Human Rights Update West Papua - 3rd Quarter 2020

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In the third quarter of 2020, several human rights indicators show a considerable deterioration of the situation, notably the significant increase in the number of extra-judicial killings (EJK) and the number of victims of torture and ill-treatment. The number of political arrests has risen sharply, mainly due to the increase in public demonstrations.

Six of the reported EJKs took place during security force operations in the regencies Mimika, Intan Jaya and Nduga, which have become the hotspots of armed conflict. Military and police representatives have repeatedly justified such killings by publicly claiming that the victims were members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) without providing any evidence. Those killings are then neither further investigated, nor are the cases transferred to the police or military internal investigation units.

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The increase in the number of cases of torture and the steep increase in the number of political arrests are directly related to the rise in demonstrations opposing special autonomy in Papua. Although special autonomy is valid for an unspecified period, Article 34(6) of the Law of 2001 states that certain special autonomy funding shall be valid for 20 years only. While the central government has decided to extend the allocation of special autonomy funds beyond 2021, various Papuan groups have been voicing their opposition, mainly through public demonstrations. The rallies are often forcefully and violently dispersed by security force members even though the organisers previously registered the event with the local police as required by Indonesian law. The non-compliance with COVID-19 health protocols during the rallies is frequently used as an excuse to crack down protests and use excessive force against protestors.

Religious leaders and groups like the Papuan Council of Churches (WPCC) and the Christian Youth Forum (FPK-TP) have also openly expressed their opposition towards special autonomy, known now in the public discourse as special autonomy volume II. They support self-determination for Papua as the solution and call for a peaceful dialogue between the Indonesian government and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The killing of 68-year-old Pastor Yerimia Zanambani on 19 September 2020 has caused considerable international attention and solidarity actions.

Law enforcement operations targeting members of the political organisation West Papua National Committee (KNPB) also led to the arrest of its Chairman and the torture of some of its members. The KNPB is a political organisation promoting the right to self-determination through a referendum; their members are often criminalised and prosecuted. Three cases of the treason and conspiracy charges during this quarter are against KNPB members, while a fourth case is about a university student being investigated under those charges.

Compliance with the Indonesian criminal procedure code (KUHAP) in all stages of law enforcement is flawed. Human rights defenders reported two cases in which police officers prevented lawyers from meeting with detainees. A third case concerned a further attempt of criminalisation against Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman.