Gayana: Human rights lawyers pressing for West Papua self determination

Stabroeknews Gayana

Friday, April 10, 2009

Human rights lawyers pressing for West Papua self determination
By Stabroek staff | April 9, 2009 in Local News

The International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) formally launched in Guyana on Friday to continue its efforts to help West Papua to “exercise peacefully their fundamental human rights and the freedoms guaranteed by international law.”

In a press release the group which comprises a network of international lawyers, said it launched here at the request of the West Papuans in recognition of Guyana’s support of its “freedom and self-determination” 40 years ago. Guyana is also recognised internationally for the progress made in settling land rights and respecting the self-determination of Amerindian peoples.

The ILWP is dedicated to helping the indigenous people of West Papua to exercise freely their fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by human rights standards including the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

West Papua forms the western half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island and one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world. There is a line down the middle of the island and the same Papuan peoples, who are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Asian peoples of the neighbouring Indonesian archipelago, have occupied both sides of the island for thousands of years.

Papua New Guinea is a free and independent sovereign state. In 1962 the Dutch colonial government transferred administration of West Papua to the UN who subsequently handed over administrative responsibility to Indonesia. According to the release “This transfer was subject to the condition that the indigenous West Papuans should have the right to exercise their self-determination within 5 years.”

However, in 1969 Indonesia held an “Act of Free Choice” where the government had selected 1022 Papuans from a population of nearly 1M people and forced them to declare that West Papua wanted to remain with Indonesia. This “Act of Free Choice” violated international law and the fundamental right to self-determination guaranteed by the UN Charter and the international community. The right had also been recognised by Indonesia in a bilateral treaty – the New York Agreement 1962.

West Papua is now occupied territory, annexed by Indonesia in 1969. Under Indonesia rule basic freedoms have been denied and Amnesty International estimates that over 100,000 people have died as a result. “Merely flying the Papuan flag is considered an act of treason by Indonesia [and] can result in 15 years imprisonment,” the release said.

The ILWP said it remains steadfast in ensuring that the West Papuans can enjoy the legal freedoms and rights that underpin all free and democratic societies. The group said too its members work closely with the International Parliamentarians for West Papua to ensure that basic human rights are upheld.

Report ends;

Aditonal information

‘International Lawyers for West Papua’ (www.ilwp.org) launches tomorrow
in South America, with a series of meetings taking place that will
continue until 5th April. A number of prominent international lawyers
have gathered for the occasion, and will lay out the legal framework and
rights for Papuan self-determination.

(www.ilwp.org)

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