By Dessy Sagita & Rizki Amelia on 01:35 am Oct 25, 2013, TheJakartaGlobe.com
Indonesia is responsible for a genocidal military operation carried out in Papua between 1977-1978, which killed more than 4,000 indigenous Papuans, including women and children, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights and Peace for Papua said in a statement released Thursday.
In the report, which took researchers three years to complete, it is reported that infants and children were among the victims of aerial bombings and strafing by American-supplied OV-10 Bronco attack planes.
The report also highlighted brutality and inhumane behavior by the Indonesian military.
AHRC interviewed a survivor, Reverend Matius Wenda (not his real name) who said he witnessed Indonesian military officers forcing elderly Papuans to consume excrement.
Another witness told interviewers he saw highlands Papuans detained by the military before being shot in a field, the witness saying he only survived by pretending to be dead.
The report also mentioned sexual violence against Papuan women, which it says was common during the military operation around the Central Highlands, as described by one of the interviewed female survivors. “Breasts of some women were cut and they died. We were raped, abused and killed… Some women were only raped but others were raped and murdered,” the report says.
An AHRC director, Basil Fernando, said “the publication of the report is aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public, particularly in Indonesia, on the history of violence in Papua.”
The AHRC said atrocities perpetrated by the state in Papua could be classified as genocide based on the definition provided by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
AHRC claims that the horrendous human rights violations documented in the report are attributable to high ranking officials of the Indonesian military at that time, including former President Suharto.
“The long period of authoritarianism under Suharto has effectively silenced Indonesians from discussing its dark history related to Papua,” Fernando said.
He pointed out that available sources examining the abuses in the Central Highlands during 1977–1978 were very limited. The report recommended the establishment of a local truth and reconciliation commission in Papua as called by the Special Autonomy Law enacted in 2001.
It also calls for the government to comply with its international human rights obligations by lifting unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression in the country to encourage open discourse on the history of violence in Papua, and by ensuring the safety of any individual speaking up on the issue.
The national government hopes increased autonomy in Papua will help reduce violence in the region. But the governor of Papua province has said it will take more than autonomy to fix the region’s serious problems.
While most Papuans live in abject poverty, the resource-rich island is host to one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, operated by US company Freeport and co-financed by British-Australian miner Rio Tinto.
The central government has poured trillions of rupiah into the region since establishing the first autonomy program in 2001, but poverty rates remain at 31 percent and the rate of HIV transmission is the highest in the country outside of Jakarta.
Haris Azhar, chairman of the Jakarta-based Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that while it was true there has been continuous state violence in Papua since the 1960s, there have been insufficient studies to determine whether it qualifies as genocide.
“There has been a lot of violence in Papua, there has never been genocide, but there have been crimes against humanity,” Haris said Thursday.
Haris said a crime could only be classified as genocide after a comprehensive study. Genocide, he said, must constitute government policy to qualify.
“There a lot of brutality and torture in Papua but there has been no strong evidence about genocide against a particular ethnicity,” he said.
“The government can follow up by asking the National Commission of Human Rights to investigate whether or not it is true,” he said.
Presidential spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, said the use of the term genocide was controversial and could potentially be dangerous.
“I have not read the report, but the term genocide is very tendentious, do they have the proper methodology to measure if the word can be used?
“Did they actually investigate the case in Papua or did they hear the story from a third party? We don’t know,” Teuku said to the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
Teuku said the term genocide could only be used for a very serious crime and should not be used casually for the situation that has happened in Indonesia.
“It is very dangerous if any group can easily use the word genocide and claim a country is responsible for it,” he said.