Indonesia - West Papua Liberation Army

The long-simmering armed conflict between Indonesia’s military and Papuans seeking independence includes indigenous teenagers and boys who appear barely adolescent, The Associated Press has found, highlighting how Indonesia’s heavy-handed attempts to extinguish the movement have produced a new generation of fighters. The West Papua Liberation Army, which has fought Indonesian control in the easternmost region since the early 1960s, and Papuans who peacefully advocate independence acknowledge that youngsters are involved in the conflict. But they also describe them as willing participants who fight against the Indonesian state because of military operations in Papua. International law defines a child as under 18 years old and the recruitment and use of children under 15 for military purposes is a war crime under the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nearly 170 countries including Indonesia have ratified a U.N. treaty that obliges governments to stop military recruitment of anyone under 18 and to work toward ending the military exploitation of children by state and non-state armed groups. Sebby Sambom, a Liberation Army spokesman who lives in neighboring Papua New Guinea, acknowledged that combatants include people under 18, describing it as part of West Papua’s history and struggle for independence. The Papuan fighters have never been well armed but have battled Indonesia since it took control of the mineral-rich region from the Dutch in 1962. Papuans, who had declared their independence the year before, see Indonesians as invaders who cemented control with a sham referendum at the end of the 1960s. For…

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