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ACFID Awards Human Rights Recognition for Veronica Koman

23 October, 2019


TAPOL congratulates Veronica Koman for receiving the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award for her work on West Papua. Ms. Koman is a human rights lawyer and activist who advocates for the rights to freedom of expression and self-determination. The award was given by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) on Wednesday 23 October 2019. 

ACFID created the award in 2002 to honour the legacy of Sir Ron Wilson AC KBE CMG QC, who served as a judge on the High Court of Australia, as President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission until 1997 and was President of ACFID between 1998 and 2001. He passed away in 2002. The award has since been presented annually to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights. 

Recognising Veronica for this award represents an acknowledgement of her dedication to advocating for the right to freedom of expression and the right to self-determination for West Papuan people. In addition, it underscores the gravity of the human rights situation in a region whose integration within Indonesia has long been disputed. 

Earlier this year, a petition for a judicial review of the "Act of Free Choice" was submitted to the Indonesia Constitutional Court by human rights lawyers on behalf of West Papua customary leaders and churches. The submission states that the highly contested self-determination referendum held in 1969 is contrary to the rights granted under the Indonesian constitution, including the rights to freedom of thought and conscience, the right to life, the right to feel safe, and the right to not be tortured.1 Fifty years later, resistance to the contested annexation remains strong. New generations of West Papuans are taking to the streets, mobilising in protest of more than 50 years of human rights violations and calling for a referendum.

Honouring Veronica with this award also highlights the significant challenges that Veronica and her peers face in providing advocacy for West Papua, where foreign media access and independent human rights monitoring are restricted. Human rights defenders are often the people who intervene for the victims, provide reports from the ground, and put their lives in danger by doing so. Veronica has been providing legal assistance to West Papuan students and activists since 2015. In the course of her work as a trusted advocate for human rights in West Papua, Veronica has been subjected to mockery, sexual harassment, racial slurs (as a Chinese Indonesian), hate, and death threats. Recent attacks have targeted her family. Veronica’s experiences embody the complex challenges that face all human rights defenders in West Papua and Indonesia who advocate for an end to human rights abuses in West Papua.

TAPOL commends Veronica Koman and her human rights defender colleagues for their courageous work on West Papua.