Indonesia: Disturbing report reveals details about ‘genocide’ in West Papua

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released a report into human rights abuses against West Papuans by the Indonesian military in 1977 and 1978, saying what occurred amounted to genocide.

The Hong Kong-based organisation called for an ad hoc human rights court to be set up to hear the allegations and try those responsible.

The organisation conducted field visits, interviewed witnesses and examined historical records over three years to collect the names of more than 4000 people it believed were killed.

It also claimed more than 10,000 people died as a result of torture, disease and hunger.

The report, entitled The Neglected Genocide, said West Papuans in the Central Highlands were victims of napalm bombings and random shooting from the air, sometimes by aircraft supplied to the Indonesian military from Australia and the United States.

It contained details of West Papuans being burned or boiled alive, being forced to eat their own faeces and perform sexual acts in public.

The report named 10 Indonesian senior military leaders as responsible, including former President Suharto as Supreme Commander.

Children killed

The report discussed violations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and said it aimed at “truth-building”.

It revealed that children younger than 10 years old, and elderly over the age of 60, were among those who were killed.

The AHRC said on its website that The Neglected Genocide also told the stories of survivors who witnessed the brutality and inhumane treatment perpetrated by the Indonesian military at that time.

One victim told how the arrested West Papuans were forced to stand in line in a field before being shot indiscriminately by the Indonesian military. The victim himself managed to survive by pretending to be dead.

Sexual violence against West Papuan women was also reported to have been common during the military operation around the Central Highlands in 1977–1978, as described by one of the interviewed female survivors.

“Breasts of some women were cut and they died. We were raped, abused and killed… Some women were only raped but others were raped and murdered.”

Genocide in West Papua

In the report, the AHRC argued that the series of atrocities described in the report amounted to genocide as defined by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Director for Policy and Programme Development of the AHRC Basil Fernando said the “publication of the report is aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public, particularly in Indonesia, on the history of violence in Papua”.

“The long period of authoritarianism under Suharto has profoundly silenced the Indonesians from discussing its dark history related to Papua,” Fernando said.

He pointed out that available sources examining the abuses in the Central Highlands during 1977–1978 in Indonesia was very limited.

“Without any recognition from the government and the public at large in Indonesia on the state-sponsored wrongdoings in Papua, the ongoing conflicts in the area will only continue,” he said.

“There should be genuine efforts from the government to provide justice for the Papuans, one of which is by fulfilling their right to truth.”

One of the recommendations proposed by the report was the establishment of a local truth and reconciliation commission in West Papua as called by the Special Autonomy Law enacted in 2001.

It also called for the Indonesian government to comply with its international human rights obligations by lifting unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression in the country to encourage an open discourse on the history of violence in West Papua and by ensuring the safety of any individual speaking up on the issue.