New Internationalist

West Papuan refugee threatened by Interpol arrest

Benny Wenda and fellow West Papuans sing their national anthem at a conference in Oxford.
Photo by Nick Harvey.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda has been named on an Interpol wanted list in a move viewed by many as politically motivated.

Just days before Papuan Independence Day on 1 December, Interpol, the international police organization, issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based founder of the Free West Papua Campaign.

Wenda, 37, who has lived in the UK with his wife and six children since being granted asylum in 2003, is wanted by Indonesia for several offences he is alleged to have committed before he left, including inciting an attack on a police station.

West Papua has been controlled by Indonesia since the 1960s and Wenda has been a key voice in recent years calling for its independence. Many insist the charges against him and the Interpol notice are just attempts to silence him.

‘Benny Wenda has travelled half way around the world to escape persecution but he continues to be threatened from afar for by Indonesia,’ says Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International. ‘Interpol must remove the politically-motivated red notice against Benny and improve its accountability mechanisms so that it can live up to its stated commitment to political neutrality and human rights.’

In 2002 Wenda was arrested, detained and prosecuted for allegedly encouraging others to attack a police station.  No witnesses appeared at trial to testify against him but after receiving death threats while in detention Wenda escaped through a ventilation shaft and made his way to the UK.

The UK does not have an extradition treaty with Indonesia meaning any attempt at deportation would be unlikely to succeed. But the Interpol notice has left Wenda afraid to travel for fear that he will be arrested and returned to Indonesia.

To read more see recent reports by the Guardian and BBC.

For recent New Internationalist coverage of West Papua see:
West Papua: the road to freedom
West Papua freedom Songs
West Papua needs our help- act now!

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  1. #1 don 25 Nov 11

    His country has been stolen, his people murdered. The UN allowed this to happen and western companies profit from his countries exploitation. It is time the world told Indonesia that this abuse is not acceptable and help to free West Papua once and for all. Interpol should be ashamed of themselves

  2. #2 Iris Gonzales 28 Nov 11

    Definitely, this is politically motivated. Wenda should keep the press informed of his whereabouts and whatever threats or any form of intimidation that may come his way since his name was put on the list.

  3. #3 Obnoxious 02 Dec 11

    Where are the champions of freedom now? Or is it because West Papua does not have any oil that it does not show on the screens of western governments? How long can the supposedly champions of the free world pretend that nothing is wrong is West Papua? Come on they don't have the same skin colour as indonesians. How long?

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About the author

Nick Harvey a New Internationalist contributor

Nick Harvey spent 2007 and 2008 hitch-hiking from Europe to Asia, writing along the way, and becoming a leading voice on LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) issues in India. Since then he’s published dozens of articles – mainly for New Internationalist  – on both well-known and obscure international human rights issues from the plight of Tuaregs in Mali to the fight for democracy in Swaziland. As well as freelancing as a journalist, he’s currently the communications lead for the health charity Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) UK.

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