News World Australian defence department rejects claims its helicopters were used in Papuan ‘genocide’

Australian defence department rejects claims its helicopters were used in Papuan ‘genocide’

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The Australian Department of Defence has rejected claims Australian supplied helicopters were used by Indonesia’s military to kill Papuan civilians in the late 1970s.

A three year investigation by Asian Human Rights Commission alleges the murder, rape and torture of more than 4,000 Papuans more than 45 years ago.

The report claims two Australian supplied Iroquois helicopters were used in the operation.

The defence department says its archives tell a different story.

In a statement given to the ABC the Australian Department of Defence said:

“From 1976 to 1981, Defence units undertook Operation Cenderawasih, the survey and mapping of then Irian Jaya.

“Iroquois, Caribou, Canberra and C-130 Hercules aircraft from Australia operated within Irian Jaya.

“The base for the operation was Mokmer Airfield on the island of Biak.”

The statement goes on to say that any further requests on the subject should be submitted as a Freedom of Information request.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that they are not in a position to comment on the situation in Papua in this period, 35 years ago.

“The Australian Government’s current policy towards Papua is clear: we condemn all violence affecting civilians and security personnel alike,” they said

“The contemporary human rights situation in the Papuan provinces does not resemble the situation portrayed in the AHRC report.

“Any requests for access to departmental records from this period should be directed to the National Archives of Australia in accordance with the Archives Act 1983.”

Damning report

The report “The Neglected Genocide – Human Rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977 – 1978” attempts to document violence that occurred when Indonesia launched several military operations around Wamena, in response to independence uprisings after general elections in 1977.

The AHRC conducted field visits, interviewed witnesses and examined historical records.

It has collected the names of 4,146 people it believes were killed by the Indonesian military and claims the total number of victims who died from torture, disease and hunger as a result of the violence could be well over 10,000.

The report says two Australian supplied Iroquois helicopters, along with US supplied Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters, were among aircraft used by local command in the attacks.

The report details one incident in which villagers in the Bolakme area were told they would be receiving aerial aid from Australia, only to be bombed by American supplied planes.

It also contains details of independence supporters being burned alive, boiled alive, and being forced to perform sexual acts in public.

In conclusion the report calls for an ad hoc human rights court to be set up to hear the allegations and try those responsible.

It also calls for the establishment of a truth commission.

The AHRC is calling on the international community to demand the Indonesian government be held to account for human rights violations in Papua.