities to
investigate allegations of torture of 21 political activists in Maluku
by officers from Densus 88, a counter-terrorism unit which receives
funding and training from Australia.

It said that at least 90 political activists in Papua and Maluku had
been imprisoned last year for their peaceful political activities.

The Amnesty International report was released as Indonesia was
preparing to deliver its own assessment of its human rights record at
the United Nations Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva,
Switzerland, later in the day.

Speaking before handing over the report, Foreign Minister Marty
Natalegawa said Indonesia had made significant progress in addressing
human rights.

However, he said issues of "inter-faith tolerance have become of great
importance in Indonesia’s diplomacy in bilateral and multilateral
forums".

"We must resolve these incidents, otherwise the international
community will get the wrong picture about Indonesia," Dr Natalegawa
said.

The matter was thrown into the spotlight in February last year when
three members of the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect were stoned to
death in a village in West Java by a rampaging mob of 1500 people.

By the end of 2011, at least 18 Christian churches had also been
either attacked or forced to close.

"In many cases, the police failed to protect religious and other
minority groups from such attacks," Amnesty International said.

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