Human Rights Update West Papua - 2nd Quarter 2020

The most significant events in the second quarter of 2020 were the outcomes in multiple trials against Papuan activists who had been prosecuted for the participation or the organisation of protests against racism in August and September 2019. Notably, the trial against the 'Balikpapan 7' drew the attention of Papuan civil society and international human rights observers as the public prosecutor demanded sentences of 5 to 17 years for the defendants. Religious leaders and other civil society actors in West Papua feared further outbreaks of riots if the seven activists had been sentenced with such high penalties. In comparison to other trials in Jayapura, Jakarta, Manokwari and Sorong, the demanded sentences for the defendants were disproportionately high. The lawyers representing the protesters at court stated that many of the hearings did not meet the standards of a fair and impartial trial. Fabricated evidence, prioritisation of police reports over court testimonies and deliberate changes in the established agenda were only some of the shortcomings. Moreover, the lawyers claimed that the decision to conduct the trials via video conference turned out to affect the exercise of their mandate negatively. The public was excluded from trials.


The enforcement of measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in human rights violations against West Papuans. Police officers have conducted arrests during sensitive political activities for allegedly violating social distancing policies. Furthermore, there are two reported cases between April and June 2020, where the unprofessional behaviour of police officers during the enforcement of those policies resulted in injuries and one fatality among civilians.
The number of cases of physical assault, obstruction and intimidation of human rights defenders (HRDs) in West Papua has significantly increased, with twelve reported cases. The majority are hacker attacks against the HRDs. Frequent internet advocacy events against racism in West Papua and in support of the 'Balikpapan 7' throughout June 2020 reached an international audience. They likely drew the discontent of loyal government supporters and nationalist groups. The perpetrators of the attacks could not be exposed. There continue to be more than 40.000 internally displaced Papuans as a result of various military operations in the Papuan highlands. The IDPs continue to be in need of aid, protection and the possibility to return to their homes safely.

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 1st Quarter 2020

The first quarter of 2020 was marked by the outbreaks of armed clashes in multiple regencies of West Papua and multiple trials in relation to the Papua-wide anti-racism riots throughout August and September 2019, which resulted in imprisonment sentences for protesters. Lawyers deplored that the trials failed to meet the principles of a fair trial. Many defendants were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, although witness testimonies and evidence presented in court did not prove the involvement of the defendants in any criminal acts. Hence, many of the sentenced defendants have appealed against the verdicts. Moreover, human rights observers raised the concern that judges applied double standards. The verdicts for three non-Papuans who had been found guilty of hate speech against indigenous Papuans, and four migrants who collectively killed a Papuan during outbreaks of ethnic violence in Jayapura, were considered mild.

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West Papua Human Rights Update January 2020

The last quarter of 2019 was dominated by the aftermath of the Papua-wide anti-racism riots that took place throughout August and September 2019 and the exacerbation of the armed conflict in the central highlands. The trials in relation to the anti-racism riots and the subsequent political prosecutions during the previous quarter have been launched. Some lawyers attempted to raise criminal procedure violations in pre-trial hearings – none of the pre-trial hearings were successful. The statistics clearly reflect the continuing prosecution of political activists, as Government authorities keep on restricting civil society space for peaceful protest, freedom of assembly, media freedom and freedom of expression in West Papua. While the number of arrests have significantly decreased compared to the third quarter, the figure is still considerably high and the main reason is that the 1st December, which many indigenous Papuans regard as the ‘Papuan Independence Day’, was marked by a high number of political arrests and treason charges against indigenous Papuans participating in the commemoration.

 

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 3rd Quarter 2019

The 3rd quarter of 2019 was characterized by a significant and rapid escalation of the conflict in West Papua since mid-August with riots, horizontal violence and human rights violations taking place in several Papuan cities. The outbreaks of violence were triggered by acts of racial discrimination and assault against Papuan students in multiple Javanese cities. They constitute the worst escalations of violence in West Papua since the downfall of the military dictatorship under President Suharto. Long-growing tensions between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian migrants have for the first time manifested in outbreaks of horizontal violence against particular ethnic groups causing deaths among the non-indigenous and the indigenous population. The Indonesian police reportedly neglected attacks against indigenous residents while non-Papuans militant groups enjoy impunity.

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 2nd Quarter 2019

Since December 2018, more than 100 civilians – the majority of them indigenous Papuans – have allegedly died as a consequence of the ongoing armed conflict in the Nduga regency. The conflict has reportedly led to the displacement of thousands of indigenous Papuans. The military operation in Nduga is ongoing, and human rights defenders, journalists and international observers are still restricted from entering the regency. The ICP is concerned about the significant increase of extra-judicial killings in the past nine months. While the high number of killings during the 4th quarter of 2018 and the 1st quarter of 2019 is mainly related to the armed conflict in Nduga, the additional six cases of killings and one alleged suicide while in detention during the 2nd quarter are the outcome of unprofessional behaviour of security force members. Five of those cases of killings were the consequence of the use of firearms during crowd control operations in the regencies Asmath and Deiyai. The high number of 29 cases of torture and ill-treatment is related to police violence against protesters during political demonstrations or police negligence to protect peaceful Pro-Papuan protesters from violent acts by members of nationalist mass organisations (ORMAS) in the Javanese city of Malang.

