What can australia do to prevent human rights abuses in west papua?

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Asia-Pasific Journal: Japan Focus


West Papua, Australia’s near northern neighbour, has for nearly six decades experienced widespread human rights abuses by the Indonesian state and military. In this article we argue that Australia has the responsibility and the expertise to do more to ensure that West Papuans’ human rights are being upheld. First, in a situation as serious as that of West Papua, Australia, as a member of the United Nations, we contend, has a political duty to intervene under the United Nation’s ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine. Second, we put forward that Australia also has a historic and moral obligation to the territory: West Papuans provided vital assistance to Australian troops in 1944 during World War 2. In the 1960s, however, Canberra betrayed its neighbour’s preparations for self-determination but we argue Australia now has a chance to right this historical wrong by intervening in West Papua’s struggle against Indonesian oppression. Third, we argue that because Australia has set a precedent of intervention when it led the humanitarian intervention in East Timor in 1999-2000, we know that intervention is possible and that the necessary political will can be mustered. Whereas Australia’s involvement in the East Timor crisis led to long term diplomatic tension between Australia and Indonesia, however, we propose that in this case, Australia’s contribution to addressing human rights in West Papua could ultimately strengthen ties between the two countries.

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