Category Archives: International News

Indigenous Current Affairs & News

Plan for Indigenous People to Watch Cops

Plan for indigenous people to watch cops

  • Staff | The Australian, July 13, 2017

Indigenous communities across Australia could be trained to expose police harassment with mobile phones and social media if a human rights group’s plan succeeds.

The Copwatch project will provide human rights lawyers and journalists to teach indigenous communities how to film and share interactions with police and authority figures.

Sydney-based National Justice Project is developing the program as a response to complaints of over-policing in indigenous communities.

Sixteen Aboriginal communities in NSW’s central west will put their hand up for Copwatch if it gets off the ground.

“The community shouldn’t be the ones monitoring the police behaviour but we have to because of ongoing abuse,” Murdi Paaki chair Des Jones told AAP on Wednesday.

“It will teach people their rights, how to use their phones. It’ll train them to be aware and when to lock-and-load their recording device.”

Mr Jones, whose organisation represents 16 communities, said he wants to put the experiences Aboriginal people have with police in front of human rights watchdogs.

NSW Police respects the rights of citizens to film in a public place, a spokesman told AAP.

He added that there were existing avenues to file complaints about the conduct of officers but did not comment on allegations of over-policing among indigenous communities.

Copwatch has raised more than $23,000 of its $50,000 goal through crowdfunding online at

Australian Associated Press


After A Decade In Jail For Raising A Flag, Political Prisoner ‘Filep Karma’ Freed

Jubilant crowds celebrate the release of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma

Jubilant crowds celebrate the release of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma.

By Red Power Media, Staff

A high-profile West Papuan dissident leader has been released from prison after more than a decade behind bars for raising a flag.

Political prisoner Filep Karma walked free from jail in Papua, Indonesia last week, after spending 15 years in prison — charged with treason — for raising the banned West Papuan independence flag.

According to a Survival International article, Karma, 56, was arrested in 2004 after leading a peaceful demonstration in West Papua, calling for independence from Indonesia and raising the “Morning Star flag.”

He was named by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. His detention was condemned as “arbitrary” by the United Nations.

In August this year when the government of Indonesia offered him a pardon in exchange for admission of guilt.

Amnesty International wrote, Karma refused because he felt it would give legitimacy to his arrest, which he felt had no basis in law.  In a statement refusing a pardon he wrote, “I will only accept an unconditional release… I did not commit any crime when I raised the Morning Star flag in 2004.”

The government eventually reduced his sentence for ‘good behaviour’ so that he could be released.

However, raising the Morning Star flag remains an imprisonable offence in West Papua and responding to the news of Karma’s release, Indonesia’s chief of National Police, Gen. Badrodin Hait said, “If you say he’s a political prisoner, I say [Filep was] a criminal.”

A Papuan holds the Morning Star independence flag, an act for which dissident Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years. Photo: Reuters

A Papuan holds the Morning Star independence flag, an act for which dissident Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years. Photo: Reuters

The release of Karma came as Indonesian President Joko Widodo once again pledged to improve livelihoods in the region. But there is little evidence that the security force’s brutal repression of Papuans is over. At the end of September there were at least 45 Papuan political prisoners behind bars and political assassinations, fatal shootings, arbitrary arrests and torture, at the hands of the security services, remain rife.

For Peace, Colombia Must Return Stolen Land, Respect Rights: Amnesty

FARC Guerrillas

FARC Rebels

By Anastasia Moloney | Reuters

BOGOTA – The Colombian government must ensure indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities uprooted by warring factions can return home and have a greater say in how their lands are developed, rights group Amnesty International said.

Over five decades of conflict, more than six million Colombians have been forced off their land by fighting among Marxist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops, government figures show.

The issue of how to return stolen and abandoned land to its rightful owners is a key talking point at peace talks in Cuba between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Displaced communities wanting to return also face the problem of exploitation by mining companies, according to a report published by Amnesty on Wednesday.

“Any peace deal will be meaningless unless the rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to return to their lands and decide how they are used are prioritized above companies’ desire to exploit those lands for their own profit,” said Erika Guevara, Amnesty’s Americas director, in a statement.

At least eight million hectares of land – some 14 percent of Colombian territory – have been abandoned or illegally acquired through fraud, violence or extortion, the report said.

Most of those affected are farming, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities who earn their living from their land and whose land is rich in resources.

Displaced people who owned their land are eligible to claim it back under a historic land restitution law passed in 2011.

The law, a crucial reform of the government of Juan Manuel Santos, aims to return millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners and to enable displaced people to return home and claim reparations.

