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President Wenda: A crime against humanity has been committed in Yahukimo

I am truly horrified by the video  that has emerged from Yahukimo of Indonesian soldiers torturing a West Papuan man. More than anything, the sadistic brutality on display shows how urgently West Papua needs a UN Human Rights

In the video, a group of soldiers kick, punch, and slash the young Papuan man, who has been tied and forced to stand upright in a drum full of freezing water. As the soldiers repeatedly pummel the man, they can be heard saying ‘my turn! My turn!’ and comparing his meat to animal flesh. Watching the video, I was reminded of the horror of my childhood, when I was forced to watch my uncle being tortured by Suharto’s thugs. The Indonesian government have committed these crimes for sixty years now. Indonesia must have their MSG Membership suspended immediately – they cannot be allowed to treat Melanesians in this way.

This incident comes during an intensified period of militarisation in Yahukimo. After an alleged TPNPB fighter was killed last month, two Papuan children were tortured by Indonesian soldiers, who then took humiliating ‘trophy’ photos with their limp bodies. Such brutality, already common in West Papua, will only becoming more widespread under the genocidal war criminal Prabowo

According to the Rome Statute, torture is a crime against humanity. Indonesia has not signed this treaty, against torture, genocide, and war crimes, because it is guilty of all three in West Papua and East Timor.  

Though it is extreme and shocking, this video merely exposes how Indonesia behaves every day in my country. Torture is such a widespread military practice that it has been described as a “mode of governance” in West Papua. I ask everyone who watches the video to remember that West Papua is a closed society, cut off from the world by a sixty-year media ban imposed by Indonesia’s military occupation. How many victims go unnoticed by the world? How many incidents are not captured on film? Every week we hear word of another murder, massacre, or tortured civilian. Over 500,000 West Papuans have been killed under Indonesian colonial rule.  

There is an urgent need for states to take more serious action on human rights in West Papua. We are grateful that more than one hundred countries have called for a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But Indonesia clearly has no intention of honouring their promise, so more must be done. International agreements such as the EU-Indonesia trade deal should be made conditional on a UN visit. States should call out Indonesia at the highest levels of the UN. Parliamentarians should sign the Brussels Declaration

Until there is serious sanction against Indonesia their occupying forces will continue to behave with impunity in West Papua.  

Benny Wenda

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