Eight countries have called for immediate investigation of human rights abuses in occupied West Papua at the United Nations, in a major blow to Indonesia’s international standing. 

The fourth cycle of Indonesia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) began in Geneva on Novermber 9th. Each country must undergo this process every four or five years, which involves other member states scrutinising their human rights process and making recommendations for improvement.  

There have been a number of devastating human rights abuses in West Papua over the past few months, as Indonesia’s illegal occupation has reached a new level of brutality. Four Papuan civilians were tortured, murdered, and mutilated by Indonesian special forces in late August, while legendary non-violent activist Filep Karma – described by Interim President Benny Wenda as West Papua’s ‘Nelson Mandela’ – was found dead in Jayapura in mysterious circumstances. Independence leader Buchtar Tabuni was arbitrarily arrested following a ULMWP strategy meeting in October.  

The eight countries that issued criticisms of Indonesia’s conduct were Vanuatu, Australia, the United States of America, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, the Marshall Islands and Slovenia. Of these, Australia, the US, Canada, Slovenia, and Netherlands recommended an immediate international investigation, with Vanuatu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands specifically repeating the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS) calls for an urgent visit to West Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.   

The intervention of the Marshall Islands was particularly significant, as they also called for West Papua to be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination. In practice, this would require an internationally mediated independence referendum to be held in West Papua – the primary demand of Interim President Benny Wenda and the ULMWP.  

West Papua had their right to self-determination stolen from them in 1969 with the fraudulent ‘Act of Free Choice’, which saw around 1000 hand-picked Papuans intimidated into voting for integration into Indonesia.  

In response to the UPR investigation, Indonesia made a series of baseless claims about human rights in West Papua, including saying that most cases of violence in Papua have been investigated and the perpetrators punished. In reality, Indonesian soldiers act with total impunity in West Papua, and cases such as the recent murder of four Papuan civilians almost never make it to trial. 

The UPR will add to the already vocal calls by over 80 countries for a UN visit to West Papua, significantly increasing pressure on Indonesia to finally submit their genocidal occupation to international scrutiny. 

  • Australia: “Finalise investigations of all human rights violations in Indonesia, including in Papua and ensure access including by credible independent observers” (6.269) 
  • Canada: “Investigate allegations of human rights violations in Indonesia Papua and prioritise the protection of civilians including women and children” (6.268)  
  • Marshall Islands: “Respect, promote and protect the human rights of all indigenous peoples in West Papua, by ensuring their right to self-determination through inclusive dialogue” (6.260) and “Work closely with the OHCHR to commence a visit to West Papua by the High Commissioner in response to calls from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States” (6.265) 
  • Netherlands: “Continue to investigate human rights abuses, including those in the Papua provinces, and to bring those responsible to justice in a timely and transparent manner” and “Refrain from any actions that may constitute harassment, persecution, or undue interference in the work of lawyers and human rights defenders, including their criminal prosecution on grounds such as the expression of critical views” (6.99)  
  • New Zealand: “Uphold, respect and promote its human rights obligations in Papua, including freedom of assembly, speech, expression, the press, and the rights of women and minorities”  
  • Slovenia: “Ensure investigations, accountability and prevention of impunity for the human rights violations against indigenous peoples in Papua carried out by members of security forces” (6.262) 
  • United States of America: “Conduct prompt, thorough, and transparent investigations into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the five Papuan provinces and hold perpetrators accountable” (6.263) 
  • Vanuatu: “Accept without delay the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights visit to the Provinces of Papua and West Papua” (6.264)