Spanish Senate calls for UN High Commissioner access to West Papua

March 23, 2021

The Spanish Senate has called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be allowed into West Papua, where a long-running Indonesian occupation is accused of severe human rights abuses. Underscoring the urgency of the visit, five West Papuan students in Jayapura were arrested today (Monday) by Indonesian police for backing the campaign for the UN visit.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Spanish Senate passed a motion on Thursday (March 18) calling on the Spanish Government to express its concern about the human rights situation in West Papua and urging the Government to back a visit by the High Commissioner. If the visit does not take place, the Senate pushed for the Spanish Government to support a motion on West Papua at the UN Human Rights Council.

The motion was tabled by Vice-President of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, Basque Senator Gorka Elejabarrieta. It was passed with the support of PSOE, EH Bildu, ERC, Junts and PNV senators (17 votes in favour, 10 against, one abstention). The Spanish Senate has added its voice to 83 international states that have called for the visit, including the UK, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs has previously declared that, ‘We maintain a request to all states that they keep their countries and their institutions permanently open to all international mechanisms, as a general rule. Papua is not an exception, nor would a visit by the UN High Commissioner be an exception’.

Separately, five students at the University of Science and Technology Jayapura (USTJ), in West Papua’s capital, were arrested for peacefully demonstrating for the High Commissioner’s visit. The students – Ernesto Matuan, Malvin Yobe, Apedo Doo, Devio Tekege and Dese Dumupa – are still being detained by Jayapura police. The demonstration marked the formation of a ‘welcoming committee’ for the High Commissioner by West Papuans inside the country.

The arrests come after a string of shootings of Indigenous West Papuans by Indonesian security forces in recent weeks.

Senator Gorka Elejabarrieta said: ‘We are very worried by the escalation in human rights violations that have been going on recently, including detentions and extra-judicial killings. We strongly believe that West Papua should have its right to self-determination acknowledged. We hope that this demand that the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has made will stop Indonesia for continuing its human rights violations’.

Interim President Benny Wenda of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua said: ‘My people continue to cry out for self-determination and basic human rights. Children have been shot dead by Indonesian occupation forces and all demonstrations are brutally crushed by Indonesian police. Enough is enough – Indonesia must allow the UN into West Papua now.’

This was first published as a press release on the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s website.