Human Rights Update West Papua – January 2019, covering October - December 2018

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The last quarter of 2018 was characterized by a significant increase in reported political arrests and cases of torture and illtreatment. Police forces conducted mass arrests during various peaceful assemblies. Commemorations were organised in different areas of Indonesia, including Sulawesi Island, Java, Bali and the Moluccans. This indicates that peaceful political activity among civil society not only in West Papua but also in other parts of Indonesia was on the rise by the end of 2018, while police forces continued to severely limit freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for groups that challenge Indonesia’s unitary state doctrine. The increase in cases of torture and ill-treatment should be observed in direct correlation to the growing number of reported political arrests. Police forces continue to use excessive force against protesters and people documenting the abuses. The ICP is so far not aware of any of these cases being further investigated.

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A very significant development is the escalation of armed conflicts in the central highlands. Cases like the killing of at least 17 road workers in Nduga or the killing of a motorcycle taxi driver in Lanny Jaya indicate that the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) is more determined than ever to fight against the Indonesian government and does not hesitate to attack unarmed persons if they are believed to cooperate with Indonesian security forces. Instead of seeking communication with the independence movement, the Indonesian Government has responded with additional deployment of troops in various highland regencies. During the reporting period, joint security forces launched military attacks and raids in the regencies of Mimika, Puncak Jaya, Lanny Jaya and Nduga. At least the raids in the Nduga Regency resulted in the killings of indigenous civilians and the displacement of hundreds of villagers.

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

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