A Historic Choice: West Papua, human rights and Pacific diplomacy at the Pacific Island Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group

The West Papuan movement for freedom is growing. And a wave of support is building across the Pacific. The human rights situation in West Papua, however, is deteriorating. Instead of embracing the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as a partner, the body that best represents the aspirations of the West Papuan people, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has criminalised the ULMWP, fomented nationalist militia groups and created conditions that encourage state violence against the Papuan people.

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This report analyses political developments and human rights violations in West Papua by the Indonesian state in response to the West Papuan people’s aspirations for self-determination. It covers the period between January 2014, when a delegation of Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers’ visited the territory, and 15 July 2016, the day after Melanesian Spearhead Group Special Leaders meet in Honiara and decided to defer a decision on the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s application for full membership. That decision will now be made by MSG leaders in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

The purpose of the report is to provide political decision makers in the Pacific – both at the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Island Forum as well as civil society leaders in the Pacific, Non-Government Organisations, the Churches and solidarity groups in particular – with accurate, detailed and timely information about political developments and the human rights situation inside the country, a region that few manage to visit, let alone for any extended period. The authors hope that this information will assist them in their deliberations over the ULMWP’s application for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group as well as the request before the Pacific Island Forum for an international human rights fact finding mission.