The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has awarded the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award to Indonesian lawyer and human rights defender Veronica Koman for her courageous work in exposing human rights violations in the Indonesian Provinces of Papua and West Papua (referred to collectively as West Papua).
Amid the recent internet blackout and mass demonstrations in West Papua Ms Koman disseminated information about the escalating situation on social media and functioned as a key source of information to the outside world.
This year’s award recognises Ms Koman’s ongoing work in providing legal representation for West Papuans, investigating and documenting cases, and sharing footage and information about human rights violations in the region.
It honours the courage she has shown to continue to stand up for the human rights of West Papuans, and their right to self-determination, despite intensifying harassment and intimidation.
Ms Koman has received death threats and accusations of being a traitor and has had charges brought against her for spreading false information and provoking unrest, with penalties of up to 6 years in prison. There are reports that Indonesian authorities have requested Interpol to put Ms Koman on a ‘red notice’ to locate her and enable her extradition.
ACFID supports the request of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) for Indonesia to drop all charges against Veronica Koman and to protect the rights of Ms Koman and all others reporting on events in West Papua.
ACFID supports OHCHR’s call to protect the rights of all people to peaceful protest, and their previous call for prompt and impartial investigations into the excessive use of force in West Papua.
ACFID 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”.
ACFID presented the award to Ms Koman at its annual conference on Wednesday evening, in Sydney.
On receiving the award, Ms Koman addressed delegates at the conference:
“I dedicate this award to the victims of the crackdown which began in late August in West Papua, especially the dozens 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.”
ACFID CEO, Marc Purcell, said:
“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.”
“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.”
“We call on the Government of Australia 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 should also encourage 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.”
The Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award is presented annually to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights.
Following Sir Ronald Wilson’s death in 2002, the ACFID award was created in his honour.
Sir Ronald was a passionate campaigner for human rights, conducting the landmark Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, which resulted in the 1997 ‘Bringing them Home’ report.
Sir Ron Wilson AC KBE CMG QC served as a judge on the High Court of Australia, President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission until 1997 and was President of ACFID between 1998 and 2001.
Past recipients include, Behrouz Boochani (2018), The Referendum Council (2017) and former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs (2016).