On 9th November 2022, Indonesia’s 4th cycle of Indonesia's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) began at the UN in Geneva. A total of 108 Member States offered oral statements and recommendations on how Indonesia may be able to improve their human rights situation.
The UPR is a mechanism by which the UN bodies, member states and civil society to scrutinise human rights in a country and hold it to account. For instance, our joint submission with BUK Papua expressed our concern at freedom of expression and freedom of association and the use of the Treason Law, militarisation and the Government of Indonesia’s ‘counterterrorism’ strategy and the rights of children in conflict zones.
Each UN Member State must go through this scrutiny, which usually occurs every four or five years, with Indonesia’s last cycle being in 2017. Each also has the opportunity to feed in with recommendations to the other nations when it is their turn.
Of those, 8 countries specifically mentioned the situation in West Papua during the session: Vanuatu, Australia, the United States of America, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, the Marshall Islands and Slovenia. In addition to the eight, Germany did ask in their advanced question prior to the session about the need for a visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua, but they did not mention it during the session itself or make any recommendations based on this:
Vanuatu: “Accept without delay the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights visit to the Provinces of Papua and West Papua” (6.264)
Australia: “Finalise investigations of all human rights violations in Indonesia, including in Papua and ensure access including by credible independent observers” (6.269)
United States of America: “Conduct prompt, thorough, and transparent investigations into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the five Papuan provinces and hold perpetrators accountable” (6.263)
Netherlands: “Continue to investigate human rights abuses, including those in the Papua provinces, and to bring those responsible to justice in a timely and transparent manner” and “Refrain from any actions that may constitute harassment, persecution, or undue interference in the work of lawyers and human rights defenders, including their criminal prosecution on grounds such as the expression of critical views” (6.99)
New Zealand: “Uphold, respect and promote its human rights obligations in Papua, including freedom of assembly, speech, expression, the press, and the rights of women and minorities”
Canada: “Investigate allegations of human rights violations in Indonesia Papua and prioritise the protection of civilians including women and children” (6.268)
Marshall Islands: ”Respect, promote and protect the human rights of all indigenous peoples in West Papua, by ensuring their right to self-determination through inclusive dialogue” (6.260) and “Work closely with the OHCHR to commence a visit to West Papua by the High Commissioner in response to calls from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States” (6.265)
Slovenia: “Ensure investigations, accountability and prevention of impunity for the human rights violations against indigenous peoples in Papua carried out by members of security forces” (6.262)
The Indonesian delegation, which was headed by Minister for Law and Human Rights, Mr. Yasonna Hamonangan Laoly, was able to respond during the session’s proceedings. Their contributions on Papua came down to the following points:
Development is improving in Papua, and 2.25% of the national budget is going to further improve this. Special Autonomy is increasing money here and “improving transparency and accountability”.
Non-judicial process of dealing with human rights violations is not a replacement, but is complementary to judicial process and reparations for the families of victims.
OHCHR visit to Papua is being falsely characterised and it is being twisted. Provinces remain open for visits for international organisations.
“Legitimate” work of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) protected.
Papua is an “integral part of Indonesia” and “regrettable security challenges” are being caused by armed separatist groups. Also, there has been an increase in “terrorist acts” against critical infrastructure since since 2018.
Call on the international community to distinguish between human rights and “legitimate law enforcement”.
The draft report was approved on the afternoon of the 11th, but we will continue to monitor which recommendations the Indonesian government will accept, and which they will merely take note of. They have until the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council to make clear their position on the recommendations.
The draft report and full list of recommendations from each country is available to read.