West Papua Advocacy Team Urges Unrestricted Visit by UN Special RapporteurFor immediate release
Contact: Ed McWilliams +1- 575-648-2078
January 13, 2013 – The West Papua Advocacy Team is deeply concerned about the Government of Indonesia’s unilateral decision to restrict the planned visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue.
The government invited La Rue to visit Indonesia last May during the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic review of human rights in Indonesia. Indonesia came under pressure during that meeting because of its poor record of protecting human rights, notably in West Papua.
The government’s proposed restrictions would prevent La Rue from visiting West Papuan and other political prisoners held in Jayapura and elsewhere. These political prisoners are incarcerated for their peaceful political dissent. For many years the Indonesian government has sought to limit freedom of expression by West Papuans, often by smearing dissenters as separatists and disingenuously claiming that these dissenters are tied to the Papuan armed opposition.
According to reliable sources, the UN Special Rapporteur — who is scheduled to arrive in Indonesia on January 14 — plans to postpone his visit unless he is allowed to visit prisoners in both Jayapura and Ambon in the Moluccas. The government proposed only to allow him to meet with officials in Jakarta and with a religious cleric imprisoned in Sampang. Moluccan political prisoners, like Papuan political prisoners, have been incarcerated because of their peaceful dissent.
Human rights groups estimate that there are up to 100 political prisoners in Indonesia, mainly Papuans and Moluccans, including at least 15 Papuans imprisoned under charges of treason.
The West Papua Advocacy Team strongly urges the Indonesian government to lift any restrictions that would prevent the Special Rapporteur from meeting with political prisoners in Jayapura and in Ambon. The Indonesian government is accountable to the international community to respect rights of political prisoners under terms of numerous international conventions to which it is party. A visit by the Special Rapporteur is an important means by which to ensure Indonesian compliance with its international obligations.
The West Papua Advocacy team encourages the Special Rapporteur to postpone his visit until such time as he is able to set his own agenda for the visit, including meetings with political prisoners in Jayapura and Ambon.
The West Papua Advocacy Team is a U.S.-based NGO composed of academics, human rights defenders and a retired U.S. diplomat.