Report – By Courtney Wilson.
A West Papuan activist says New Zealanders and the Government need to take a stand against Indonesia’s use of torture in West Papua.
“The more people that speak out about [West Papua], especially in the neighbouring countries, creates more pressure and awareness,” says Brother Budi Hernawan talking to a group in central Auckland last Friday.
“It is the role of society to push for [human rights].”
Brother Hernawan is an Indonesian Franciscan Friar who went to work in West Papua 13 years ago. He is currently completing his PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra.
His research concentrates on the issue of torture in Papua in relation to peacebuilding. His goal is to create solid evidence of torture in West Papua for human rights advocates.
On his recent to visit to New Zealand he talked to parliamentarians to encourage them to speak out about military violence.
New Zealand’s change of Government has led to a more business-oriented aid programme. Brother Hernawan says this is making NGOs active in West Papua nervous as funding is uncertain.
The small Papuan community in Australia has helped increase awareness of West Papua’s situation to the media’s attention. In 2006 43 Papuans were seeking asylum in Australia, and due to the campaigning of the community they were granted it.
These actions made Indonesia mad and they pulled their ambassador out of Australia.
A video recently released on YouTube and published on Pacific Scoop of a West Papuan farmer being tortured by men wearing Indonesian military uniform, has created worldwide outrage to the actions of the Indonesian Government.
Brother Hernawan thinks the video has had a positive impact: “It has created a lot of pressure on our Government to find out who did the torture.”
This kind of violence is not uncommon in West Papua; Hernawan says it is a daily occurrence.
“In Papua torture is done in public it is not hidden,” Brother Hernawan says. “It is done to instil fear in the people.
“You have to behave yourself otherwise you will be arrested.”
Brother Hernawan presented a report to the United Nations Committee against Torture about West Papua’s situation in 2008. Between 1998 and 2007 Brother Hernawan and his team counted 242 cases of torture in West Papua.
Only three were formally presented to the Human Rights Committee. Only one case went to trial and all perpetrators were acquitted.
Brother Hernawan says there were some changes made by the UN after the report but two years on there has been very little progress in reducing torture in West Papua.
Indonesia has ratified the UN convention on torture; however Brother Hernawan says it is difficult to successfully prosecute torturers in court.
“The courts are not able to address it because torture is not defined in the penal code,” says Brother Hernawan. “The Government keeps arguing that they are reviewing the law to include torture and how to deal with it.”
Brother Hernawan hopes to be able to make a submission on current cases of torture by Indonesian police and military to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2012.
Courtney Wilson is a final year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.