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 2nd Quarter 2018

The second quarter of 2018 was characterized by a slight increase in the number of reported extra-judicial killings. Throughout the past quarters, this number varied between one and three cases. Local human rights defenders have now reported five such cases between April and June 2018. During this reporting period, there is a significantly high percentage of extra-judicial killings and torture cases which were related to the unnecessary and excessive use of firearms by the police and the military. This pattern indicates that security forces often fail to settle conflicts in a non-violent professional manner. Contrary to previous quarters, no cases of epidemic outbreaks or other health rights violations have been reported.

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Human Rights Update West Papua – 1st Quarter 2019

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to either armed conflict or natural disasters continued to increase during the first quarter of 2019. The ongoing armed conflict in the Nduga regency has reportedly led to the displacement of more than 36.000 people between December 2018 and March 2019. President Joko Widodo has ordered strong military measures against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) in order to continue with the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat, making a withdrawal of security forces from the Nduga Regency highly unlikely. In addition, a flash flood and landslides in the Jayapura area on 16 March 2019 caused the displacement of further estimated 5.000 people.

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 1st Quarter 2018

In the first quarter of 2018, the most significant observations are related to violations of the human right to health. A high number of victims of epidemic outbreaks and malnutrition in two remote regencies of Papua Province were reported. The cases indicate a pattern of infectious diseases and malnutrition leading to preventable, considerable and chronic mortality in the Papuan population. Human rights defenders did not report of political mass arrests in relation to the restriction of the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly during the reporting period. The ICP did not receive information of political activists being charged with the treason articles 106 and 110 between January and March 2018, as it has been common practice among local law enforcement institutions throughout the past years. In past years all large political demonstrations on West Papuan self-determination usually happened in May and December. The fact that assaults on human rights defenders and obstruction of journalists’ work still occur shows that the Indonesian government continues to control the reporting of critical information on West Papua through strict surveillance of media and activists in the region. The number of extra-judicial killings and victims of torture do not show significant deviations in comparison to previous quarterly reports, leading to the conclusion that there have been no visible improvements in the human rights situation in West Papua throughout the past three months.

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Human Rights Update West Papua – 4th Quarter 2018

The last quarter of 2018 was characterized by a significant increase in reported political arrests and cases of torture and illtreatment. Police forces conducted mass arrests during various peaceful assemblies. Commemorations were organised in different areas of Indonesia, including Sulawesi Island, Java, Bali and the Moluccans. This indicates that peaceful political activity among civil society not only in West Papua but also in other parts of Indonesia was on the rise by the end of 2018, while police forces continued to severely limit freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for groups that challenge Indonesia’s unitary state doctrine. The increase in cases of torture and ill-treatment should be observed in direct correlation to the growing number of reported political arrests. Police forces continue to use excessive force against protesters and people documenting the abuses. The ICP is so far not aware of any of these cases being further investigated.

 

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 4th Quarter 2017

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the monitoring of human rights violations does not show a significant improvement in terms of violence in West Papua. While the number of political arrestees has decreased, the number and pattern of cases of political arrests remained consistent. The police appears to target arrests more instead of mere mass arrests. The West Papua National Committee KNPB continues to be the main target group of political arrests in West Papua. The number of extra-judicial executions or arbitrary killings as well as the number of torture victims has not decreased. The same applies to the number of assaults against journalists and human rights defenders. The right to health continues to be of serious concern, particularly in the central highlands of West Papua, which continue to be vulnerable to outbreaks of transmittable diseases.

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 3rd Quarter 2018

The third quarter of 2018 was characterized by a considerable increase in political arrests resulting from police action during the dispersal of various peaceful demonstrations. The majority of political demonstrations were organised in relation to the 73rd General Assembly Session of the United Nations, during which Vanuatu and other Pacific countries had raised the West Papua issue. Political activities within the Papuan civil society appear to have significantly risen in September 2018 in correspondence with international political events outside Indonesia.

 

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Human Rights Update West Papua - 3rd Quarter 2017

In the third quarter of 2017, the number of torture and ill-treatment cases reported throughout the third quarter of 2017 have significantly increased from 17 to 135 victims. This is related to mass arrests in Nabire and a violent shooting in Deiyai Regency. Extra-judicial killings continue to occur in West Papua on frequent basis. One can also observe a significant increase of cases in which human rights defenders were obstructed, intimidated or attacked. Severe government negligence with regard to health services are a growing concern, particularly in the central highlands of West Papua. Local media and human rights defenders already reported two cases of epidemic outbreaks, which have cost the lives of 130 people since the beginning of 2017 – most of them children. While no political arrests occurred during the first quarter of 2017, the series of political arrests related to suppression of Papua-related political demonstrations - both in and outside of West Papua - continue. While most numbers indicate an aggravation of the general human rights situation in West Papua in comparison to previous quarters, one could observe a slight decrease with regard to assaults and obstruction of journalists. There are indications for a general trend since 2015 of the number of treason charges to have continuously decreased.

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