Theo Hesegem is a human rights defender from Papua with an impressive CV.
Theo is the coordinator for the Advocation Network for Law and Human Rights Protection based in Wamena, Papua. Born in Tangma, Kurina in 1971, Theo attended the Agricultural High School in Wamena, graduating in 1992. His human rights activities started shortly after with his volunteer work as an Agricultural Village Supervisor in Tangma. In 1996 he became the Supervisor of the Village Development of IDT ((Inpres Desa Tertinggal) in Silimo. The same year he also became the treasurer of the Silo Foundation. This organisation carries out survey of land rights and culture preservation.
In 1999 Theo entered the world of journalism when he started work as a correspondent for the Jayapura-based biweekly, Jubi (Jujur Bicara) in Wamena. In 2004 he became the correspondent of the Tabloid, Suara Perempuan Papua (Voice of Papuan Women/TSPP), a post that he still holds today.
Theo¡¦s introduction to human rights began when he underwent training organized by ELSHAM Jayapura following which he became a representative of the National Commission of Human Rights Jayapura, and LBH (Legal Aids Foundation), also in Jayapura.
Theo maintains close connections with international organisations and in 2005 became a member of Peace Brigades International. Continuing with his thirst for knowledge and competence he was a trainee at the Annual Human Rights Training, organized by Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat (Elsam), Jakarta in 2006.
More recently Theo has carried out advocacy work, supporting numerous cases involving torture perpetrated by members of the armed forces and the police. Several of the cases he has taken up involved extrajudicial killings by these agencies.
Theo¡¦s daily routine might involve visits to political prisoners, attending commemorations and visits to the graves of human rights victims, public discussions and the presentation of films related to human rights and violence. He also joins marches in various locations celebrating human rights and Peace Days. In addition he also works on the dissemination of Human Rights Law in sub-districts of Jayawijaya and briefings on human rights for members of the police in Jayawijaya.
Active in many civil society organisations, too numerous to list here, Theo has also travelled extensively visiting the United States of America where he met with officials of the State Department, Army commanders, Senators, and a number of international NGOs based in the US. He is currently in Hong Kong where he is undergoing an internship with the Asian Human Rights Commission.
As for the future, upon the completion of this training with the AHRC Theo intends to return to Papua to continue the work he started, promoting human rights and assisting victims of human rights abuses.
(Text by Stewart Sloan)