Asia-Pacific

UN human rights chief 'disturbed' by escalating violence in Papua

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has weighed in on the violence engulfing Papua.

The United Nations' leading voice on human rights says she is "disturbed" by the ongoing violence in Papua and has called on Indonesia to deescalate the situation.

Indonesia's eastern Papua provinces have seen two weeks of mass protests and riots sparked by anger over racism and fresh calls for self-rule, countered by a military crackdown. 

A protester march turns violent in Jayapura, Papua.
A protester march turns violent in Jayapura, Papua.
AAP

On Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for the violence to stop.

"I have been disturbed by escalating violence in the past two weeks in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, and especially the deaths of some protesters and security forces personnel," Ms Bachelet said in a statement.

"We have been discussing our concerns with the Indonesian authorities. There should be no place for such violence in a democratic and diverse Indonesia, and I encourage the authorities to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua on their aspirations and concerns."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Chilean Michelle Bachelet.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Chilean Michelle Bachelet.
AAP

Ms Bachelet also took aim at Indonesia for blocking internet access in the area.

"Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression and limiting communications may exacerbate tensions," she said.

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 August 2019.
Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 August 2019.
EPA

Indonesia took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony on the island of New Guinea, in the 1960s after an independence vote that was widely seen as being rigged.

On Monday, Indonesia said it was deporting four Australians who had entered Papua - which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea - on a yacht last month.

Indonesian authorities have arrested dozens for taking part in protests and banned demonstrations that could lead to what it described as "anarchist acts".

The number of people so far killed during the weeks of unrest remains unconfirmed, but witnesses of a single clash on Wednesday said at least eight bodies were located after Indonesian forces opened fire on protesters.

The recent unrest appears to have been triggered by the mid-August arrest of dozens of Papuan students in Java, who were also racially abused. 

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