Reports of eye witness accounts of Freeport’s human rights abuses

Freeport, by its own account, has co-operated with, financed and supported the Indonesian military in West Papua. More disturbing, there have been multiple eye witness reports of Freeport security taking direct part in human rights abuses in the past, with multiple sources commenting on different incidences, in different places at different times. (However, to date, allegations of Freeport’s involvement in human rights abuses have not been proven in court).

Denise Leith notes multiple first person accounts including witnesses to killings. In an illuminating chapter on human rights, she describes 8 eyewitness accounts of abuses by Freeport security summarised below[1]:

i)                    The ACFOA report contains eyewitness accounts of Freeport security involvement in the shooting of villagers.

ii)                  Survival International circulated an Amungme video of Jacobus Niwilingame testifying to detention and abuse at the hands of Freeport security.

iii)                LEMASA documented in 1997 specific cases of ‘assaults, disappearances and rapes’ it attributed to Freeport security.

iv)                Masmus Tipagau, a Freeport employee, reported to a journalist he had witnessed Freeport security beating a man for playing cards.

v)                  An unnamed source from the Freeport concession claims Freeport security involvement in the death of Amungme villager Naranebalan Anggaibak who was tied and dragged behind a car on 24 December 1994.

vi)                An article in The Nation said a Western traveller claimed he had been detained by Freeport security (and TNI – Indonesian armed forces) for several hours.

vii)              In the documentary Blood on the Cross, Yudas Kogoya states a Freeport employee piloted the Freeport helicopter ‘in which the military travelled to Geselama, where it massacred innocent villagers on 9 May 1996’.

Well regarded Australian scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, Professor Tim Flannery also reported an eye witness statement about Freeport security abuses:

viii)            In his book Throwim Way Leg Tim Flannery describes a young Papuan boy Arianus Maripu who died after a severe beating (p284-291), and who had told Flannery before he died that he had been beaten by Freeport security.

Flannery had worked in the Freeport concession and came to the conclusion that “…the company had little control over its security forces, which, he believed, received their orders from TNI.”

There are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.

Irrespective of the fact that court cases brought against Freeport in the US have been dismissed and failed to implicate the company in any of the human rights abuses inflicted against indigenous protestors in West Papua, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses because it finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation potentially leaving the company vulnerable to allegations of Bougainville style war crimes currently being defended by mining major Rio Tinto.

“While Freeport cannot be blamed directly for the human rights abuses the military commits, neither is it completely free of culpability. Despite what Freeport says, there is an undeniable connection. The military was charged with protecting the company; the company accepted, and indeed required this. The military culture is violent and lacking in accountability, and the company has always known this….and its continuing relationship with the Indonesian military leave the company vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations in the past, and the future.”[2]

A speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 by U.S. congressman Faleomavaega directly informed congress of concerns about alleged Freeport human rights abuse:

‘‘Specific allegations have been made to Freeport’s direct association with human rights abuses undertaken by the Indonesian government on Freeport land. Freeport facilities are policed both by Freeport security and the Indonesian military; Freeport feeds, houses, and provides transportation for the Indonesian military; and after any incidence of indigenous resistance against Freeport, the military responds while Freeport looks on.

In 1977, when West Papuans attacked Freeport facilities, the Indonesian military bombed the natives using U.S.-made Broncos and a Freeport employee sent an anonymous letter to Tapol on August 6, 1977, writing ‘any native who is seen is shot dead on the spot.’ …. Although Freeport likes to shift blame onto the Indonesian government, Press reports that ‘One recent Western traveler was told by a Freeport security employee that he and his coworkers amuse themselves by shooting randomly at passing tribesmen and watching them scurry in terror into the woods and Amnesty International reported that the military used steel containers from Freeport to incarcerate indigenous people.’

Mr. Speaker, ultimately I believe in the goodness of people and in the goodness of the Members of this body. I believe that, as we are made aware of human suffering and gross injustice, we will rise to say enough is enough.”[3]

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done very little to help the people of West Papua and justice seems a long way off.


[1] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p235-236.

[2] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p219.

[3] H9196 Congressional Record – House, 30 September 1999 Indonesia’s Shameful Military Occupation of East Timor and West Papua New Guinea.


About mininganalystnow

Former Wall Street Analyst (working for SBC Warburg – now part of UBS) targeted by US and Australian intelligence agencies (FBI and ASIO) after publishing report touching on US State Department investigation into allegations US copper/gold mining company Freeport McMoran was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors in West Papua, Indonesia.
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