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1990s – Developments

The US Government asserted that the Free Papua Movement committed human rights abuses including hostage-taking and summary executions, and it may be targeting US citizens or US companies in Irian Jaya Province for hostage taking or for sabotage. In 1996, a group of foreigners was taken hostage in Irian Jaya by the Free Papua Movement, although they have since been released. In January 1997 the Free Papua Movement took 26 people hostage in Mapunduma village. Several of the hostages were released, but 11 Indonesians and foreigners were released after a military operation in May 1997. Two of the Indonesian hostages were believed to have been killed by the OPM during the release operation.

Free Papua Movement supporters assert, that human rights abuses had been committed by Indonesian Special Forces (KOMPASSUS), and that the US mining conglomerate Freeport McMoRan has been responsible for environmental abuses in West Papua.

In 1998, after the downfall of authoritarian President Suharto, there were signs that Jakarta was trying to improve relations with Papua. However, negotiations came to an abrupt halt in 2001 when members of the army murdered separatist leader Theys Eluay. When Mr. Eluay's killers were convicted earlier in 2003, the head of the army described them as "heroes."

In Irian Jaya armed insurgents of the Free Papua Organization (OPM) kidnapped 11 persons from a plantation near Arso on 05 May 199. They were freed on May 31. On July 6, a group of armed men abducted six employees of the district forestry office on a survey in Arso subdistrict. Press reports stated that the abductors were suspected of being OPM members.

On 06 May 1999, police arrested 74 Irianese in the western Irian Jaya town of Fak Fak. The Government claimed that it found independence materials, the Independent West Papua flag, and "sharp weapons" at the location. Those arrested were released the next day, charged with violating the ban on gatherings to publicize the results of the Irianese leaders' meeting with President Habibie, and fined $0.33 (RP. 2,500).

The Government arrested 5 persons for raising the Papuan Independence Flag during 1999, and proceeded with trial for 42 other persons arrested for flag-raisings in 1998. All but four persons were released by year's end under President Wahid's amnesty decrees. There were numerous flag-raisings around Irian Jaya on December 1, which is commemorated as the anniversary of Papuan independence. In most cases, authorities did not take action against persons who raised flags, but police broke up a flag-raising vigil in Timika, resulting in injuries and one death.

Ten persons in Wamena who were arrested and charged for raising a Papuan Independence Flag were found guilty, sentenced to time already served, and freed in April 1999. At year's end, four persons in Jayapura were on trial for raising Papuan independence flags.

Indonesia’s parliament in 2001 granted Special Autonomy to Papua, which, along with Aceh, was one of the two areas in Indonesia that harbored high-profile separatist movements. This law devolved to provincial and local authorities all government functions outside of five national competencies; defense, foreign affairs, religious affairs, justice, and monetary/fiscal policy.

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Page last modified: 20-12-2016 19:41:49 ZULU