The law is a “significant step forward,” but land return is plagued by problems ranging from bureaucracy to intimidation, including death threats against claimants, Amnesty said.

“Nearly four years since the process began … only a relatively small proportion of such lands have been returned to their rightful occupants,” the report said.

Ricardo Sabogal, who heads the government entity charged with overseeing land restitution, said the government has handed back 173,000 hectares of land benefiting about 20,000 Colombians.

“It’s not easy to push ahead with a process of land restitution in the middle of a conflict,” Sabogal told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“That’s why peace is so important, so that families can go back quickly and safely to their lands.”

He said ensuring displaced people return to their lands is also made difficult because of landmines, mostly planted by FARC rebels, littering parts of the countryside.

Since 2000, successive governments have granted licenses to local and international mining and other companies looking to tap into Colombia’s mineral and oil resources, the report said.

The economy is driven by commodity exports, and the country is Latin America’s fourth largest oil producer.

By law, companies planning projects must first consult communities living on or using the land they want to exploit.

Amnesty said it had written to several companies with mining projects on lands where indigenous communities live.

In response mining company AngloGold Ashanti, which operates gold mines in western Choco province, told Amnesty it was committed to the “lawful consent of indigenous communities” for projects on lands traditionally owned or used by ethnic groups “and are likely to have a significant impact on these groups.”

But Amnesty said in general licenses have often been granted to companies which have not consulted communities nor obtained their free and informed consent.

“Unless the authorities can ensure that these rights are effectively respected as a matter of urgency … it risks leaving one of the principal causes of the armed conflict unresolved. This could have serious repercussions for the long-term viability of any eventual peace agreement,” the report said. (Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Athletes Share Cultural Knowledge During First World Indigenous Games In Brazil

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

The Associated Press | Published, Oct 27, 2015

PALMAS, Brazil — Supersized Maori from New Zealand, diminutive Aeta from the Philippines and native peoples of all shapes and sizes in between tested their mettle at the first World Indigenous Games, a chaotic, kaleidoscopic celebration of first peoples from around the globe.

Organizers billed the nine-day event as a sort of indigenous Olympics.

But for many of the nearly 2,000 participants from some 20 countries who converged last week on host city Palmas, a remote agricultural outpost in Brazil’s scorched heartland, the sports themselves took a back seat to what they said really matters — cross-cultural sharing and learning.

“This restores your faith in humanity,” said Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, a 46-year-old schoolteacher from the Nehiyaw people of Canada’s Saskatchewan province, as he followed round one of the spear-throwing competition. “An elder once told me that our culture will save us. I think this is what he meant.”

Despite the obvious differences between participants — Brazil’s Tapirape wore only body paint and tiny loincloths while the sole Russian delegate was covered in Siberian furs in defiance of the sweltering tropical heat — the commonalities that unite indigenous people from around the globe are palpable, Oksasikewiyin said. From Ethiopia to Ecuador, first peoples worldwide are still reeling from the lingering effects of colonialism and fighting to preserve their cultures and lands, he said.

“We see we’re all in the same boat,” he shouted over the roar of spectators cheering a particularly impressive spear toss. “Being here, all together, it becomes so clear.”

The event, which kicked off Friday, comes one year after Brazil played host to soccer’s World Cup and ahead of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The indigenous event’s hypnotic opening ceremony swirled with eye-popping feather headdresses, sumptuous silk robes, buttery suede dresses and revealing loincloths as the 40-odd delegations melted into one chanting, dancing, pulsating mass of humanity.

The far-flung cultural mash-ups multiplied over the following days.

Mongolian archers in velvet mantles traded tips with their feather-crowned brethren, the Xerente people, reputed to be among Brazil’s most-skilled archers. A knot of Tarahumara women from northern Mexico haggled mercilessly over the price of a gourd-and-palm leaf headdress with an equally hard-nosed group of artisan women from the Amazonian state of Para.

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

The Games are the biggest thing ever to roll into the sleepy town of Palmas during its short 27-year history as the capital of Brazil’s newest state of Tocantins. Non-indigenous locals got in on the action, too, filling the bleachers and swarming the handicraft fair. And everyone snapped endless selfies.

Still, the Games have been hampered by technical glitches and allegations of mismanagement. On opening day, construction workers were still busily working on the installations. The sporting events got off to a late start after a wall in the cafeteria collapsed, slightly injuring several workers and leaving many without breakfast and unable to compete on Saturday.

The debut competitions were pushed back to Sunday, which saw a surprise upset in the blistering tug-of-war event: New Zealand’s fierce Maori warriors lost a battle of the titans against the fridge-sized Bakairi people of central Brazil. The Javae women, also from central Brazil, made short shrift of the Mexican women, in their Crayola-hued circle skirts, and a hefty combined U.S-Philippines team outweighed the forest-dwelling Macuxi people.

