September 28, 2016
Photo courtesy of the Human Rights Council
On Thursday 22 September 2016, UNPO submitted two reports to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of its 27th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Session scheduled to take place in April 2017. During this session, the Republic of Indonesia and the Federative Republic of Brazil will be under consideration for their 3rd UPR Cycle. UNPO’s reports call attention to human rights violations occurring in both countries, with an emphasis on the situation of the Acehnese and West Papuan communities, and on indigenous peoples in Brazil.
The first UPR Report calls attention to the precarious situation of Acehnese and West Papuan communities in Indonesia. Aceh and West Papua became part of Indonesia during the process of decolonisation in which the country became independent from the Netherlands. In both regions this was seen by many as a new foreign occupation, which in the case of West Papua included policies leading to the relocation and discrimination of indigenous communities. Resistance within both regions has been met with excessive force by Indonesian authorities. The case of Aceh was supposedly resolved in peace agreements between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement in 2002 and 2005, but parts of those agreements were never implemented.
During his 2014 election campaign, current President of Indonesia Joko Widodo promised progressive policies towards West Papuan and Acehnese communities. The developments of the last years have largely disappointed the expectations that were raised, as limitations to freedom of assembly and association, extrajudicial authority, and lack of public accountability continued unabated in both Aceh and in West Papua. In addition, in West Papua specifically, indigenous rights continue to be infringed as the government exploits the natural resources of the region without regard or compensation for its indigenous populations. Many of these violations go unseen due to lack of reporting and free press.
Among the recommendations that UNPO urges the Indonesian government to consider are:
1. To respect the distinct rights to self-governance afforded to the West Papuan and Acehnese communities by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
2. To respect the freedom of expression of indigenous peoples and release political prisoners arrested for acts of peaceful political activism, including raising flags;
3. To stop land-grabbing practices which deprive indigenous peoples of their means of subsistence and engage regional ethnic communities affected by resource extraction under the principles of free, prior and informed consent;
4. To enable existing human rights courts to address cases of serious crimes that ensure victims’ right to truth, justice and reparations, as well as measures to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
The second report focused on human rights violations towards indigenous peoples in Brazil, spanning the violation of territorial rights, violence committed towards indigenous peoples, and lack of representation for those peoples in different levels of government. Indigenous peoples in Brazil have faced genocide, slavery, oppression and assimilation since the colonisation of South America. Over the course of the last thirty years, since the democratisation of Brazil, indigenous rights to their ancestral lands, to the preservation of their cultures, and to political representation have been enshrined in the Brazilian constitution and in a number of international treaties. The implementation of those rights, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
Between 2012 and today, indigenous territories have continued to be under threat of intrusion by loggers, miners and farmers, while the process for the demarcation of those lands is moving at an ever slower pace. Meanwhile, hundreds of development projects in the areas of energy and infrastructure will affect indigenous lands. Indigenous communities are not adequately consulted on such projects, and not adequately represented in many of the government institutions where decisions affecting their livelihoods are taken. Tensions often rise as a result of intrusions and conflicts over land, and culminate in atrocities against indigenous individuals and communities, ranging from injuries to rape and murder.
UNPO has proposed a number of recommendations to the Brazilian Government, among which:
1. To hold government institutions which are responsible for the enforcement of indigenous rights accountable for their actions and negligence;
2. To ensure the protection of leaders of indigenous communities struggling for their rights;
3. To ensure accountability of those implicated in instances of violence or hatred towards indigenous peoples and ban them from government positions related to the matter;
4. To ensure “free, prior and informed consent” to indigenous communities regarding measures that will directly affect their livelihoods;
5. To consider introducing quotas for indigenous representation in the Brazilian Congress.
You can access the reports here: