May 11, 2015

West Papua: Activist Awarded Gwangju Human Rights Prize

Photo courtesy of CounterCurrents.

Latifah Anum Siregar was awarded the 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. She was selected for exemplifying the ideals of human rights and peace, and for her nonviolent endeavors despite multiple threats and kidnappings.

Below is an article by CounterCurrents:


The 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has chosen Latifah Anum Siregar, a human-rights lawyer, as the recipient of the prize, for her peace movement in the conflict region of West Papua. 

West Papua has been under colonial rule since the beginning of the 19th century, under powers such as Japan or Netherlands, and was separated from ‘Papua New Guinea’ in the east after World War 2. In 1969, West Papua had an independence referendum under the supervision of the Indonesian government, but the electorate body was blackmailed into unanimously voting to remain a part of Indonesia. Since then West Papua has voiced its desire for independence, but was met with oppression, resulting in arrests, torture, rape, murder, and other human rights violations.

Latifah Anum Siregar is not only a human-rights attorney, but is also the chairperson of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua, a member of the Papua regional council, and a member of the human rights commission. She has made huge contributions to the maintaining peace in a region of conflict and violence. As the chairperson of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua, Siregar codified traditions to search for a peaceful solution with the government in the territorial dispute, reformed the system for women’s rights activists with the human rights institute, Imparsial, protected Papua human rights activists, reported human rights violations to the UN, supported Papua peace process, and is involved in many activities.

The committee has judged that Latifah Anum Siregar exemplifies the ideals of human rights and peace of the 5·18 movement. Moreover, the fact that she was able to lead the Papua Peace Movement despite multiple threats and kidnappings, suspected to be from the government, has been highly regarded. She has also been recognized for showing the universality of human value by dedicating herself for the predominantly Christian region of Papua, despite being Muslim herself.

Not discriminating despite political, racial, cultural, regional, and religious differences is at the core of protecting and developing human rights. Being a region of conflict and human rights violations of the local populace, the world must give attention to West Papua. We hope that the conflict will end and that human rights will be restored in West Papua, to finally bring peace to the region. We hope that this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights will be a source of good news for those who wish for peace in the region of West Papua, and to also be a source of strength and encouragement for Latifah Anum Siregar who has fought through many hardships to achieve peace.

The 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has also selected Sombath Somphone, the founder of Participatory Development Training Center, as the recipient of the 2015 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ special prize. Sombath Somphone had been running an active campaign against the Laotian government’s project of building the Xayaburi Dam on the Lower Mekong River, until his kidnapping in 2012 by the police. His whereabouts or his current condition is unknown. We hope to bring the government backed kidnapping to light through the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and also hope that he will be found as soon as possible. We also hope that this serves as rallying point for the search for Sombath Somphone that will be taking place in May.