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.


President Jokowi willing to meet with representatives of independence movement

Multiple news outlets reported that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is willing to meet with representatives of the Papuan independence movement. A journalist had asked President Jokowi in front of the presidential palace on 30 September 2019 whether he was ready for a dialogue with pro-independence groups. “I will meet anyone who wants to meet me”, Jokowi replied. Jokowi’s statement contrasts the position expressed by several ministers of his cabinet. On 5 September 2019, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Wiranto, stated in another interview there was clear evidence for the involvement of two local organizations in the 'foreign conspiracy', namely ULMWP (United Liberation Movement West Papua) and KNPB (Komisi Nasional Papua Barat) under coordination of Benny Wenda.


Amnesty International deeply concerned about increasing use of “makar” against Papuans - Open Letter to President Joko Widodo

In relation to the mass arrests and prosecution of activists in Papua in the last weeks, Amnesty International has released on 2 October 2019 an open letter on the increasing use of makar charges against Papuan activists to stifle freedom of expression. AI calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Papuan activists facing treason charges. The letter, adressed to the President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo, reads as follows:

Your Excellency:
Amnesty International is writing to express our deep concern about the sudden surge in the use of makar charges against at least 22 Papuan activists in Jakarta and Papua over the past few weeks based on their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The activists are being charged and detained under Articles 106 and 110 of Indonesia's Criminal Code (KUHP), which cover crimes against the security of the state and impose life imprisonment as a maximum punishment.



Series of arrests continues after Papua-wide rallies against racism

One month after the first anti-racism demonstrations took place across West Papua, the police launched a series of arrests and criminalisation. Authorities have targeted political activists, human rights defenders and students. Two further arrests of students have been reported from Manokwari, Papua Barat Province. On 19 September 2019, police officers arrested Erik Aliknoe in the Gunung Salju Road for his involvement in demonstrations on 3, 6 and 11 September 2019 (see intro image). The police pressed criminal charges against him for incitement and conspiracy. Two days later police officers arrested another student named Yunus Alitnoe in his house in Manokwari without showing a warrant or providing a reason for the arrest. The parents speculated that the arrest is related to the ant-racism demonstrations in Manokwari.


Ecumenical Forum of Papuan Churches further appeal to President Joko Widodo

In addition to the pastoral appeal for solidarity and action and the second appeal to withdraw army and police from Papua among other requests, the Church Leaders and from GKI Tanah Papua, GIDI, Fellowship of Baptist Churches and KINGMI Papua have signed on 1 October 2019 an open letter to President Joko Widodo.. Through this Letter the Ecumenical Forum of Churches in the Land of Papua: Pastor Andirkus Mofu, Pastor Dorman Wandikbo, Pastor Socrates Yoman and Pastor Benny Giay, faced with the reality of the problems explained above make the following recommendations:

a. In order for the Papuan problem to be solved there should be peaceful negotiations as the Indonesian Government did with GAM from Aceh which ended with the Helsinky Agreement. In this spirit we submitted our Pastoral Letter on August 26, 2019 to the National Police Chief and the Army Commander; Point 6 of the Pastoral Letter urges the Government of Indonesia to act fairly towards Papua by negotiating with ULMWP and OPM that would give birth to a new Treaty in whichever location was agreed with ULMWP and the Government of Indonesia (eg. Sydney, New York, Washington or Amsterdam).

b. Stop all efforts to divert the issue of racism to other matters (point 2 and 3 above) and free the prisoners that are held by the Papuan Police which we see as part of b.1. Direct talks to tackle the roots of the problem should not give rise to new problems such as the decentralization or break up of the Province or the building of a Palace etc. and does not serve those who continue to scapegoat those who they consider "separatists", accusing Benny Wenda or ULMWP as provocateurs.



More extra-judicial killings reported during security force operation in Puncak Regency

Further extra-judicial killings have been reported from the remote highland regency of Puncak, where a security force operation is taking place since 24 August 2019. The most recent incident occurred in the Olenki Village on 17 September 2019, in which joint security forces shot dead an indigenous villager and two children. According to the Papuan news outlet ‘Tabloid Jubi’, a sixty-year old man named Ginobinok Tabuni died inside his house. The hut was set on fire during the security force raid in the village of Tegelobak on 24 August 2019. The family was not able to rescue Ginobinok Tabuni as they fled their house in panic. It was reported that twenty houses in the villages of Tegelobak, Mitimaga and Kelanunggin were burned to the ground.


Papua Church Leaders urge the Indonesian Government to withdraw army and police from Papua

In addition to the appeal for solidarity and action to the international community on the deteriorating security situation in the land of Papua, the Church Leaders from GKI Tanah Papua, GIDI, Fellowship of Baptist Churches and KINGMI Papua have signed on 13 September 2019 another Pastoral Appeal. Through this Letter of Appeal, the four Church Leaders and members of the Ecumenical Forum of Churches in Papua: Pastor Andirkus Mofu, Pastor Dorman Wandikbo, Pastor Socrates Yoman and Pastor Benny Giay call for the presence of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, as well as independent Human Rights Organisations and foreign journalists to investigate the crimes. They also urge the Government of Indonesia to release imprisoned protesters, withdraw the army and police from Nduga and all of Papua and agree to dialogue with the ULMWP. Moreover, this last appeal provides a detailed account of victims killed and wounded in Jayapura and Deiyai Regencies between 29 August and 1 September 2019.

