Civil Society Condemns Human Rights Violations against Indigenous Peoples in West Papua
An ongoing armed conflict in West Papua between the Indonesian military and the separatist movement finds ordinary Indigenous Peoples caught in the middle, resulting in deaths and violations of their rights.
Since 1963, when the Indonesian government formally took administrative control of West Papua1, the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) have carried out security operations criticised for their violence and intimidation of Indigenous Peoples2 in West Papua. The TNI have stepped up their military operations3 in West Papua with the aim of ending the separatist movement4 (including but not limited to OPM). Recently, the Indonesian government created a new category called “KKB” (Armed Criminal Group). The group includes people or groups carrying out any confrontational activity in West Papua, but without clearly identifying who this group actually is. Therefore, anyone and any group can be labelled as terrorists. On April 29th 2021 the Indonesia state officially declared any criminal, armed group (KKB) a terrorist group.5 This declaration was announced following the murder of the Indonesian regional intelligence chief6, General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha.
In response, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo ordered the police and military "to chase and arrest"7 everyone involved in the ”KKB”, and 400 members of the elite Infantry Battalion 3158 were deployed to the easternmost region of West Papua. Over the past three years, the Indonesian state has sent 21,369 troops to the land of Papua9. On the 24th of April 2021, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Bambang Soesatyo, added to these orders against the “KKB” in his statement to “destroy them first. We will discuss human rights matters later.”10 This statement contradicts the role Indonesia has assumed in advocating for human rights and democracy at a regional level. Among other initiatives11, Indonesia has been actively involved in the establishment and development of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)12 and was recently elected to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from 2020-202213.
Ongoing Human Rights Violations:
Targeting innocent Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous Peoples have had to flee from their homes as the Indonesian military and police have entered their villages, primarily in the highland region of Nduga and Intan Jaya. This pattern of displacement is not new14. In the Nduga massacre of 201815, the Indonesian government declared a state of emergency in the Nduga regency, which was used as justification for the TNI to launch the Nemangkawi Military Operation16 that further escalated the ongoing armed conflict, which led to the displacement of approximately 5000 villagers, including 700 children17, into refugee camps. Between 2018 and 2020 an estimated 400 refugees have diedin these camps in Nduga.18
The displacement of Indigenous Peoples continues with the Indonesian military’s more recent efforts to stop the “KKB”. Villagers have been driven out of their territories19 as military and police occupy their schools and buildings for their operations20 to search for the “KKB”, putting Indigenous villagers at risk for their lives and removing them from their livelihood. Thus, robbing them not only of their safety and freedom, but also their right to food, housing and education.
Police and military are entering secluded Indigenous villages to search for members of the “KKB”, many of whom they claim hide and live amongst other villagers. If and when they cannot find “KKB” members, the military and police are shooting innocent civilians21. Although men are the main targets, women and children are also being shot at22, and even babies have lost their lives as a result23 of the conflict. They are also destroying property and shooting farm animals such as pigs that villagers need for their livelihood.
While some of these deaths are being reported in media, including youth, disabled civilians and pastors24, many are silenced/go unreported. Since the beginning of May, the Internet has been cut off in West Papua’s capital25 Manokwari preventing local journalists from reporting on the ongoing human rights violations. Although the internet provider has spoken out and apologized for the ongoing disruptions, the government has previously shut down internet services in West Papua during weeks of protests and deadly unrest in 201926.
The Indigenous Meepago People of Intan Jaya and the Indigenous Lapago People of Nduga report that they fear for their lives in their own land. A women’s community leader from a town near Puncak, described that “Thousands are displaced in Puncak, five villages fled into the jungle. Health clinics and schools have been taken over by the military. Soldiers are everywhere. We are living in a war zone.”27
Human Rights Defenders and Freedom of Speech
On May 10th, Victor Yeimo who is the international spokesman of the West Papua National Committee, was arrested in the provincial capital of Jayapura28. Yeimo has been on a police wanted list accused of treason related to his alleged role in the widespread anti-racism protests which were held in August and September 201929. Authorities say he orchestrated some of the most serious civil unrest in decades during these protests30. These protests, which initially started peacefully but ended in riots, were mass protests that included Indigenous Peoples. Yeimo was present at the first peaceful protest but he claims to have been absent at the riot31.
