New Internationalist

Militias active in West Papua

Issue 365

Human-rights observers fear that violence in the easterly Indonesian province of West Papua is set to spiral as the indefinite detention and arbitrary killing of West Papuan independence advocates increases (see NI 344, West Papua: ‘We Will Be Free!’).

Infamous Indonesian militia leader Eurico Guterres – already sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in the campaign of terror that left up to 1,000 dead in East Timor before its independence from Indonesia in 1999 – is now forming a militia group in West Papua as he awaits his appeal.

Also indicted for war crimes in East Timor is its former Police Chief, Brigadier General Timbul Silaen. On 1 December – West Papua’s self-proclaimed independence day – the Indonesian Government proclaimed him West Papua’s new police chief.

A December 2003 report by Yale University Law School students stops just short of accusations of genocide when it concludes that the Indonesian Government ‘has engaged in a systematic pattern of acts that has resulted in harm to – and indeed the destruction of – a substantial part of the indigenous population of West Papua’ over the last 30 years.

A conservative estimate of the toll of indigenous people killed by Indonesian armed forces in this period is 100,000, but many say that the more realistic figure is over 800,000.

West Papua solidarity groups are asking people to write to their Foreign Affairs Ministers to ask that pressure be placed on the Indonesian Government to withdraw its military and respect West Papua’s call to be declared a ‘zone of peace’.

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