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INDONESIA must be suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council for its systematic racism and discrimination against West Papuans, independence leader Benny Wenda said on Saturday.
He spoke after the brutal attack on a deaf West Papuan man called Steven Yadohamang by Indonesian soldiers in the town of Merauke last week.
Footage showed Mr Yadohamang’s head being crushed under the boots of military officers, and Mr Wenda said the incident had been compared to the killing of George Floyd in the US last year.
“The reality of everyday life for my people in West Papua is violence and racism at the hands of Indonesian soldiers, police and intelligence officers,” Mr Wenda said.
He said that his people have suffered ongoing racism and an attempted genocide, and that military operations have displaced more than 50,000 people since the start of the pandemic with impunity.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua chairman has been living in exile since he escaped from an Indonesian prison in 2002.
He had been placed on trial for leading an independence rally which authorities said turned violent.
He insists that the charges against him are politically motivated. Interpol eventually agreed, and in 2012 rescinded a red notice for his arrest and extradition from Britain.
Last year he was elected interim president of a West Papuan government-in-waiting.
Mr Wenda has continued to lobby for independence for West Papua, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 through the so-called Act of Free Choice.
It was ratified by just over 1,000 West Papuans, many of whom were held at gunpoint.
“There is no difference between what happens to African-Americans in the US and what happens to West Papuans at the hands of the illegal Indonesian occupation,” Mr Wenda said.
“My people rose up against racist treatment in 2019, and followed the global BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement with our own cry: Papuan Lives Matter.”
Mr Wenda said that Indonesia’s “military operations, racial abuse, ethnic cleansing, and systematic destruction of our health and educational opportunities” breach international law and that world bodies should act accordingly.
“The international community must respond by suspending Indonesia from the UN Human Rights Council immediately,” he said.
“If our international human rights protections mean anything, there must be a global response to what is happening to my people.”
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