According to Prominent human rights journalist Victor Mambor, he has also been targeted by the Indonesian military, who claim his involvement in the separatist movement. His car was recently vandalised32, an incident that is not unusual for the journalist who, along with his family, has been harassed since 2007. Mambor’s lawyer, Veronica Koman has described the latest car-vandalism as “…another episode of harassment against Papuan journalists. When you report stories not in line with the government’s version you’ll be attacked.”33
Contradictory to the ongoing human rights violations, in 2006, Indonesia ratified34 the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights35. Also, in 1998, Law No. 9 on Freedom of Expression in Public was passed36, but no implementing regulations were issued. Instead, according to senior West Papuan lawyer, Yan Christian Warinussey, the police have issued internal guidelines that suppress the freedom of expression37 that has formed the law in West Papua and is used to suppress activism, which can be seen through the state’s continuous harassment of human rights defenders.
The ongoing political conflicts are costing innocent lives and displacing Indigenous Peoples throughout West Papua.
The undersigned organisations call for:
1. The Indonesian government to define who the “KKB” is. Without naming the organisations, any group or anyone can be targeted as “KKB”.
2. President Jokowi to fulfil his commitment38 (2017) to invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Papua.
3. The Indonesian Military and police to stop killing and harassing innocent villagers.
4. The Indonesian government and United Liberation Movement for West Papua to start peace dialogues.
5. The Indonesian Military and police to leave all occupied public facilities including schools, health centers, and government offices in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak regencies, and ensure the safe return to normal life of the affected communities.
6. The police to release Victor Yeimo and ensure that all human rights are respected for all.
7. Stop stigmatizing Papuan Indigenous journalists as being part of separatism.
8. Restore the internet, ensure freedom of expression for all, ensure the safety and security of journalists reporting from West Papua, and open the access for international journalists to West Papua.
● International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
● Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN): Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago
● Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI)
● Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP)
● Minority Rights Group International
● Survival International
1 MacLeod, Jason. “The struggle for self-determination in West Papua (1969-present).” International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), March, 2011. Accessedd June 7, 2021. https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/struggle-self-determination-west-papua-1969-present/
2 Cordell, Marni. “The West Papuan independence movement - a history.” The Guardian, August 29, 2013. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/29/west-papua-independence-history
3 Netral News. “TNI Hunts Down Soldiers Join KKB Papua.” April 15, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://netral.news/en/tni-hunts-down-soldiers-join-kkb-papua.html
4 Strangio, Sebastian. “Indonesia Deploys Forces to Troubled Papua Region.” The Diplomat, May 5, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/indonesia-deploys-special-forces-to-troubled-papua-region/
5 Perkasa, Vidhyandika Djati, and Alif Satria. “Conflict Resolution in Papua and the Label of Terrorism.” The Diplomat, May 7, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/conflict-resolution-in-papua-and-the-label-of-terrorism/
6 The Straits Times. “Papua intelligence chief killed in Indonesia rebel attack.” April 26, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/papua-intelligence-chief-killed-in-indonesia-rebel-attack
8 Strangio, Sebastian. “Indonesia Deploys Forces to Troubled Papua Region.” The Diplomat, May 5, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/indonesia-deploys-special-forces-to-troubled-papua-region/
9 Belau, Arnold. “Jakarta sends 21,000 troops to Papua over last three years, says KNPB.” Asia Pacific Report, March 15, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://asiapacificreport.nz/2021/03/15/jakarta-sends-21000-troops-to-papua-over-last-three-years-says-knpb/
10 CNN Indonesia. “Ketua MPR: Tumpas Habis KKB Papua, Urusan HAM Bicarakan Nanti.” April 26, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20210426114223-32-634743/ketua-mpr-tumpas-habis-kkb-papua-urusan-ham-bicarakan-nanti
11 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. “Indonesia and Human Rights Protection.” April 7, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://kemlu.go.id/portal/en/read/97/halaman_list_lainnya/indonesia-and-human-rights
13 Septiari, Dian. “Indonesia secures seat on UN human rights body.” The Jakarta Post, October 18, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/10/18/indonesia-secures-seat-on-un-human-rights-body.html
14 Calí Tzay, José Francisco, Agnes Callamard, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, and E. Tendayi Achiume. “Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaces persons.” OHCHR, June 8, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25322
