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Indonesia suspected of hacking to silence abuse allegations in West Papua

By Alastair Sloan

Human rights organisations suspect a live YouTube broadcast detailing abuses by the Indonesian government may have been the real reason behind "technical difficulties" at an environmental conference in Oregon.

Two Papua tribesmen had travelled to Oregon specially for the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Oregon, "the world's most important environmental law conference."

A live broadcast of the conference mysteriously went silent when the tribesmen started telling the audience about human rights violations by the Indonesia government, perpetrated in their homeland

The pictures on the slideshow, illustrating their points, were behind them and still visible, although their commentary was not audible to anyone listening from home.

Survival International, who also sent a delegate to the conference, told Index on Censorship that they suspect the attack was a hack, and that their organisation has been targeted by Indonesian agents in the past.

"In 2010, our website was taken offline," said Sophie Grig, South East Asia Researcher. "We had posted a video of Indonesian soldiers torturing Papuan trible people. Other groups who also posted the video were hacked."

The attack lasted for two days, during which all websites who had posted the video were bombarded by thousands of requests from thousands of computers worldwide, and the German police began an investigation after one of the hacked groups, based in Germany, made a complaint.

At the time, Survival's Director Stephen Corry commented "This isn't a couple of geeks in a shed, it's an expensive and sophisticated attack amounting to cyberterrorism. The damage to Survival International may be substantial but is of course nothing compared to that inflicted on West Papuan tribes."

He added, "This is a struggle for the survival of the one million oppressed tribespeople in Indonesian West Papua."

The two Papuans who attended the conference in Oregon, are members of the Amungme tribe, whose land is home to Grasberg, a mining facility operated by 19,500 employees.

"In the area around the mine, we've seen forced displacements, reports of torture and illegal detention by the Indonesian military" said Grig. "We also have strong concerns about the environmental impact."

Positioned on Papua's highest mountain, Grasberg is home to the largest gold mine in the world, as well as the third largest copper mine in the world.

Local charities, as well as international environmental charities, are concerned about the increasing number of land slides and acidifying waste products in local water sources, although the mines operators, Freeport and Rio Tinto, insist their operations fit within international regulations.

Indonesia has occupied Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea) since 1963, and more than 100,000 Papuans are believed to have been killed since then, many at the hands of the Indonesian military. The government holds a 10% stake in one of the companies operating the mine.

Although it is unclear which software was used to execute this hack, according to Amnesty International in Indonesia, the Papuan military have already purchased invasive internet monitoring technology from Gamma International, a UK-based company. Gamma International manufactures FinFisher, software which is capable of monitoring all internet communications in a country. The software has been used by repressive regimes including Bahrain, UAE, Turkmenistan, Egypt (under Mubarak, although it is unclear whether the software is still in use).

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, also told Index about some of the human rights abuses he regularly observes in Papua.

"I mainly deal with cases where freedom of expression is being denied, as well as impunity amongst the military, police and prison wardens," he said, "There are also extra judicial killings," he adds.

There are believed to be over seventy political prisoners held in brutal Indonesian prisons - some serving up to twenty years.

Sophie Grig from Survival International warned Index, "West Papuans are no strangers to having their voices silenced. Journalists are effectively banned from the region, other than in exceptional circumstances and where they are accompanied by Indonesian government minders. People are imprisoned when their only crime is to raise the banned West Papuan flag, or to speak out against military atrocities and the Indonesian rule of West Papua."

This article was originally posted on 19 March 2014 at

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