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Irian Jaya: ICRC contacts OPM

28-02-1996 News Release 96/8

For the past three weeks the ICRC has been using its good offices in Irian Jaya following the abduction, on 8 January 1996, of both Indonesian and foreign nationals by the Free Papua Movement, or OPM. The ICRC took action after all contact had been broken off between the Indonesian authorities and the abductors, and its efforts continue with the agreement of all the parties concerned. A team of five delegates (including the head of the regional delegation in Jakarta) has been based since 9 February in Wamena, Irian Jaya, from where they are conducting their operation by means of a civilian helicopter. The ICRC has also been using the Bahasa Indonesia services of the BBC and Radio Australia to make as many people as possible aware of the neutral nature of its operation. The basic goal is to facilitate any exchange of information that could lead to a peaceful resolution of the situation, and to restore contact between the 12 individuals still believed to be held (six Indonesian, four British and two Netherlands nationals) and their families.

 Forthcoming medical visit to hostages  

Last week the ICRC was able to bring about the first exchange of letters between the hostages and their families. Following further exploratory contacts with the abductors, Henry Fournier, head of the ICRC delegation, met local OPM leaders Kelik Kwalik and Daniel Kogoya on 25 and 26 February. The OPM leaders gave the ICRC a second series of messages to be forwarded to the hostages'families, and the ICRC handed over to them a supply of clothing, food and medicines for the 12 people being held in the jungle.

A medical visit to the hostages by the ICRC, which had been scheduled for 27 February, had to be cancelled for logistical reasons. It should now take place on 29 February.