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2 April 2001

Oral intervention on the violation of human rights and funadamental freedom
in West Papua/Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and in Cyprus

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-09, 16 March 2001
cf. WCC Update, Up-01-06, 28 March 2001

The following is the full text of the intervention to be made by John Rumbiak, from the Institute for Human Rights, Study and Advocacy (IHRSTAD), on behalf of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC) today, 2 April, to the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. IHRSTAD is a human rights non-governmental organisation based in Jayapura, Irian Jaya.

Thank you Mr Chairman. I speak on behalf of the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, and would like to draw the attention of this Commission on the human rights situation in Indonesia. The Council has closely monitored the situation in the different regions of Indonesia, particularly the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua, also known as Irian Jaya. In October last, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, visited the country and had the opportunity to hear first-hand about the worsening human rights situation in the region. This situation is the result of the repressive measures adopted by the government of Indonesia in response to the demands of the Papuan people to exercise their right of self-determination. The churches and the NGOs in West Papua have made several appeals to the government of Indonesia to engage the leaders of the local community in dialogue to prevent further deterioration in the human rights situation. While these appeals remain unanswered, the repression and human rights abuses by the Security Forces not only continue but are on the increase.

The institute for human rights study and advocacy in West Papua/Irian Jaya - Elsham - has reported that during the so-called period of reformation in Indonesia between 1998 and 2000, there have been gross and systematic violations of human rights. These include approximately 80 cases of summary executions and 500 cases of arbitrary detentions and torture. There is also a marked increase in incidences of torture and mal-treatment of detainees, which in some cases have resulted in custodial deaths. The security forces intimidate and threaten human rights defenders and obstruct them from performing their duties. The freedom of the press has been curtailed, restrictions have been placed on local journalists, while foreign journalists are denied access to West Papua. The churches are particularly concerned about the detention of 22 prisoners of conscience being detained at the prison of Jayawijaya in Wamena.

Mr Chairman, a major concern is the presence of large numbers of security forces that are deployed in West Papua. This has resulted in an increase in human rights abuses, as the security forces remain beyond the scope of law. The recent investigations of human rights abuses by the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights have been hindered by the non-cooperative attitude of the security forces. The Indonesian authorities have failed to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice despite repeated representations. This has resulted in a culture of impunity.

The Commission of Churches on International Affairs therefore calls on the Indonesian authorities to immediately stop the human rights violations and enter into a dialogue with the community leaders in West Papua, order the release of the 22 prisoners of conscience detained in Wamena and to bring to trial before courts of law those guilty of human rights violations.

Mr Chairman, the Commission of Churches on International Affairs would also like to address the human rights situation in Cyprus. The Council has repeatedly expressed its belief that the continuation of the status quo in Cyprus that dates back to the invasion and occupation of 37% of the island by Turkish armed forces is unacceptable. It violates not only the sovereignty and unity of Cyprus but also the fundamental human rights of its people, including the right of more than two hundred thousand refugees to return to their homes and the rights of all Cypriots to freedom of movement and settlement and to hold property.

The Commission of Churches on International Affairs therefore urges that the human rights of the people of Cyprus be respected and there should be a speedy implementation of the UN Resolutions.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.