15 New Mandala. “Invisible victims of the Papua conflict: the Nduga Regency refugees.” Relief Web, OCHA, March 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://reliefweb.int/report/indonesia/invisible-victims-papua-conflict-nduga-regency-refugees
16 Sutrisno, Budi. “President's instruction to blame for rights violations, displacement in Nduga: LBH Papua.” The Jakarta Post, July 24, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/07/24/presidents-instruction-to-blame-for-rights-violations-displacement-in-nduga-lbh-papua.html
17 New Mandala. “Invisible victims of the Papua conflict: the Nduga Regency refugees.” Relief Web, OCHA, March 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://reliefweb.int/report/indonesia/invisible-victims-papua-conflict-nduga-regency-refugees
18 Pademme, Arjuna. “Ditolak Rumah Sakit, 18 pengungsi Nduga di Jayawijaya meninggal selama sebulan terakhir.” Jubi, January, 2021. Accessed June 7, 202. https://jubi.co.id/ditolak-rumah-sakit-18-pengungsi-nduga-di-jayawijaya-meninggal-selama-sebulan-terakhir/amp/
19 Wisanggeni G, Aryo, and Evi Mariani. “Indonesia ‘must take responsibility’ for Nduga and Intan Jaya displaced people.” Jubi, March 10, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://en.jubi.co.id/nduga-and-intan-jaya-displaced-people-west-papua/
20 Mambor, Victor. “The Intan Jaya conflict 2: Violence at the cost of many civilian lives.” Asia Pacific Report, January 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://asiapacificreport.nz/2021/01/11/the-intan-jaya-conflict-2- violence-at-the-cost-of-many-civilian-lives/
21 Mambor, Victor. “Two Papuans shot dead by Indonesian military personnel.” The Jakarta Post, July 21, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/07/21/two-papuan-refugees-shot-dead-by-indonesian-military-personnel.html
22 Chesterfield, Nick. “Indonesian Army shoot mother and 3 children in "crossfire".” Scoop, July 18, 2011. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1107/S00372/indonesian-army-shoot-mother-and- 3-children-in-crossfire.htm
23 Davidson, Helen. “West Papuan leaders blame deaths of three babies on Indonesian crackdown.” The Guardian, January 22, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/22/west-papuan-leaders-blame-deaths-of-three-babies-on-indonesian-crackdown
24 Galuwo, Kristianto, Evi Mariani, and Dewi Wulandari, Abeth You. “‘Indonesia has gone too far’: A disabled man and a teenager in West Papua’s Intan Jaya shot dead.” West Papua Daily, March 8, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://en.jubi.co.id/indonesia-has-gone-too-far-a-disabled-man-and-a-teenager-in-west-papuas-intan-jaya-shot-dead/
25 RNZ. “Internet cut in Papua as military operations intensify.” May 3, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/441684/internet-cut-in-papua-as-military-operations-intensify
26 IWGIA. “Indigenous peoples protest in West Papua.” August 30, 2019. https://www.iwgia.org/en/indonesia/3444-indigenous-peoples-protest-in-west-papua.html
27 James, Rory. “‘We are living in a war zone’: violence flares in West Papua as villagers forced to flee.” The Guardian, May 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/11/we-are-living-in-a-war-zone-violence-flares-in-west-papua-as-villagers-forced-to-flee?fbclid=IwAR3iZd_- LpWmwYjhH4DvyDnU3ISao4Tdwq7Iw2_9OA39td_LS3D8GvWR6uM
28 Aljazeera. “Indonesia police arrest Victor Yeimo for suspected treason.” May 10, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/10/indonesia-police-arrest-victor-yeimo-for-suspected-treason
29 Mambor, Victor, and Jakob Siringoringo. “Indonesia.” In The Indigenous World 2020, edited by Dwayne Mamo, 259-260. IWGIA, 2020. http://iwgia.org/images/yearbook/2020/IWGIA_The_Indigenous_World_2020.pdf
30 Aljazeera. “Indonesia police arrest Victor Yeimo for suspected treason.” May 10, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/10/indonesia-police-arrest-victor-yeimo-for-suspected-treason
31 Wisanggeni G, Aryo, and Abeth You. “I was not there: Victor Yeimo denies involvement in protest turn riots.” West Papua Daily, May 19, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://en.jubi.co.id/i-was-not-there-victor-yeimo-denies-involvement-in-protest-turn-riots/
32 Mawel, Benny, and Aryo Wisanggeni G. “Indonesia’s journalist alliance condemns attack on Jubi’s leader, Victor Mambor.” West Papua Daily, April 23, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://en.jubi.co.id/aji-jayapura-condemns-attack-victor-mambor-jubi/
33 James, Rory. “‘We are living in a war zone’: violence flares in West Papua as villagers forced to flee.” The Guardian, May 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/11/we-are-
34 United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies. “Ratification Status for Indonesia.” 2021. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=80&Lang=EN
35 OHCHR. “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” March 23, 1976. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx
36 International Labour Organization. “Indonesia, Freedom of Expression in Public (Law No. 9 of 1998).” October 26, 1998. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=en&p_isn=51514
37 CIVICUS. “West Papua, Indonesia: Failure to implement human rights protections in law contributes to violations.” 2018. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.civicus.org/index.php/fr/medias-ressources/122- news/interviews/3417-west-papua-indonesia-failure-to-implement-human-rights-protections-in-law-contributes-to-violations
38 OHCHR. “Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a press conference during his mission to Indonesia.” February 7, 2018. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22638&LangID=E