Indonesia: Renewed appeal to UN-CERD for suspension of MIFEE project in Papua pending remedy and respect for the rights of the indigenous Malind people

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Indonesia: Renewed appeal to UN-CERD for suspension of MIFEE project in Papua pending remedy and respect for the rights of the indigenous Malind people

On 25 July 2013, 26 Indonesian and international organisations and the Forest Peoples Programme, submitted a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN-CERD) requesting its consideration of the situation of the Malind and other indigenous peoples of Merauke in the Indonesian province of Papua under the Committee’s urgent action and early warning procedures (EW/UA procedures). The report highlights the extreme harm caused to indigenous Papuans by the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project (the MIFEE project) which is a State-initiated, agro-industrial mega-project that to-date encompasses around 2.5 million hectares of traditional indigenous lands in Merauke. These harms include: violations of the right to food of the Malind peoples, restrictions on freedom of expression, lack of respect for free, prior and informed consent, impoverishment due to unfulfilled promises of economic benefits, the ill-regulated grabbing of customary lands without due compensation, and disregard or co-optation of customary representatives and institutions. A first submission to UN-CERD two years ago led the Committee to adopt a communication under its EW/UA procedures with the Government of Indonesia on 2 September 2011.  

However, despite the concerns and recommendations made by the Committee and a second submission on the situation of the Malind and other indigenous peoples made on 6 February 2012, Indonesia has failed to take any corrective action and the situation continues to deteriorate. There has been no discernible change in policy or practice with respect to the MIFEE project, and there has been continued disregard for the internationally guaranteed rights of the indigenous Malind people, notably under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Papua Special Autonomy Law, intended to correct serious inequality and human rights violations as well as to refocus the self-determination aspirations expressed by the majority of indigenous Papuans, remains largely ineffective, mostly as a result of the lack of requisite implementing laws and action.

The signatories to the recent July 2013 submission to UN-CERD, call on the Committee to urge Indonesia to immediately suspend any part of the MIFEE project that may threaten the cultural survival of the affected peoples and to provide immediate support to indigenous communities deprived of their means of subsistence, which must be designed with their full participation and consent. The submission also urges Indonesia to, as soon as possible, enact and implement with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, the Draft Law on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the Indonesian National Parliament on 16 December 2011. It further recommends that Indonesia requests, or accepts requests, for on-site visits from the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Right to Food, and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, to assist with compliance with its international obligations, including in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples in Papua.

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