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Lowenstein Clinic Releases Report on Human Rights in West Papua

The Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and Project have issued the following media release. For further information, please contact Elizabeth Brundige (email lizbr@aya.yale.edu to arrange phone contact) or Jim Silk (203-432-1729).


New Paper by Yale Law School Researchers
Confirms Crimes Against Humanity by Indonesia in West Papua;
Finds Strong Evidence of Genocide Against Indigenous Papuans

Pattern of Violent Repression Likely to Continue Without
Significant International Pressure


New Haven, CT, December 10, 2003 -- Yale Law School's Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic today released the results of an examination of human rights conditions in West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled western half of the island of New Guinea. The paper, entitled Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, which was prepared at the request of the Indonesia Human Rights Network, considers the policies and practices of the Indonesian government and military in West Papua during the four decades that the Republic of Indonesia has exercised sovereignty over the territory. Based on an extensive review of primary and secondary factual sources, as well as consultation with Papuan, Indonesian, and international experts, the paper analyzes whether the definition of genocide under international law can be applied to Indonesian conduct in West Papua during this period.

The paper concludes that the historical and contemporary evidence "strongly suggests that the Indonesian government has committed proscribed acts with the intent to destroy the West Papuans . . . in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

In its concluding overview of conditions in West Papua, the Yale Law School research team states:

"Since the so-called [1969 UN-supervised] Act of Free Choice, the West Papuan people have suffered persistent and horrible abuses at the hands of the Indonesian government. The Indonesian military and security forces have engaged in widespread violence and extrajudicial killings in West Papua. They have subjected Papuan men and women to acts of torture, disappearance, rape, and sexual violence, thus causing serious bodily and mental harm. Systematic resource exploitation, the destruction of Papuan resources and crops, compulsory (and often uncompensated) labor, transmigration schemes, and forced relocation have caused pervasive environmental harm to the region, undermined traditional subsistence practices, and led to widespread disease, malnutrition, and death among West Papuans. Such acts, taken as a whole, appear to constitute the imposition of conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the West Papuans. Many of these acts, individually and collectively, clearly constitute crimes against humanity under international law."

Citing the Indonesian government's "callous disregard for--and, at times, an intentional and specific malevolence toward--the basic human rights and dignity of the people of West Papua," the paper finds:

"Although no single act or set of acts can be said to have constituted genocide, per se, and although the required intent cannot be as readily inferred as it was in the cases of the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, there can be little doubt that the Indonesian government has engaged in a systematic pattern of acts that has resulted in harm to--and indeed the destruction of--a substantial part of the indigenous population of West Papua. The inevitability of this result was readily obvious, and the government has taken no active measures to contravene. According to current understanding of the Genocide Convention, including its interpretation in the jurisprudence of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals, such a pattern of actions and inactions--of acts and omissions--supports the conclusion that the Indonesian government has acted with the necessary intent to find that it has perpetrated genocide against the people of West Papua."

The Lowenstein Clinic's paper highlights the urgent need for heightened international attention to the grave human rights situation in West Papua. "As our paper goes to press, violence, civil unrest, and grievous abuses of human rights continue to affect the lives of West Papuan civilians," said the Lowenstein Clinic team's student leader, Elizabeth Brundige. "The United States and other governments meeting in Jakarta this week for the annual Consultative Group on Indonesia should insist that the Indonesian government take immediate action to address the human rights crisis in Papua. Recent developments suggest that without significant international pressure, the pattern of violent repression in West Papua is likely to continue."

Lowenstein Clinic director, Professor James Silk, said that the report's release, which coincides with Human Rights Day, is particularly timely in light of recent events in West Papua. "Just this month, the Indonesian government appointed former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen to the post of police commander for Papua, and East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres arrived in Papua to form a militia group. Both men have been indicted for crimes against humanity by East Timor's Special Panel for Serious Crimes for their leadership roles in the deadly and widespread violence unleashed against civilians by Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies during the 1999 U.N.-sponsored referendum. These actions threaten to further destabilize Papua and to escalate violence against civilians to levels similar to the current military campaign in Aceh and the 1999 killings, forced displacement, and destruction in East Timor."


The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic is a Yale Law School course that gives students practical experience in human rights advocacy, involving them in the range of activities in which lawyers engage to promote respect for human rights; and contributes to current efforts to protect human rights through high-quality assistance to appropriate organizations and individual clients. The Clinic undertakes numerous litigation and research projects on behalf of human rights organizations and individual victims of human rights abuse; it has provided briefs for the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and many courts in the United States.

Related Documents:
Read the Report