31 Jan 2019

UN rights chief secures Jakarta agreement for Papua access

2:00 pm on 31 January 2019

Indonesia has agreed in principle to allow the office of the United Nations human rights commissioner into Papua region, or West Papua.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Michelle Bachelet Photo: AFP / Luiz Rampelotto / NurPhoto

This comes amid continuing violence in the region's Highlands regencies between the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces.

The office of the commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, told the Guardian she had been engaging with Indonesian authorities on the issue of West Papua.

It said the office had been focussed on "the prevailing human rights situation" and had requested access to the area.

A spokeswoman for the office, Ravina Shamdasani, said Indonesia had in-principle agreed to grant access to Papua to the office which was waiting for confirmation of the arrangements.

Last year, Ms Bachelet's predecessor in the role, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said he was concerned that an earlier Indonesian government invitation for his office to visit Papua had not been honoured.

In response, Indonesia's permanent representative at the UN, Hasan Kleib, reprimanded the Commissioner's office for being obstructive, and demanding immediate access to Papua.

Petition to the UN 'manipulation'

This week, Mr Kleib also accused West Papuan activist Benny Wenda of deceiving the UN when delivering a petition demanding an independence referendum.

On Friday, Mr Wenda handed to the UN in Geneva a document he has claimed includes 1.8 million signatures from people living in Papua and West Papua.

He did so by attended a meeting between Vanuatu representatives and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The meeting was unrelated to the petition and had not been arranged by the UN.

In a statement reported by the Jakarta Post, Mr Kleib said Mr Wenda had manipulated and infiltrated the Vanuatu delegation.

He added that Vanuatu was disrespectful and had broken the principles of the UN charter by allowing Mr Wenda to deliver the petition.

Papuan pro-independence demonstrators stage a protest in Jakarta on December 1, 2015, before police fired tear gas at a hundreds-strong crowd hurling rocks during a protest against Indonesian rule over the eastern region of Papua.

Papuan pro-independence demonstrators stage a protest in Jakarta Photo: ROMEO GACAD / AFP

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