Press release on Swim & Petition; Please send to all your networks!

August 25, 2017


Petition for self-determination in West Papua to be swum 30 hours across Lake Geneva at end of month as West Papuans arrested for signing

  • Petition for human rights and vote of self-determination for West Papuans under Indonesian military occupation signed by tens of thousands;
  • British team swimming across Lake Geneva for 30 hours to deliver petition to UN;
  • West Papuans risking arrest and worst to sign by hand inside the country.

A British swim team are set to swim a crushing 30 hours straight across the 69km of Lake Geneva to deliver a petition calling for self-determination in West Papua to the UN. [1] A mass, grassroots campaign in support of the petition has been repressed by Indonesian security forces inside West Papua, with at least one Papuan leader, Yanto Awerkion, remaining imprisoned. [2]

The British group, Swim for Papua, in collaboration with the Free West Papua Campaign, has been gathering tens of thousands of signatures for months across the globe. The petition has garnered over 140,000 signatories online and an as-yet-unknown number of paper signatories. [3] Avaaz, one of the websites hosting the petition, has been completely banned across all of Indonesia for its involvement in the campaign.

West Papua, occupied by Indonesia since 1963, has been growing in international stature in recent years. Over the past year, eight Pacific Island states have joined the Pacific Coalition for West Papua in calling for human rights and self-determination to be upheld in the territory. [4] In March this year, seven Pacific island governments called on the UN Human Rights Council to urgently consider the situation in West Papua [5]. Referencing the swim, the English-language daily, The Jakarta Post, released an editorial this month claiming that the “campaign for an independent Papua has been relentless and has made significant gains in past years”. [6]

Signing petitions inside West Papua can be a fatal act: in 2015, a Papuan tribal leader was shot dead by Indonesian security forces for involvement in another petition campaign. [7] Yanto Awerkion, of the West Papua independence group the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested on June 23 by Indonesian security services during a rally and prayer session promoting the petition. He remains behind bars, and has released a video about his plight. [8].

Mass arrests and a police shootings and killings of unarmed Papuan men have seen political tensions about Indonesia’s role in West Papua rise this month. [9] Human rights groups and academics estimate that over 100,000 Papuans have died since the occupation commenced, and torture is widely used by the Indonesian police and military. [10]

Joel Evans, founder of Swim for West Papua, said: “West Papua has been hidden from the public eye for nearly half a century. Hundreds of thousands have died, been tortured, arrested, beaten and imprisoned. Indonesia is trying to cover up a genocide, with the help of its Western allies. We hope this swim can penetrate the shadows and assist the Papuans in their struggle for basic self-determination and liberation. Doing this swim requires us to recognise our shared identity as human beings.”

Benny Wenda, a Papuan tribal leader, spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and refugee with asylum in Oxford, said: “This swim is a historic moment in our long path to freedom. The swim team are helping to shine a light on one of the world’s longest and most brutal military occupations, and tens of thousands of West Papuans in my home-land are willing them on and signing the petition despite risk of arrest and torture. The actions of every one person can make a difference, and West Papuans need international solidarity work to help the world hear our cry for freedom.”

You can sign the petition here:



Kate Lewis, Free West Papua Campaign, (+44) 0 1865 403 202


The Free West Papua Campaign was founded in 2004 in Oxford by West Papuan leader and refugee, Benny Wenda. The Campaign has been working to support non-violent activity inside West Papua and globally for self-determination for the West Papuan people. See:

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was formed in December 2014 with the help of the Vanuatu government. A coalition of West Papuan independence groups, its external secretariat coordinates international diplomatic lobbying efforts. See:

Swim for West Papua was formed in the UK in 2016 to promote a global petition for self-determination for West Papua. The swim team will swim the petition 30 hours up Lake Geneva in August 2017. See:








[7] Macleod, J. (2015), Merdeka & the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua, University of Queensland Press XX



[10] On total deaths, see Anderson, K. (2015), ‘Colonialism and Cold Genocide: The Case of West Papua’, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 9(2), p.14; Elmslie, J. (2007), West Papua: Paths to Justice and Prosperity, University of Sydney: Sydney;
On torture, see: Tapol et al. (2015), The Practice of Torture: Business As Usual in Papua, Tapol: London & EIDHR; Hernawan, B. (2015), ‘Torture as a Mode of Governance: Reflections on the Phenomenon of Torture in Papua, Indonesia’, in (eds.) Slama, M. & Munro, J., From ‘Stone-Age’ to ‘Real-Time’: Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities, ANU Press: Canberra.
On political prisoners, see: