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Indonesia: Commission inquires into indigenous peoples' land disputes

Graphic: Indonesia

Komnas HAM holds public hearings to investigate indigenous peoples' grievances on land disputes.

Public hearings into alleged violations of indigenous peoples' land rights opened on 27 August 2014 in Palu on the island of Sulawesi.

Mongabay-Indonesia reported that the hearing in Palu is the first of a national inquiry being conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to explore conflicts affecting indigenous people in forest areas.

Komnas HAM will travel throughout Indonesia and provide concerned parties with an opportunity to meet and discuss land disputes, before submitting the results of their findings to the incoming president.

During the hearings, affected groups – including indigenous people and the Forestry Ministry, as well as relevant witnesses – will be invited to meet with Komnas HAM to present cases of alleged violations of customary land rights.

According to Sandra Moniaga, Komnas HAM Commissioner, the number and cases heard will depend on the time available and the Commission will try to choose representative cases from each area that focus on forest usage rights. For example, the hearings will include cases where oil palm plantations or mining claims were established without the consent of the indigenous people.

The Commission will only field cases that have been submitted through a formal request for public hearing.

Sandra also said that the Forestry Ministry has agreed to follow the national inquiry process, and reassured witnesses that they should not be worried about speaking out as the Witness and Victim Protection Agency is prepared to help protect them if needed.

The first round of hearings in Palu, Central Sulawesi involved six groups presenting their cases.

Komnas Ham will hear cases from North Sumatra in Medan, from Java in Banten, from Nusa Tenggara in Bali, from Kalimantan in Pontianak, and from Malaku and Papua in Ambon. There will also be a special national hearing in Jakarta in early December.

Abdon Nababan, the Secretary General of AMAN, the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, says that neglect and violation of indigenous human rights in Indonesia has been extraordinary.

He said AMAN has identified 2,230 indigenous communities that are asking for investigations. During 2013 alone, the group recorded 150 new cases of rights violations.

"The most important outcome of this inquiry will be to trigger formal apologies," Abdon said. "Hopefully the national reconciliation will also help indigenous people to no longer be treated as second-class citizens."

Source: Mongabay-Indonesia

Image credits

  1. Indonesia - Rainforest Action Network, Flickr Creative Commons