JAKARTA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on Wednesday his office will send a team to investigate reports of human rights violations in eastern Indonesia’s Papua province, where a separatist conflict is underway.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said there were reports of serious human rights abuses and it was important to probe these allegations.
“I am also concerned about increasing reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua,” he said.
Hussein said large mining and logging companies have committed serious human rights violations against farmers, workers and indigenous communities from the island of Sumatra to the island of Papua, including illegal appropriation of land, and the criminalization of nearly 200 activists since August last year.
In the last two weeks, a woman was shot dead by the police while officers were pursuing a Papuan fugitive accused of theft, and a BBC reporter was expelled from Papua for criticizing the authorities on Twitter, although it was later retracted.
“The current system pressures journalists to limit reporting on Papua, and signals to the military and police that journalists can be interfered with,” Indonesia Researcher of Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The western half of the island of New Guinea belongs to Indonesia, a territory rich in natural resources and the scene of a separatist conflict since its independence from the Netherlands in 1963.