UN Human Rights chief notes struggles in Papua

UN Human Rights chief notes struggles in Papua
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein said the Convention against Torture allows no justification for torture. Photo: AFP
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said the Convention against Torture allows no justification for torture. Photo: AFP

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein yesterday concluded a three day-visit to Indonesia where he had discussions with President Joko Widodo and top officials, human rights institutions as well as religious leaders.

In a statement sumarising the findings of his visit, Zeid said that in recent years Indonesia had come a long way in a short time, following decades of restricted civil liberties

But the commissioner said gaps remain in the protection of economic and social rights of Indonesians, including in Papua where he said many still struggled with poverty and preventable diseases.

The commissioner said he was concerned about “reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua”.

Thanking Jakarta for inviting his office to Papua, he indicated he would send a mission there soon.

While in Indonesia, Zeid told reporters that he was concerned about “reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua”.

“I think it’s important for us to go and see ourselves what is happening there,” he said.

West Papuan demonstrators tightly monitored by Indonesian police.
West Papuan demonstrators tightly monitored by Indonesian police. Photo: Whens Tebay

Zeid also noted civil society concerns that, mining and logging by large corporations have been a source of serious human rights violations against farmers, workers and indigenous communities in Papua.

“By and large, these projects are approved and implemented without meaningful consultation with the local communities,” he explained.

Overall, while welcoming moves undertaken by President Widodo’s administration towards social equity, the commissioner voiced concern about “extremist views playing out in the political arena”.

He noted that they were accompanied by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence in various parts of the country, including Aceh.

“There are some dark clouds on the horizon but I am encouraged by the positive momentum and hope the common sense and strong tradition of tolerance of the Indonesian people will prevail over populism and political opportunism.”

The commissioner urged Indonesia’s government to “take steps towards accountability for the gross human rights violations of the past”.

Zeid also encouraged Indonesia’s parliament to pass two pieces of legislation that recognise and protect the rights of indigenous people and provide essential protection for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Following Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s visit to Indonesia, he headed to Papua New Guinea, before proceedng on to Fiji, for similar official visits.

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