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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

Uphold Human Rights Now! Free West Papua!

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Now more than ever, we are at a critical juncture in history that magnifies the imperative moral responsibility to stand in solidarity against militarization, exploitation of land resources, and the systematic oppression faced by West Papua, indigenous communities, and all occupied people around the world.

Foundations of Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly.

The December 10, 1948 declaration proclaims the inalienable rights inherent to all individuals, irrespective of race, nationality, religion, or any other status. It aims to stand as a beacon for dignity, equality, justice, and peace, and “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” worldwide.

Yet, the pervasive onslaught of violence targeting the discriminated, exploited, marginalized, oppressed, and occupied populace across the globe rightfully questions the credibility of the UN’s pledge and commitments.

The Plight of Occupied West Papua

In West Papua alone, the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain distant.

Decades of political conflict and economic exploitation have left a trail of human rights abuses against the region’s Indigenous Peoples. The dubious and coerced annexation of West Papua into Indonesia in 1969, under the guise of "The Act of Free Choice," stands as a stark testament to the injustices faced by these communities.

Subsequent forced demographic changes, through government-led transmigration programs, further displaced thousands of indigenous Papuans from their ancestral lands.

Environmental Degradation, Exploitation of Land Resources, and Greenwashing

Today, West Papua's vast repository of ancestral forests and wetlands and its indigenous custodians are under relentless threats due to corporate interests facilitated and protected by the government.

Just last month, Indonesia set out to finalize its contract extension with American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, which owns the majority of Grasberg Mine wreaking havoc on West Papua. It is one of the largest gold mines and the third largest copper mine in the world, with reserves estimated at $100 billion, solidifying its status as the country’s biggest taxpayer.

To safeguard their vested interests in this immensely valuable gold mine, the American firm partners with the Indonesian police and military to use brute force against the local Indigenous Peoples. Throughout the 1990s and 2010s, it's estimated that Freeport disbursed funds amounting to $20 to $80 million to the military and police.   

The precarious state of West Papuan forests and the livelihoods tied to these natural assets also hang in the balance as Indonesia leads globally in palm oil production and consumption. The recent disputes arising from the government’s 2021 audit of palm oil companies exposed a slew of violations defiantly countered by these firms.

With the Indonesian government’s dedication to palm oil industry expansion, it engenders a policy landscape rife with contradictions, which ultimately harms the local communities. Another poignant example lies with the Awgyu tribe, comprising approximately 20,000 members, facing the imminent loss of their ancestral forests after a court dismissed their lawsuit against a palm oil corporation.    

Efforts to conceal these cases of environmental degradation and land exploitation through greenwashing tactics cannot obscure the truth. The exclusion of Indigenous Papuans—who possess vital forest preservation wisdom—from pivotal decision-making processes regarding climate crisis initiatives signifies hypocrisy and renders promises futile.

For instance, the government’s partnership in launching a carbon capture project with BP Plc (BP.L), a British multinational oil and gas giant, clearly reveals the government’s allegiances. This launch forebodes more dire environmental and cultural ramifications for the West Papuan locals.

Ongoing Human Rights Violations

Amidst the backdrop of environmental exploitation and the commodification of land resources, reports from various organizations like Human Rights Monitor depict an alarming trend of grave human rights violations in West Papua.

Bombings, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and the unjust criminalization of activists have become an unsettling norm. Perpetrators operate under a veil of impunity, perpetuating a climate of fear among indigenous communities who hold these lands sacred.

Furthermore, military operations continue to forcibly uproot thousands of indigenous Papuans. This callous disregard for human dignity leaves families displaced and vulnerable, exacerbating the plight of communities already on the margins.

As environmental degradation and exploitation inherently intertwine with human toll, it underscores an urgent need for a united call for action and justice.



Transforming Human Rights Day into Action

The plight of West Papua and other occupied people demands concrete actions from governments, organizations, and individuals worldwide. Upholding the rights of indigenous people to determine their future and safeguard their lands is not just humanity’s moral obligation—it is a critical step towards global justice.

On this Human Rights Day, we must move beyond mere symbolic recognition. It must be more than a hollow nominal day—it should stand as a catalyst for tangible change.

We call on everyone to amplify indigenous voices, demand accountability, and push for substantive measures to end the reign of tyranny.

We urge humanity’s advocates, organizations, and governments to enact bold concrete actions now!


Free West Papua!

Stop the attacks on Indigenous Peoples!

Fight for our rights to self-determination!



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