ULMWP Chairman hands independence petition to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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The chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Beni Wenda, has delivered a petition on self-determination to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. On 25 January 2019, Beni Wenda met the high commissioner in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a delegation representing the Pacific island state of Vanuatu. According to the ULMWP, the petition was signed by more than 1.8 million West Papuans and expresses their wish for decolonization of the Indonesian Provinces of Papua and Papua Barat.

During the meeting, Beni Wenda also addressed the issue of ongoing human rights violations in West Papua, upon which the Office of the Commissioner confirmed that Indonesia had agreed in principle to grant her office access to Papua. The ULMWP’s diplomatic move caused instant reaction by the Indonesian Government. Indonesia's permanent representative at the UN, Hasan Kleib, stated that Vanuatu was disrespectful and had broken the principles of the UN charter by allowing Mr. Wenda to join Vanuatu’s delegation during an official visit and to deliver the petition during this meeting.

Six days later, the representatives of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and its armed wing, the West Papua Liberation Army (TPN-PB), held a press conference in Port Moresby, the capital of Indonesia’s neighbor country Papua New Guinea. During the press conference, the OPM reaffirmed that they will continue to fight Indonesian security forces through armed combat until the Indonesian Government recognises West Papua's political independence. Furthermore, the OPM representatives urged the UN secretary-general to ensure relevant UN agencies monitor the human rights situation in West Papua and expressed their willingness to seek a sustainable peaceful conflict solution with the Indonesian Government under third party mediated negotiation. The press conference was attended by the PNG governors Powes Parkop and Gary Juffa.

Background

The Free West Papua Campaign delivered a copy of the petition to the United Nations on 28 August 2017 through a swimming campaign in which the historic document was carried by six swimmers across lake Geneva over a distance of 69 km. The global petition was launched at the British Parliament in January 2017.  The petition was supported by 1,804,421 people, consisting of 1,708,167 indigenous West Papuans and 96,254 Indonesian settlers.

Throughout the past two years, the human rights situation in West Papua has repeatedly drawn the attention of UN human rights bodies and mandate holders, including the previous UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, who visited Indonesia from 5 to 7 February 2018.  In his opening statement and global update of human rights concerns at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, has questioned the invitation from the Indonesian government to visit West Papua: “… I am concerned that despite positive engagement by the authorities in many respects, the Government’s invitation to my Office to visit Papua – which was made during my visit in February – has still not been honoured."

In mid December 2018, a series of mass arrest of protesters commemoration the Papuan national day in multiple Indonesian cities was condemned by the UN human rights office, OHCHR. More than 500 activists were detained. Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani expressed her concerns regarding the human rights situation and long-standing structural issues in West Papua during an UN News interview