Update on military operation in Nduga – Number of refugees and reported fatalities among indigenous civilians rising

A widespread military operation has been ongoing in Nduga Regency since 4 December 2018. Many indigenous Papuans have fled into the surrounding forests and neighboring regencies in fear of security force violence. An evacuation team found the bodies of three killed victims in the districts Mbuwa and Dal and confirmed a witness report regarding the killing of another villager by military members. In the district of Mbulmu Yalma, five indigenous villagers – among them two minors – were reported missing since the the military offensive began. Human rights defenders claim, that refugees originate from twelve districts in the Nduga Regency which have been affected by the military operation, namely the districts Mbulmu Yalma, Dal, Yigi, Nirkuri, Yal, Mugi, Mam, Mbuwa, Inikgal, Mapenduma, Kegayem and Meborok. According to the head of Negeyagin District, 407 refugees had sought shelter in the districts Negeyagin, Wutpaga and Kwiyawagi. Other refugees were heading towards the regencies Jayawijaya, Mimika, Asmath and Lani Jaya.

Refugees 2Meanwhile, human rights defenders and journalists have talked to some of the refugees to get a better picture of the current situation in the Nduga Regency. Until now, security forces restrict access to journalists and human rights defenders. The refugees stated that a large number of displaced villagers are still hiding in the jungle (see images on to and right), where they live in groups of at least ten in improvised huts. The men leave the shelter during night and walk far distances to the gardens to collect sweet potatoes and taro. Many parents have been separated from their children as they fled their village in panic during the military attacks. Among the displaced refugees are women and children - they are the most vulnerable group, facing malnutrition and the harsh climate in the highlands.  

Rev.Gemin NirigiAccording to latest information, the number of civilian casualties has allegedly risen to eight – some other sources even report a number of eleven dead indigenous victims. The exact number could not yet been confirmed through names. A pregnant woman named Selfina Lokbere (32 years) and her new born baby died as Selfina gave birth in the forest. Three other children named Ubugina Unue (2 years), Bugun Unue (1 year) and Raina Kogoya (5 tahun) allegedly died due to malnutrition and hypothermia. At least ten women living in temporary shelters await birth and are in urgent need of medical assistance. According to information from the Papuan Tabernacle Church, military members allegedly killed a Papuan bible translator named Rev. Gemin Nirigi in the Mapenduma District on 19 December 2018 (see image on the left).