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.

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The significant raise of extra-judicial killings (EJKs), torture and ill-treatment throughout the 3rd quarter support the observation that the conflict situation in West Papua has been significantly exacerbated. Both figures have more than doubled compared to previous quarters. The figures are likely to be higher, as human rights defenders are still facing difficulties to access the regency of Nduga where an ongoing security force operation has resulted in a high number of unverified fatalities and internally displaced persons (IDPs). A second security force operation in the highland regency of Puncak in late August 2019 has caused the displacement of an additional 1,500 indigenous villagers.

Authorities have limited the room for peaceful protest, freedom of assembly, media freedom and freedom of expression in West Papua through policy and practice. Additional security forces have been deployed to West Papua to prevent ethnic violence, riots and demonstrations. The internet was temporarily blocked and the Papuan regional police adopted an edict as a regulatory instrument for the prosecution of civil society actors. Accordingly, the aftermath of the anti-racism protests was characterized by a significant increase of arrests and prosecutions. In the past month, 22 Papuan activists have been charged with the articles 106 and/or 110 KUHP on treason. Authorities also used other vague legal provisions such as incitement and the electronic information and transaction law to criminalize activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

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