West Papuan Human Rights Leader Wins 2005 John Humphrey Freedom Award

MONTREAL – July 14, 2005 – Yan Christian Warinussy of West Papua, Indonesia, is the winner of the 2005 John Humphrey Freedom Award, Rights & Democracy announced today.

Mr Warinussy is Executive Director of the Institute for Research, Analysing and Development of Legal Aid, also known as LP3BH, an organization committed to defending the rights of West Papuans affected by the Indonesian military’s efforts to assert control over the region, which occupies the western half of the island shared by Papua New Guinea.

“Yan Christian’s commitment to the people of West Papua is a moving, powerful example of commitment to human rights in the face of extreme adversity, intimidation and threats to his personal safety,” said Wayne MacKay, interim Chair of Rights & Democracy’s Board of Directors and a member of the John Humphrey Freedom Award’s international jury. “The tragedy unfolding in West Papua is one that has gone unnoticed for too long. We hope Canadians will raise their voices in support of Mr Warinussy and his courageous struggle.”

West Papua has been under Indonesian control since 1963. For more than forty years, Indonesia’s military has mounted a sustained campaign to counter pro-Independence guerrillas and civilian organizations opposed to Jakarta’s West Papuan policies. Summary executions, torture, sexual violence and the mass appropriation of indigenous lands are but a few of the documented human rights abuses Indonesian military forces have committed in West Papua, largely with impunity.

Mr Warinussy has distinguished himself by his frontline role as a defence lawyer to those in West Papua’s remote regions who would otherwise have no legal representation. He also has played a leading role in the defence of West Papuan human rights campaigners working to expose human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military and paramilitary groups.

Mr Warinussy is also a respected community leader who has helped build bridges between West Papua’s highland and lowland peoples. In the last year, he also served as an independent human rights advisor on the resettlement of West Papuans affected by a British Petroleum natural gas facility in Bintuni Bay.

Created in 1992, the John Humphrey Freedom Award is given each year by Rights & Democracy. Named in honour of John Peters Humphrey, the Canadian law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the award includes a $25,000 grant as well as a speaking tour of Canadian cities aimed at raising public awareness of the recipient’s work on behalf of human rights.