Press Release

Indonesia: Human Rights Violations in West Papua Received High Attention in the Recommendations of UN Human Rights Bodies

1 May 2024 — TAPOL, Franciscans International, AJAR (Asia Justice and Rights), PWG (Papuan Women’s Working Group), CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA urge the Indonesian government to take concrete actions to implement the concluding recommendations made by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and Human Rights Committee (CCPR), and to ensure that all rights and obligations stemming from the twin Covenants are respected and protected in the country, in particular for indigenous Papuans.

 As UN Treaty Bodies, consisting of independent experts, the CESCR and CCPR are charged with reviewing State Parties’ compliance with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indonesia was reviewed by the CESCR on 20 & 21 February and by the CCPR on 11 & 12 March 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Both marked the second periodic review of Indonesia.

The CESCR and CCPR, deliberating on Indonesia’s human rights performance, made some similar recommendations with regard to the effect of the situation in West Papua on the rights of indigenous Papuans.

First, both the CESCR and CCPR issued a recommendation that Indonesia should combat discrimination by introducing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. For decades indigenous Papuans have suffered from discrimination in public and private spheres that undermine their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Second, both treaty bodies highlighted the problem of involuntary displacement in West Papua caused

by the armed conflict between Indonesian security forces and Papuan armed pro-independence groups. The CESCR recommended that Indonesia allow national and international humanitarian organizations access to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in West Papua. The CCPR recommended that Indonesia facilitate the safe return of the IDPs based on their consent.

Third, both treaty bodies issued a large number of recommendations regarding indigenous peoples’ rights, a concept that the Indonesian Government has not recognized as being applicable  in the country in either review sessions.  The CESCR and CCPR recommended that Indonesia introduce national legislation regarding the rights of indigenous peoples. Both treaty bodies furthermore emphasized the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, informed consent and access to remedy with regard to development and business projects on ancestral or traditional lands, as well as their right to participate in public affairs. Both treaty bodies recommended to Indonesia that it repeal or amend legislation that undermines the rights of indigenous peoples, such as the Omnibus Job Creation Law and Mineral & Mining Law.

Fourth, both treaty bodies strongly recommended that human rights defenders be protected, including those working on the rights of indigenous peoples. They recommended that Indonesia improve the operating environment for human rights defenders, so that they are able to carry out their work  free from harassment, intimidation, attack and criminalisation.  Specifically, the treaty bodies asked Indonesia to repeal or amend criminal defamation provisions under the repressive Electronic Information and Transaction Law. The CCPR also recommended to Indonesia that it introduce legislation protecting human rights defenders.

Other important issues highlighted by CCPR included the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.  As compared to other regions, the enjoyment of these rights has been curtailed far more in West Papua. Apart from recommending legislative reforms to ensure civic space is not restricted by repressive provisions in laws and regulations, the CCPR also recommended that Indonesia hold perpetrators accountable, including security forces committing violations in West Papua.

Lastly, the CCPR re-issued previous recommendations to Indonesia on dealing with impunity for past serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions and torture, some of which were committed in West Papua. The CCPR urged Indonesia to establish judicial processes to ensure full accountability for past serious human rights violations, particularly in cases that have been investigated by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). These cases should go hand in hand, the CCPR stated, with the reparation program and truth-seeking mechanism for victims or their families.

The CCPR highlighted issues of impunity and violations of freedom of expression as priority concerns, requesting that Indonesia provide follow-up information on the implementation of these recommendations by 29 March 2027.

The CESCR highlighted the issues of business and human rights, in particular mandatory due diligence procedures for corporations and meaningful consultations with all stakeholders including indigenous peoples, and the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples’ rights bill in order to simplify the process of recognition of Indigenous Peoples and their customary lands, as priority concerns. Indonesia must provide follow-up information on the implementation of these recommendations by 31 March 2026.  The recommendations raised by both treaty bodies in their concluding observations confirm long-raised concerns by civil society with regard to the human rights situations in West Papua.  The recommendations issued are legally binding. As a State Party to both Covenants, Indonesia is obliged to comply with the recommendations issued.

TAPOL, Franciscans International, AJAR (Asia Justice and Rights), PWG (Papuan Women’s Working Group), CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA