To Know – To Act – To Understand
To Know – To Act – To Understand

Working Group on West Papua

GHR has trained dozens of defenders from West Papua (Indonesia) on how to document human rights abuses and on how to make use of UN mechanisms and procedures. We have been shocked by the reports from our trainees describing the massive violations occurring in Papua since its (forced) integration into Indonesia (1949).

GHR project on human rights in West Papua

GHR is a co-founder of the International Coalition for Papua (ICP). In 2016, in view of the deteriorating situation, GHR launched a special project to pursue a stronger campaign within the UN bodies. GHR drafted a Memorandum on the threats to the survival of the Papuan people and submitted it in July 2016 as an urgent appeal to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In August 2016, the CERD decided to address an ‘Early Warning’ to Indonesia on the situation of the ‘Papuan indigenous people in West Papua’.

Also in 2016, a Working group was set-up for this project. Our ‘Working Group on Human Rights in Papua’ holds monthly meetings. Its first members were those who drafted the Appeal to CERD. In 2018, the Group was composed of ten GHR members: Nicolas Zoller (project coordinator), Edward Flynn, Tiffany Pagès, Maréva Roduit, Clementine Gaspar, Wensislaus Fatubun (coordinator of Alumni in Papua), Thomas Harris, Irene Valotti, Maria Luisa di Fraia and Quentin Weber. GHR Alumni (former trainees in the Geneva Courses and in the Courses GHR conducted in Papua) represent direct partners of the group.

The International Coalition on Papua (ICP) [1]

In 2018, GHR helped the ICP Secretariat to prepare the ICP Board meeting in Geneva. It participated in the ICP Board meetings in Geneva (22-23 June) and in Wuppertal (December, by Skype). GHR also convened three coordination meetings of the Geneva-based ICP member organisations. Edward Flynn continued to contribute to the editing of the English version of the annual report of ICP on the human rights situation in Papua.

GHR priorities in the West Papua project

GHR’s priorities for 2018 were to use a broader variety of thematic procedures for the submission of cases of violation, to introduce the Papuan issue in the UN debates on indigenous peoples and racial discrimination, to involve more sectors from the Papuan civil society in the human rights campaign (thereby increasing and diversifying the number of GHR trainees, and to slowly but surely obtain a distinct debate and scrutiny at the UN concerning Papua.

GHR’s Compilation of UN recommendations to Indonesia

In May 2018, GHR’s Working Group published a report entitled ‘West Papua in the United Nations’. The report contains a compilation of all the recommendations and observations addressed to Indonesia from 2008 to 2018 on West Papua, by the treaty bodies, the Special procedures and in the UPR, as well as quotes from States in UN debates, the pledges and commitments of the Indonesian Government, and the text of several Early Warnings of the CERD. It was edited by Irene Valotti and Maria Luisa Di Fraia.

Training Papuan partners and defenders

Within the ICP coalition, GHR is naturally the organisation training partners on the best ways to use international procedures. GHR also trains on strategies. In 2018, five Papuan and 3 Indonesian trainees attended the Geneva Courses. Among them was a Papuan Parliamentarian. The others belonged to human rights NGOs, Church groups and indigenous organisations.

During their visit to Papua (8 to 28 August 2018), two GHR trainers, Wensislaus Fatubun and Nicolas Zoller, launched a process with GHR Papuan partners to examine GHR’s report on the UN recommendations made to Indonesia regarding West Papua, and to elaborate a plan of action to implement these recommendations. They also conducted two Courses: a 2 day Course for members of the KNPB and a 1 day Course for the leadership of MRP.

Using international procedures and mechanisms

Along with ICP member organisations, GHR held several meetings with the OHCHR to follow-up the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, who went to Papua during his visit to Indonesia (March – April 2017) and expressed concern about the healthcare situation in Papua.

GHR and its Geneva-based partners were also actively involved in the preparation and follow-up of the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. During her visit to Indonesia (9-18 April 2018), the Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Hilal Elver, did not go to Papua. Instead, there was a special meeting in Jakarta with a delegation of a dozen Papuan NGOs. Detailed information was submitted in advance by the ICP Secretariat, Geneva-based member organisations and GHR’s Alumni in Papua.

Indigenous issues

GHR presented two oral statements during the 11st session of EMRIP – the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples (9-13 July). The main theme of the session was ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ (NDRIP). This was also the theme of GHR’s Expert Seminar of 13 July 2018. Two months later, GHR convened a side-event entitled ‘No consent = no survival, the case of West Papua’ (19 September 2018). Trainees in the Geneva Course spoke of the situation in Kalimantan and in West Papua.

Record-breaking number of communications submitted to the UN

In 2018, GHR and ICP members submitted many communications to a wide range of UN thematic procedures. Most of these were sent by the ICP Secretariat. Through its network of Alumni’s in Papua, GHR receives detailed reports on many cases of violation. The ICP Secretariat and GHR Working Group check the information and prepare the draft communication. ICP members are invited to co-sign. Due to the accuracy and quality of the information, the UN Rapporteurs increasingly follow up these communications. As it is based in Geneva, GHR presses for the follow-up and regularly meets the UN staff working on the procedures.

Advocacy in the HR-Council

During the sessions of the HR-Council (March, June, September), GHR partnered with ICP members in the delivery of several side-events, as well as in the submission of oral statements. The WCC, Franciscans International (FI), ICP, Tapol and Vivat International (VI) were the most frequent co-sponsors. Such an event took place with Amnesty International on 21 June 2018, entitled ‘Human rights in Papua, Indonesia: right to life and right to health’. During the three 2018 sessions of the HR-Council, the GHR Working Group also met Governmental delegations to raise the issue.

Visit of the High Commissioner and follow-up    

On 31 January, the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), FI and GHR met with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the eve of his visit to Indonesia (5-7 February). In Jakarta, the High Commissioner met separately with a delegation of Papuan defenders. The meeting was prepared by five former GHR trainees from the Geneva Course.

At the end of his visit to Indonesia, the High Commissioner met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo who invited the OHCHR to visit Papua. The preparation of this visit became the priority of GHR’s Working Group. GHR submitted comprehensive reports on all the human rights violations occurring in Papua. 


 Delegation of Traditional Papuan organisations in Geneva (Geneva, 25 November – 4 December 2018)

GHR invited a Delegation of the Papuan Peoples Council(MRP)and the Papuan Customary Council to attend the sessions of the CERD and the UN Forum on Business. The three Representatives wereMr. Timotius Murib (head MRP), Ms. Diana Matuan (Papuan women leader of the Papuan Customary Council) and Mr. Johannes Wob, (vice chief of MRP).

The CERD Working Group on the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures held a hearing with them (30 November). They also attended the Forum, visited the Swiss Foreign Department, and met several NGOs and diplomats during a reception organized for them (28 November). GHR also gave them a specific Course. A member of GHR’s Working Group, Wensislaus Fatubun, travelled with them and served as translator.

On 8 December, GHR’s President met them in Bangkok to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the MRP. The Papuan Governor co-signed the agreements, as they concerned GHR training and advisory services (both in Geneva and in West Papua) for indigenous peoples in the autonomous institutions of West Papua (Indonesia).


[1] Composed of dozens of human rights and church groups from Europe and Australia, the ICP has its Secretariat in Wuppertal, Germany.