Download the Pastoral Letter of Appeal as PDF here


Update on situation in Wamena and Jayapura after the riots

The recent outbreaks of violence in relation to anti-racism protests in the Papuan cities of Jayapura and Wamena have resulted in the largest number of fatalities in single incidents since the beginning of the ‘Reformasi Period’ in 1998. Statements regarding the death toll in Wamena have varied between Government officials. According to the Head of the Papuan Regional Police Public Relations Desk, Ahmad Mustafa Kamal, the police documented 29 civilian fatalities and 76 injured persons in Wamena. Moreover, 80 cars, 30 motorcycles, 150 shops and houses, a power plant and four government offices were set on fire or severely damaged. The Indonesian Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, mentioned a total number of 26 fatalities and 66 injured persons in a public interview one day later. The fatalities consist of 22 Non-Papuans and four ethnic Papuans, said Karnavian.


Police officers obstruct Papuan journalists covering student rally in Jayapura

Members of the police have obstructed three local journalists who covered a protest of Papuan students in front of the Cenderawasih University Auditorium in Jayapura on 23 September 2019. The chairman of the Independent Journalist Alliance in Jayapura, Lucky Ireeuw, stated that the intimidation and obstruction against Hengky Yeimo (Jubi), Benny Mawel (contributor for The Jakarta Post and Jubi) and Ardi Bayage ( were a violation of media freedom as guaranteed under Law 40/1999 on press. The case is also emblematic for the discrimination which ethnic Papuan journalists face, particularly when they cover demonstrations on sensitive issues.


Violence escalates in West Papua - ULMWP Chairman calls for urgent UN visit to West Papua

West Papua is experiencing the worst wave of violence since decades after various protests against racial discrimination, which started in mid-August 2019, have resulted in security force crackdowns and outbreaks of horizontal violence. Two further outbreaks of violence have been reported in the cities of Wamena and Jayapura on 23 September 2019, resulting in at least 31 civilian fatalities, while 87 persons were injured. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has now called for an urgent UN visit to West Papua. ULMWP chairperson, Benny Wenda, said in an pressing statement on 24 September 2019 that "the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must visit West Papua now, and the Pacific Islands Forum must help to secure this".


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  1. NGOs call on CGF members to take immediate action against deforestation
  2. Outbreaks of violence in Wamena and Jayapura – first counts estimate 31 civilian fatalities, 87 persons injured
  3. 3 indigenous Papuans killed, 4 wounded during security force operation in the Regency of Puncak
  4. Update Anti-Racism Demonstrations: Government responds with mass arrests and prosecution of activists
  5. Full response - Veronica Koman published press statement on Facebook
  6. UN experts request Indonesia to protect rights of Veronica Koman and others reporting on Papua protests
  7. Jayapura Police alleged of neglect – Nationalist militant groups attack indigenous Papuans
  8. Military members alleged of killing indigenous Papuan in Wouma District, Jayawijaya Regency
  9. Update on IDP situation in Gome, Puncak Regency – number of IDPs raise to 1.500
  10. YouTube blocks West Papua satirical video on request of the Indonesian Government
  11. Human Rights Watch urges Indonesia to investigate deaths of Papuan protesters
  12. Papua Church Leaders call for the involvement of the international community
  13. Amnesty International Press Release - Attempted criminalisation of human rights Lawyer Veronica Koman
  14. Amnesty International urges police to drop treason charges against six Papuan activists in Java
  15. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses concern about the situation in West Papua
  16. West Papua-wide anti-racism protests accompanied by violence – eight protesters killed, 50 injured during crackdown in Waghete
  17. Security force operation in Puncak Regency – about 800 indigenous IDPs flee their homes
  18. Leading ULMWP activist arrested and charged with document forgery
  19. Government imposes internet blockade after anti-racism riots in West Papua
  20. Police prevents peaceful commemoration of the ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’
  21. Commemorations of New York Agreement accompanied by arrests, violence and racism - Papuan students subjected to harassment and assaults
  22. Update trial: JUT sentenced to five months imprisonment
  23. New law allows prosecution of foreign researchers – academics fear restrictions of academic freedom
  24. Constitutional court reviews law on the formation of Papua Province
  25. Update Armed Conflict in Nduga Regency: CSOs estimate a total number of 177 fatalities and more than 5.000 IDPs
  26. Joint Submission to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry - Media Freedom in West Papua
  27. The Salim Group builds palm oil empire in West Papua
  28. New Caledonia rejects independence from France – Next referendum possible in 2020
  29. Papuan church congregation under police surveillance – Church members prevented from attending worship in Jayapura
  30. Commemorations of Papuan independence Proclamation – Protesters face intimidation and restrictions on freedom of assembly