Native Brazilians representing around two dozen of the country’s more than 300 tribes make up the lion’s share of participants at the Games — and their problems have taken centre stage at the event. Small but boisterous protests against a proposed constitutional amendment that would give a Brazilian Congress largely dominated by the agricultural lobby the right to demarcate indigenous lands erupted at the opening ceremony, where embattled President Dilma Rousseff was booed. The proposal could come up for an initial vote this week.

“It would be a disaster for us,” said protester Merong Tapurama, of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae people, adding that he saw the Games themselves as a bid to paper over the dire reality of Brazil’s beleaguered indigenous people.

Estimated at between 3 million to 5 million in pre-Columbian times, Brazil’s indigenous population is now under a million people, making up just 0.5 per cent of the country’s 200 million inhabitants. They continue to suffer from racism, poor education and health care, and remain locked in sometimes-bloody battles with loggers, miners, cattle-grazers and soy farmers intent on pushing them off ancestral lands.

“It’s great that the world is getting to see our culture, see how rich it is,” said Timbira Pataxo, who travelled from Bahia state to sell knickknacks at the entrance to the Games. “But the world also needs to know about the real existential threats we face.”


First World Indigenous Games Off To Colorful, Rocky, Start In Brazil

By Red Power Media, Staff

A parade of feathered headdresses, grass skirts and body make-up was on show Friday, as more than 2,000 competitors joined the opening ceremony at the first World Indigenous Games in Brazil.

Athletes from The Ingorot tribe in the Philippines, New Zealand’s Maori and indigenous people from Ethiopia, Mongolia and Canada danced and sang in Palmas, a small city in the central state of Tocatins.

From the host country, 24 different indigenous groups are taking part in the games which was previously an all-Brazilian affair.

Photo By Eraldo Peres

Photo By Eraldo Peres

The participants will compete in 10 sports ranging from running and swimming to wrestling and football, as well as more traditional games like spear throwing and racing with heavy logs. Unlike the Olympics which Brazil will host next year, every competitor will get a medal. The minimum age for entry is 16, but there is no upper age limit and some events will see men compete with women.

Billed as indigenous people’s answer to the Olympics, the nine-day event got off to a rocky start as the opening ceremony’s colourful parade was marred by technical hitches and a noisy protest against the Brazilian government.

Embattled Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff attended the ceremony, and although she did not address the crowd, she was initially greeted by boos and hisses.

Karaja indigenous woman Narube Werreria protests the World Indigenous Games outside the arena in Palmas, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

Karaja indigenous woman Narube Werreria protests the World Indigenous Games outside the arena in Palmas, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

When a traffic jam kept busloads of participants from reaching the venue, sparking a long and uncomfortable mid-ceremony delay, several groups of indigenous spectators unfurled protest banners and broke into anti-government chants.

“Dilma’s not good for Brazil and she’s not good for us,” said Jose Cicero da Silva, a farmer from the Wassu Cocal nation in Brazil’s impoverished Alagoas state. “For a supposedly leftist government, she has done nothing to help the indigenous cause.”

“Brazilian politicians are increasingly against indigenous peoples,” said Jaira da Silva of the Tingui-Boto people. “There’s a super conservative congress that’s trying to take away indigenous rights that are enshrined in the very constitution.”

Narube Werreria said she saw the event as a bid to cover up the real situation of Brazil’s beleaguered indigenous populations.

“The government is using the event to cover our eyes and say everything is all right here,” said Werreria, a state government employee from the Karaja tribe, whose lands are near Palmas. “But everything is not all right.”

Colourful competitors at the games opening ceremony. Picture: Getty Read more: Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook

Colourful competitors at the games opening ceremony. Picture: Getty

Still, for many in the audience, the event transcended politics. Many spectators and participants alike were moved to tears by the opening ceremony.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Reinaldo Quispe, an Aymara Indian in the Bolivian delegation. “I never in my life thought I would meet my brothers from the different tribes around the world.”

This was the first year that Brazil has opened its annual indigenous games to foreigners, giving it the flavor of what some describe as a low-key version of next year's Summer Olympics (AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

This was the first year that Brazil has opened its annual indigenous games to foreigners, giving it the flavor of what some describe as a low-key version of next year’s Summer Olympics (AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

Brazil’s indigenous people now make up just 0.5 percent of the country’s 200 million-strong population. They face rampant poverty and discrimination and clash frequently with farmers, ranchers and illegal miners eager to oust them from their ancestral lands.