Inquiry into Australia’s silence on West Papua massacre, human rights groups say | West Papua
Human rights groups say revelations that Australia has remained inactive after learning of Indonesian military atrocities against protesters in West Papua are “deeply disturbing” and should trigger an independent investigation.
A recently released unredacted intelligence report, shared with the Guardian, shows the Australian government had compelling evidence that the Indonesian military fired live ammunition indiscriminately at a group of unarmed West Papuan protesters on the island of Biak July 6, 1998.
Despite constant calls for an independent investigation into the Biak massacre, Australia has not shared its evidence with the world.
The intelligence report also shows West Papuans secretly handed over photographic evidence of the atrocity to an Australian intelligence officer, risking their own safety. The film was distributed to the defense, but never saw the light of day. It appears to have been destroyed in 2014.
Human Rights Watch said the new revelations were “deeply disturbing.”
Elaine Pearson, the organization’s director for Australia, said it was clear that an independent investigation was needed into the massacre, what foreign governments knew about the atrocity and the handling of evidence.
“If the Defense has destroyed photographic evidence of alleged abuse, this is unacceptable and there should be a thorough policy review of how evidence of human rights violations is handled,” Pearson said. “Any evidence of alleged massacres must be collected and preserved. Why was it not sent to the UN Human Rights Office if Australia was not going to follow up on it? “
An investigation into the massacre could be carried out by the UN Human Rights Office, while parliamentary inquiries could probe the Australian government’s response and its handling of evidence.
The Indonesian government has denied or played down the Biak massacre, first blaming a tsunami 1,000 km away when mutilated corpses began to wash up on the island’s shores.
Australia has offered only a low-key response to reports of violence against West Papua activists gathered in Biak that day, expressing concern but never issuing an outright condemnation or calling for a UN investigation. United. The recently released intelligence report, compiled by a military attaché dispatched to the island five days after the attack, shows the government has had serious evidence of the atrocity for 23 years.
The report was released by the National Archives of Australia following a lawsuit brought by activist Anthony Craig and law firm Xenophon Davis at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The officer who drafted it, Dan Weadon, shared evidence from witnesses who saw “a lot of blood and corpses” and knew “at least 20 people who were killed. About 200 of the protesters (the rest were dead or injured) were then rounded up. “
He concluded that it was highly likely that Indonesian troops used excessive force against protesters, later cleaning up the site and intimidating witnesses.
Subsequent testimony from survivors suggested a much higher number of deaths. Survivors also spoke of seeing West Papuans taken on navy ships to Biak harbor, where they were allegedly murdered, raped, tortured and thrown overboard.
The West Papua region has long been closed to journalists and human rights monitors. But in 2018, President Joko Widodo promised the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that he would be allowed to visit him. This visit has still not been authorized and the UN Human Rights Office still does not have access to the area.
Pearson said Australia should “urge Indonesia to keep Jokowi’s promise in 2018”.
“For more than 50 years, Indonesia has strictly restricted access to Papua and West Papua for foreign journalists and human rights monitors, making it very difficult to investigate allegations of serious rights violations humans, ”she said. “There are many reports of killings, torture, arbitrary detention and forced displacement for which no one has ever been held responsible. “
The Defense Ministry told the Guardian on Friday that its handling of files is governed by the Archives Act and they are subject to routine review and disposal.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has always maintained that it has taken steps to raise the Biak massacre with Indonesian governments, including at the ministerial level.