Human Rights in West Papua 2013

50 years ago, on May 1, 1963, Indonesia took over control of Papua from the UN. Since then Papuans’ lives have been marked by violence, the lack of access to effective remedies concerning right violations, as well as marginalisation and discrimination. As a result, Papuans are deeply disappointed by the Indonesian Government’s administration of Papua and regularly voice their disapproval. The government often resorts to the excessive use of force to silence such protests, however. The call for a dialogue to take place between stakeholders in Papua and Jakarta, as a peaceful means to discuss the problems in Papua and find solutions to these, have not led to the required action by the government.


Cases of extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests documented between October 2011 and March 2013 show an ongoing high level of violence, concerning which the perpetrators - notably members of the security forces, including police and military - are not being held accountable, in the majority of cases. In the remote highland areas such forms of violence are most frequently noted. There, the security forces have continued to conduct raids in villages in order to retaliate concerning conflict violence and to intimidate indigenous village communities, resulting in the displacement of people. The Third Papuan People’s Congress in October 2011 was violently dispersed, persons were killed and peaceful political activists were imprisoned. In 2012, an escalation of violence was noted during which civilians were shot by unknown persons, political activist group leader Mako Tabuni was killed by the security forces and political activists were persecuted with arrests and killings.


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This, together with the prohibition of demonstrations in the second half of 2012, has resulted in a deterioration of the freedom of assembly and expression in Papua, from which civil society activism has until now not fully recovered despite small improvements in early 2013.

Poor management of human resources in the health-care and education sectors, despite the construction of new facilities and the availability of funds for salaries, have left most health-care centres and schools unattended by health workers and teachers respectively. Due to this, access to education and health-care is often not available, notably in remote areas. Child death rates and HIV/AIDS infection data are at alarming level and rank highest compared to other Indonesian regions, demanding serious reforms of the health sector.

ICP HRinWP2013 id Cover200pxAs part of the central government’s plan to accelerate economic development in Papua, the issuance of licenses to companies for the extraction of natural resources continued despite serious concerns as to their impact on indigenous communities, who often lose their traditional livelihoods as a result of deforestation. Illegal businesses have accounted for a considerable share of investment activities. The security forces benefit from the provision of security services to such companies and are also themselves involved in the extraction of natural resources. Due to the omnipresence of the army in Papua and the lack of independent mechanisms to hold their members accountable, illegal activities by the military, including human rights violations and resource extraction, continue with impunity, while Papua’s natural forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, causing considerable long-term impact on the environment and climate.

This report also documents cases in which children and women have become the victims of violence, including by the security forces. It has been noted that there exists a very low threshold concerning the willingness by the security forces to use arbitrary and excessive violence against women. Out of fear of reprisals and a lack of action by the police concerning the investigation of cases of violence against women, many cases are not reported to the law enforcement institutions and the perpetrators enjoy impunity.

Indigenous Papuans experience a much lower level of security and protection of their right to life as compared with other residents of Papua. Communal violence is often responded to with excessive and arbitrary actions by the security forces or are not addressed, resulting in an environment of lawlessness and injustice affecting the indigenous Papuan community as a whole. The stigmatisation of Papuans as separatists or terrorists is used to justify violent actions against them. Military tribunals and the police internal PROPAM mechanism lack independence or a policy to end human rights violations. As this victimisation continues, the absence of effective legal remedies that are available to Papuans deepens the social and political conflict.

Instead of a civilian approach to justice, the security approach remains the dominant one used by Indonesia in Papua. The intelligence agency makes use of surveillance measures, that are disproportionate and discriminatory against the indigenous populations and contributes significantly to the climate of fear. Reforms to the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Law on Military Tribunals and other laws governing the security forces are necessary. A new bill on National Security and a new law on the state intelligence body allow for arbitrary actions and abuses of power.

While some of the recommendations made by States during the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were accepted, Indonesia refused those that concerned the problem of impunity and the use of a security-based approach in Papua. The problem of impunity was denied by Indonesia during the review. Delays in making specific arrangements to allow visits by UN Special Procedures as announced by Indonesia during the UPR indicate the government’s ongoing reluctance to provide open access to such experts, notably to the mandate on freedom of expression.

Even though the Special Autonomy Law for Papua included important provisions concerning the implementation of the right to self-determination, the law has frequently been violated and after twelve years of failed Special Autonomy, Papuans have given up hope on the Law as a means to protect indigenous concerns.

The Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) was mandated to work for the four year period between 2010 and 2014 and spearheads the government’s approach to address the overall situation in Papua. This ad-hoc approach was designed without consultation with Papuans and as a result fails to address key aspects of the situation in Papua, effectively maintaining the core of the problem. Papuans have in general not benefited from the UP4B’s programmes, as corruption in public institutions continues to be responsible for the disappearance of large parts of promised development funds. Due to mismanagement, important public services and an improvement to living standards for Papuans remain lacking. Whether Jakarta’s new Special Autonomy Plus approach is able to succeed depends on whether this concept is designed in a participatory way with the Papuan people, such as through the dialogue process.

The Jakarta-Papua Dialogue is a means of building trust between Papuans and the national government and to bring about the vision of Papua as a Land of Peace. Indonesian President Yudhoyono in late 2011 had already declared that the dialogue process was the means to solve the problem in Papua. The central government has, however, not taken visible steps to enter this dialogue process goes forward as announced, as it continues to pander to hard-liners within the government that continue to reject this approach.