Papua activist Veronica Koman receives human rights award in Australia

Source – October 23, 2019
Koman receives ACFID award in Sydney – October 23, 2019 (ACFID)
Koman receives ACFID award in Sydney – October 23, 2019 (ACFID)

Reza Gunadha, Eleonora Padmasta Ekaristi Wijana – Lawyer and human rights activist Veronica Koman has been awarded the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

The ACFID presented the award to Koman at its annual conference in Sydney on the evening of Wednesday October 23.

The award was given to Koman for her hard work in exposing human rights violations in Papua and West Papua provinces – collectively known as West Papua.

After receiving the award, Koman told the delegates at the conference, “I dedicate this award to the victims of the crackdown which began in late August in West Papua, especially to the scores of people who have died at the hands of security forces, and the 22 political prisoners charged with treason”.

“I hope this year’s award will raise awareness in Australia about human rights abuses suffered by West Papuans and the decades-long denial of their fundamental right to self-determination”, she said.

When the government closed down the internet during the recent protests in West Papua, Koman posted reports on social media about the situation there and functioned as the main source of information for the international community.

Quoting form Mirage News on Wednesday, the ACFID said it was appropriate for Koman to receive the award because of her work in providing legal aid to West Papuans, investigating and documenting human rights cases and providing information about rights violations in West Papua.

Koman was also honored for showing courage in her continued defense of the West Papuan people’s human rights and their right to self-determination despite facing continuous threats of sexual violence and intimidation.

“Veronica has shone a light on violations of the rights of the West Papuan people at great personal cost. To continue to do this work despite ongoing threats and intimidation shows the strength of her conviction and her determination to speak out about the crisis in West Papua”, said ACFID Corporate Executive Officer Marc Purcell.

“This award represents the strength and bravery of all people who defend the human rights of West Papuans, who will not be silenced, and who will work towards a world where the human rights of all are protected and upheld”, he said.

Koman has received death threats and has been accused of treason as well as being charged by Indonesian police with disseminating fake news and provoking the riots in West Papua, which carries a maximum sentence of six years in jail.

The Indonesian police have even requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice to extradite her to Indonesia.

The ACFID however supports a recent request by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who called for all charges against Koman to be dropped and protection for Koman and others who report on violations in West Papua.

The ACFID also supports a call by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to protect people holding peaceful demonstrations and its earlier call for a speedy and impartial investigation into the massive troop deployment in West Papua.

“We call on the Australia government to provide Ms Koman the protection to which she is entitled as a human rights defender. In line with recommendations from the UN Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, the Australian government must push Indonesia to drop all charges against Ms Koman and to protect the freedom of expression of all people reporting on the protests in West Papua”, continued Purcell.

ACFID said it also welcomes the invitation by Indonesia for a mission to West Papua (Papua) by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and echoes the Pacific Islands Forum communique in August in which the forum strongly encouraged both sides to “finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation there”.

Each year the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights award is given to individuals or organisations that make an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights. Following the death of Sir Ronald Wilson in 2002, the ACFID created the award to honor him.

As reported by Mirage News, Sir Ronald Wilson was a spirited campaigner for human rights who carried out an important investigation into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, which resulted in a 1997 report titled Brining them Home.

Sir Ron Wilson AC KBE CMG QC was also a judge with the Australian High Court, the president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission until 1997 and was the president of the ACFID between 1998 and 2001.

Before Koman, the award was received by, among others, Behrouz Boochani (2018), the Referendum Board (2017) and the former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs (2016).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Bela Papua Barat, Veronica Koman Dapat Penghargaan HAM dari Australia”.]