Papuan Refugees Return to Indonesia Amid Accusations of Propaganda

Papuan Refugees Return to Indonesia Amid Accusations of Propaganda

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Two West Papuan refugees were discovered in Jakarta today after they went missing from their home in Australia two weeks ago. Supporters of the Papuan separatist movement have raised concerns over whether the Indonesian government coerced the refugees’ return for “propaganda purposes.”

In 2006, Yunus Wanggai, age 43, and his daughter Anike, age 7 made the dangerous sail from Merauke, Indonesia to Cape York, Australia. Mr. Wanggai and his daughter were among several separatists who claim they were victims of persecution by the Indonesian government. The Australian government granted Mr. Wanggai and his daughter refugee status, and before returning to Indonesia, they were on the path to receiving permanent Australian residency.

Mr. Wanggai’s wife, Siti, did not go to Australia but instead fled to Papua New Guinea before continuing to Vanuatu. Ms. Wanggai is awaiting Australia’s decision whether to grant her refugee status, but in the meantime, must remain in Papua with a sick older daughter. Mr. Wanggai decided to return to Indonesia because his wife had to stay behind.

“I miss my family. I want to be together with my family again,” Mr. Wanggai said today after arriving in Indonesia.

Political instability and public protests have long marked Papua’s history. Once a Dutch colony on New Guinea’s western end, Papua became Indonesia’s largest province in 1969. Violence erupted in 2003 after President Megawati Sukarnoputri separated Papua into three provinces: Central Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Tengah), Papua (or East Irian Jaya, Irian Jaya Timur), and West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat). But the establishment of the central province was declared unconstitutional by Indonesian courts as a violation of Papua’s Special Autonomy status.

The separation has divided Papuans who protest the Indonesian military for allegedly violating human rights. Many Papuans complain that the money earned from Papua’s natural resources mostly ends up profiting Jakarta. As a result, many Papuans have been campaigning peacefully for independence from Indonesia.

After a two week disappearance, members of Australia’s West Papuan independence movement are concerned that the Indonesian government coerced Mr. Wanggai to return to Indonesia for “propaganda purposes.” The Indonesian government denies all claims, however, that any sort of intelligence operation was conducted.

Nick Chesterfield, a Melbourne-based Papuan activist said, “We still have concerns about the manner which they were repatriated, the secrecy surrounding it, and that there was pressure brought to brought to bear on them.”

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Concern over two Papuan refugees missing in Australia – 28 November 2008

ABC News – Indonesia denies intelligence operation in Aust – 29 November 2008

Sydney Morning Herald – Papuan asylum seekers return to Indonesia – 30 November 2008

The Age, Australia – Indonesian refugees return to their homeland – 30 November 2008

Update: UN Mission to Fiji Completed

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji– The United Nations sent a three-person mission to Fiji from November 23 to November 28.  The members were led by Tamrat Samuel from the Department of Political Affairs and included Professor Yash Ghai, a senior expert adviser, and Tamara Murer, from the Department of Political Affairs.

The purpose of the mission was to explore ways the UN can support a political dialogue with Fiji in its efforts to restore democratic order to Fiji after the 2006 coup.  The mission held discussions with interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, other Interim Government officials, political party leaders, civil society leaders and academics, as well as diplomatic representatives in Suva.  Discussions were also held with the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum and with the visiting mission of the Commonwealth.

This mission has reiterated the UN’s desire to see a speedy return to parliamentary democracy in Fiji through an early election.  This follows Bainimarama’s announcement at the General Assembly in September that he did not believe Fiji will be able to hold parliamentary elections by next March, as previously scheduled.

The mission found an earnest desire among Fijian interlocuters for a return to an elected government.  They also found a willingness to discuss the electoral system and was encouraged by the strong desire to find a political solution to these problems through dialogue and consensus.

For more information, please see:

Pacific Magazine – Three-Person UN Team Completes Fiji Mission – 28 November 2008

Scoop World – Ban Dispatches UN Team To Fiji – 25 November 2008

UN Report Reveals Increased Violence Against Children in Afghanistan

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan –
As a result of UNICEF’s report on violence against Afghan Children, the United Nations (UN) said that violations of children’s rights are rising on account of war in Afghanistan, especially with respect to deaths of children in civilian casualties, recruitment of children to armed groups, and sexual abuse.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “the report focuses on grave violations perpetrated against children in Afghanistan and identifies parties to the conflict, both state and non-state actors, who commit grave abuses against children.”  He continued, “In particular, the report highlights the fact that children have been recruited and utilized (as fighters) by state and non-state armed groups.”

Ban also said that although the Afghan government demobilized 7,444 child soldiers in 2003, there has not been any monitoring of children who are vulnerable to democracy.

One case that the report documents is that of children utilized by the Taliban as suicide bombers.  Children as young as 12 years old are forced or tricked into performing these acts.  The government have also been having children serve on their police forces, such as the Afghan Auxiliary Police and the Afghan National Police.  Ban insists that the age of young soldiers be verified in order to protect children in accordance with human rights laws.

