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.

Download the full report as PDF here

During this period, Papuan human rights defenders reported two cases in which malnutrition and the outbreak of measles had affected hundreds of people in the regencies of Asmat and Pegunungan Bintang because local health agencies did not take notice of the health crisis for months. In January, a Papuan activist and former political prisoner was temporarily arbitrarily arrested and interrogated at a domestic airport because he wore a pin of a political pro-impendence symbol on his shirt. In the same month, a new case of torture was reported from the central highlands, after members of the military had allegedly found ammunition shells as they searched a group of highland Papuans travelling from Jayawijaya to Nduga regency. In February, BBC Journalist Rebecca Henschke, who was in the Asmat region to cover the health situation in the area, was forced to leave because she had twittered critical comments regarding the military’s humanitarian aid program. Also in February, an indigenous Papuan woman of the Kamoro tribe was killed by police officers trying to chase after an escapee who was then arrested because he allegedly stole mineral concentrate from a Freeport storage facility in Timika. In March, the panel of judges at a military court in Jayapura sentenced the military officer who had killed a Papuan man and severely injured two of his tribesmen at the Poumako Port in Timika to only eight months imprisonment. Also in March in Tolikara regency, police officers ill-treated a patient with mental disorders at the local public hospital.

Read what UN mechanisms observe and recommend regarding human rights in West Papua on our website.