PM needs to put human rights in West Papua on Jakarta agenda

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been urged to use his first visit to Indonesia tomorrow to cast aside the wilful blindness previous Australian Governments have had when it comes to the serious human rights violations occurring a stone's throw away in Indonesia's Papua provinces.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Communications, Tom Clarke, said the arrival of seven asylum seekers from Indonesia’s troubled Papua provinces and their subsequent swift removal, should be a reminder of the expectation for Australia to provide human rights leadership in our region.

“Reports of political assassinations, torture and the violent repression of peaceful political gatherings in Indonesia’s Papuan provinces are all too common. Fundamental human rights are regularly violated. It’s understandable that people will come to Australia seeking our protection,” said Mr Clarke.

Acknowledging that any human rights advocacy on Australia's behalf risks being diminished by problems with its own asylum seeker policies, Mr Clarke said both Indonesia and Australia stand to benefit from some straight talking about human rights concerns.

“The Australian-Indonesian relationship needs to become mature enough to handle two-way criticisms about human rights problems,” said Mr Clarke.

Australia recently assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council and was appointed to the Council on the promise that it would be a ‘principled advocate of human rights for all’. Mr Clarke said if Australia is to live up to this noble pledge, PM Abbott should not be shy in raising Australia’s concerns.

“Our Prime Minister has said that he and his colleagues are "custodians of free speech". If this is the case, he must take this opportunity to take a strong stance in support of the basic democratic rights and freedoms which are severely restricted in Papua,” said Mr Clarke.

The Human Rights Law Centre is also critical of the Australian Government’s media black-out in relation to boat arrivals, turn backs and transfers of asylum seekers in its care.

“Because our Government has detained these people and then quickly transferred them to PNG under a veil of secrecy, we simply don’t know exactly where they are or what is going on. We’re also very concerned that because of the haste in which they were transferred, they may not have received adequate access to legal advice,” said Mr Clarke.


For further information or comment, please contact Tom Clarke on 0422 545 763 or