Children are also victims as a result of militant attacks on civilian targets.  Children are being inadvertently killed during battle between U.S. and NATO and Afghan forces.  The U.N. insists that all rules of war are followed, especially with respect to children.

Violence against children also occurs in the form of sexual abuse.  Ban states that “Boys [are] kept cloistered and used for sexual and harmful social entertainment by warlords and other armed group leaders.”  The U.N. urges the Afghan government to take action by legislating against sexual violence.

For more information, please see:

AP – UN: Afghan Children Being Recruited as Fighters – 25 November 2008

Reuters – Violence Against Afghan Children Rising: U.N. – 23 November 2008

UN News Centre – Afghan Conflict Claiming More Child Casualties as Insurgency Spreads – UN report – 21 November 2008

Free Trade Agreement Between Canada and Colombia Risks Making Human Rights Situation Worse

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008. Earlier this year in a study of the proposed Canada/Colombia trade deal, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade called on the government to ensure that an independent human rights impact assessment be carried out and that the results of that assessment be dealt with before the free trade deal is signed, ratified or implemented.

Amnesty International and  the Canadian Council for International Co-operation are  concerned that Prime Minister Harper has ignored this recommendation and decided to proceed without due diligence with regard to human rights.

Past human rights violations in Colombia have included the use of excessive force by state security forces against a mobilization of Indigenous people expressing opposition to free trade agreements and other policies they believe impact negatively on their rights.

Also, threats and attacks against land rights activists, particularly in areas of economic interest have taken place throughout 2008. There has also been an increase of threats and attacks on trade unionists – more than 40 people have been killed this year.

President Uribe and other senior officials have continuously demonized trade unions, indigenous organizations and other groups that are speaking out about violations of human rights, suggesting links with guerrillas. Such statements have led to threats and violence, including killings.  Following the release of critical reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in October, President Uribe publicly accused AI of “fanaticism” and “dogmatism” and the Americas Director of Human Rights Watch of being a “supporter” and an “accomplice” of FARC guerrillas. President Uribe has also demonized members of the Supreme Court investigating links between politicians from the ruling coalition and paramilitaries.

Going ahead with the Canada/Colombia free trade deal without meaningful action to address these concerns risks making the human rights situation much worse.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International Canada – Public Statement Signing Free Trade Pact with Colombia Presents Grave Human Rights Concerns – 24 November 2008

Reuters – Canada and Colombia Sign Free-Trade Agreement – 22 November 2008

Ottawa Citizen – Canada and Colobia Sign Free-Trade Pact – 22 November 2008

India: Widespread Torture by Police

By  Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DEHLI, India –Chunchun Kumar is an ordinary citizen from Bihar’s Nawada district and while he was drinking tea with his friends, a group of drunken policemen vandalized the tea house and brutally beat Kumar and his friends. The six police officers were beating up a temple priest at a village temple before going to the teashop. According to Kumar, he and his friends were beaten “black and blue” before the police started shooting at them. Kumar was shot in the abdomen.

Kumar and the villagers complained to the police authorities. India police acknowledged the incident. Bihar Anil Sinha, the director general of police said, “Two of the policemen who were inebriated vandalized the tea shop and began firing despite protests from their other colleagues. They were arrested and, although they have been released on bail, they are facing criminal charges.”

Activist say that torture is rampant in India, especially among the poorer societies. Henri Tiphagne of People’s Watch, a nongovernmental organization, said, “The problem of torture is very serious. Today we have around 1.8 million cases of police torture in India.” Tiphagne added, the victims of torture “are generally the (low-caste) Dalits, the tribals and the Muslims. And torture is used by those who are in power, those who possess, the landlords and the companies who put pressure on the police to carry out torture.”

However, Anil Sinha denied that police torture was widespread in India, “It’s a kind of stereotype being dished out by the NGOs and activists. And because police have a bad reputation, so people take such allegations to be correct. We do not condone any human rights violations by police in any manner, and such cases are rare. We have a mechanism in place to deal with such cases and penalize the guilty.”

According to Meenkshi Ganuly of Human Rights Watch, almost all the police stations in India are guilty of torture.

Kashmir Singh was a Pakistani prisoner held captive in Indian prisons for 14 years. In 2005, Singh and five other Pakistani prisoners were released as a sign of good-will from the Indian government. However, Singh has lost his kidney and mental stability due to torture during his years in captivity. Sigh’s sister said, “It had shocked us, as Pakistanis were never treated like this. This does not mean, we want the Indians being subjected to the inhuman treatment, but our government must prevail on India to review its torturous policy.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – The Wrong Side of Law – 18 November 2008

The News – Pakistanis Subject to Brutality in Indian Jails – 27 November 2008

Wikio – India: On the Wrong Side of Law – 19 November 2008