West Papua and the Stop Ecocide Campaign

10 October 2021

The indigenous peoples around the world are living in harmony with nature and often see their livelihood destroyed for profit from timber, mining or otherwise. “You have ate my body. Which part that you have not eaten?” Mama Yosepa Alomang, an elderly woman of the Amungme tribe in the Indonesian province Papua cried out to express the deeply felt connection with the land. 1 The land destroyed is by the US owned company Freeport McMoran (hereinafter: ‘Freeport’) through the exploitation of the biggest gold and copper mine in the world. From 1967 up until this very day Freeport exploits the Grasberg mountain and its surroundings.2 In 2019 alone Freeport’s revenue was 3,232 million US dollar.3 Deforestation, pollution of the rivers and change of current through sediment settlings have led to an ecological disaster. Moreover, the indigenous people have been killed and tortured for protesting against these crimes.

In fact Freeport is seen as the root cause for the fact that Papuan people are being oppressed and denied a free exercise of their right of self-determination. After World War II West Papua, being the Western half of the island New Guinea, became subject of a conflict between the new Republic Indonesia and The Netherlands. The Netherlands wished that West Papua would be an independent state. However, Indonesia seized control over West Papua in 1963. The promising revenues from a large gold mine played an important role. The contracts for exploitation of the Grasberg between Freeport and the Indonesian government were signed in 1967 without any involvement of the Papuan people. In 1969 a sham referendum was held in which 1025 Papuans, representing 800.000 Papuans at that time, were forced to vote in favor for annexation to Indonesia.4 Since then the Papuan people, outnumbered by newcomers from other parts of Indonesia through well-organized transmigration programs – are discriminated and marginalized. Human Rights Organizations, like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Coalition for Papua, has reported gross human rights violations throughout the years.

Therefore, it is of great importance that these international companies like Freeport which commit these crimes will be prosecuted and will be held accountable for their actions. In 2016 I had the great fortune of meeting Polly Higgins, lawyer of the Earth, who has dedicated her life until her passing in April 2019 to establish Ecocide as a crime at the International Criminal Court. Criminalizing is an important first step in reducing green crimes. In situations where perpetrators are aware of possible prosecution they will start changing their behavior. [..] This is the reason I am very motivated to be part of the Stop Ecocide Campaign and continue the work of Polly Higgins. Please visit https://www.stopecocide.earth/ and support making Ecocide an international crime.

Leiden, October, 10, 20215


1 “You have ate my body. Which part that you have not eaten, An overview of Humanity Crimes and Ecological Destruction by Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold in Timika West Papua”, Mama Yosepha Alomang, Markus Haluk, Timika – West Papua, May 20, 2018.
2 The negotiations between the Indonesian regime and Freeport must have started in 1967 when newly inaugurated President Suharto granted a license to Freeport for a mining site at the Herzberg in FakFak. At that time the Grasberg (with an altitude of 4.270 metres) was still seen as too ambitious a project. In 1973 the contract of work , giving access to 2.6 million hectares of land until 2021, between the Indonesian government and Freeport was signed for the exploitation of the Grasberg. See “Special Report “PT Freeport Indonesia and its tail of violations in Papua: human, labour and environmental rights”, compiled by ICP et all, December 2020, https://www.humanrightspapua.org/hrreport
3 https://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReportArchive/f/NYSE_FCX_2019.pdf
4 “An Act of Free Choice”, P.J. Drooglever, Boom, Amsterdam-The Netherlands, 2005, See also the Summary http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/indonesischebetrekkingen1945-1969/DekolonisatieVanIndonesieEnHetZelfbeschikkingsrechtVanDePapoea/papers_pdf/summary_afc
5 This is the edited version of the foreword to the book “Green Crimes and International Criminal Law”, edited by Regina M. Paulose, Series in Law, Vernon Press (2021). Hopefully this book can guide lawyers and equip them to fight the battle for indigenous peoples in order to preserve the Earth and our future. Purchase the book at https://vernonpress.com/book/1139