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Papuans get independence petition to UN despite obstacles

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Activists in Indonesia’s mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination but faced a dilemma: They were blocked from presenting it to the intended recipient, the United Nations.

Last week they succeeded, aided by the diplomatic equivalent of a wink and a nod from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which has been championing the Papuan cause.

Vanuatu officials had a scheduled meeting last Friday in Geneva with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Among the officials was an exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who presented the voluminous petition to Bachelet.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Human Rights Office in Geneva said, “This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose.”

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