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July 27, 2020

The West Papua Human Rights Center calls on the United States government to take urgent and immediate action on human rights abuses and growing military presence in West Papua by urging the Indonesian government to allow the UN and press access to West Papua following the extrajudicial killing of two activists in July.

“My land is Melanesia, you are my homeland”

Thirty two years have passed since Melanesian National Anthem were rewritten on December 14, 1988 by Dr. Thom Wainggai, founder of the non-violent movement for West Papuan independence from Indonesia. On this date, Dr. Thom proclaimed the Republic of West Melanesia and first raised the Melanesian flag.

After seven years of imprisonment, Dr. Thom died in Indonesian custody in 1996.

His nephew, Herman Wainggai, today leads the non-violent movement and founded the West Papua Human Rights Center in Washington D.C., the organization leading this urgent action.

Indonesia has occupied West Papua for 57 years. It has been an era characterised by genocide and repression.

Activists who challenge Indonesian rule face imprisonment, and the Indonesian government continues an aggressive tactic of colonisation and land grabbing. West Papua remains closed to both foreign journalists and UN Human Rights Investigation teams.

On July 18, 2020 in a world distracted by Covid-19, the Indonesian military shot dead freedom fighters Elias Karunggu and Sellu Karunggu. The father and son had been living in the forest for months before their death in Nduga District. Deep sadness resonates throughout West Papua with this loss amid ongoing human rights violations.

Beyond the use of force, the Indonesian government has developed targeted legislation to maintain control in West Papua.

For example, ‘regulation no. 77’. This regulation effectively criminalises the use of the Morning Star Flag in West Papua. Those who raise it run risk of imprisonment and torture, contravening basic human rights to assemble and to freedom of expression. Suppression of potent cultural symbols, such as the Morning Star Flag, is indicative of Indonesia’s systemic suppression of unity and hope of West Papuans to be free.

Genocide is occurring in West Papua.

It is estimated that between 100,000 and 500,000 West Papuan lives have been lost since the Indonesian invasion began.

It is able to occur in West Papua because there is no protection for human rights or democracy activists in Indonesia or West Papua. It is able to be hidden because the region remains off limits to the press and human rights watchdogs, including United Nations human rights investigation teams.

The Indonesian Minister of the Interior Mr. Tito Karnavian recently increased the Indonesian military presence in West Papua. There are now 100.000 Indonesian military personnel in West Papua.

Mr. Wainggai asserts that there is no fair rule of law in the Melanesian lands of West Papua and that the people of West Papua continue to reject Indonesian control. The ‘special autonomy’ granted by Indonesia to the province has been likened by Papuan people to ‘a coffin’. It has allowed for ongoing military presence in West Papua, violence and intimidation.

The recent killing of Elias and Sellu Karunggu and the increased military personnel in West Papua underscores the urgency of our petition to the White House dated May 21, 2020.

The petition calls on the United States government to urge the Indonesian government to immediately allow the UN human rights investigation team into West Papua to prevent more casualties at the hands of the Indonesian government and the growing presence of the Indonesian military in West Papua.

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