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Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has called on the international community to immediately suspend Indonesia from the UN Human Rights Council over a shocking assault on a young deaf indigenous Papuan that has been likened to the George Floyd tragedy in the United States.

The treatment of Steven Yadohamang, 18, who was crushed under the boot of two Indonesian military policemen in Merauke on Tuesday was the latest incident “in a long history of systematic racism and discrimination against my people”, said ULMWP interim president Benny Wenda.

“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,” he said in a statement as the assault caught on video sparked angry condemnation by community leaders.

Screenshot of Indonesian assault on deaf Papuan
How Asia Pacific Report covered the assault on deaf Papuan Steven Yadohamang on Thursday. Image: Screenshot APR

In the middle of a pandemic, Indonesia had continued to launch military operations, displacing more than 50,000 people, Wenda said.

“We have suffered trauma, we have suffered the impunity of the Indonesian colonial regime since the illegal invasion of 1963,” he said.

“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.”

He said the images of Yadohamang being crushed under the foot of an Indonesian police had been compared to the images of George Floyd before he died at the hands of US police in May 2020.

‘Papuan Lives Matter’
“My people rose up against racist treatment in 2019 [the Papuan Uprising], and followed the global BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement with our own cry: Papuan Lives Matter. What we are suffering is the same as the Rohingya, the same as South Africa under apartheid,” Wenda said.

He said Indonesia’s systematic, institutional racism against West Papuans violated international law.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Indonesia has ratified, ban racial discrimination.

“Indonesia’s military operations, racial abuse, ethnic cleansing, and systematic destruction of our health and educational opportunities represent clear violations of these conventions,” Wenda said.

“The international community must respond by suspending Indonesia from the UN Human Rights Council immediately. If our international human rights protections mean anything, there must be a global response to what is happening to my people.”

Reuters reports that the Indonesian government had apologised for the actions of the two Air Force military officers it said used “excessive force” to pin down Yadohamang’s head after a video of the incident was widely shared online.

In a statement on Wednesday, presidential chief of staff Moeldoko said his office condemned what it characterised as “a form of excessive force and unlawful conduct”.

The statement also said the Papuan man was unarmed, did not resist and had been identified as a person with a disability.

Indonesian Air Force spokesman Indan Gilang Buldansyah said the two officers would be tried in a military court.

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