Benny Wenda is a West Papuan independence leader and an international lobbyist. He is founder of the Free West Papua Campaign, which advocates for the right to self-determination for the people of West Papua and seeks to raise awareness about human rights abuse in this ongoing conflict. Alongside the Free West Papua Campaign, he founded International Parliamentarians for West Papua, a solidarity group supporting self-determination, which now has more than 100 members worldwide. He also founded International Lawyers for West Papua, which is a group of lawyers committed to making West Papua’s legal case for self-determination and raising awareness about human rights abuses. In 2011, the Indonesian Government issued an International Arrest Warrant for Benny’s arrest through Interpol. In August 2012, in a landmark case, Interpol removed the Red Notice against Benny, after an investigation concluded that the Indonesian Government had abused the system in a politically motivated attempt to silence Benny.
He lives in exile in the United Kingdom, where in 2003 he was granted political asylum by the British Government following his escape from custody while on trial in West Papua. Benny holds a deep and enduring belief that justice will eventually prevail, and he sees his remarkable escape from persecution in Indonesia as testament to that fact.
Session: Civil Resistance in Secession Struggles – The Case of West Papua
Jason MacLeod and Benny Wenda
Mainstream research into the dynamics of civil resistance has been built around investigations of how ordinary people remove dictatorships without resorting to violence. One particular area neglected is independence or secessionist struggles. Current examples include those in Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara, and West Papua — all situations where an indigenous population is attempting to overthrow what is perceived to be a foreign occupation, or separate from an existing state in order to create a new state. One reason secession goals are more difficult to win than anti-dictatorship struggles is that they challenge the prevailing international order and require more complex strategies. Protagonists wanting to secede from an existing state need to wage nonviolent resistance in three distinct domains: the occupied territory, the territory of the occupier, and the societies of the occupier’s international allies. Through participatory and experiential methods and through using West Papua as a case study, this session explores the concept of “expanding the nonviolent battlefield”.
To learn more about West Papua and Benny Wenda’s story watch: Courage is Contagious: Jennifer Robinson at TEDxSydney