Decades of conflict in Papua, Indonesia, continue to cost the lives of civilians, soldiers and resistance group members. Ongoing human rights violations range from extrajudicial killings and intimidation of journalists to discrimination in health care, education and access to conomic opportunities. These are just the tip of the iceberg where violations of indigenous Papuans are concerned and these violations shape current Papuan perspectives on Indonesia. In this context, a solution for both indigenous Papuans and Indonesian national interests has so far remained out of reach.
Responding to the uprisings which surrounded the 1977 general elections in Papua, several military operations were launched in the Papuan highlands around Wamena. The response caused a further breakdown in the Papuan–Indonesian relations which had fallen apart at that time. The operations resulted in mass killings of, as well as violence against civilians. The stories of survivors recall unspeakable atrocities including rape, torture and mass executions. Estimations of the number of persons killed range from 5,000 up to tens of thousands. The research done for this report is consistent with these numbers, although restricted access to the area and ongoing intimidation of witnesses makes it difficult to confirm an upper limit of the number of victims.
Papua is now populated by both Papuans and increasing numbers of transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia. The initiative of the Papua Peace Network (Jaringan Damai Papua, JDP) to bring all stakeholders in Papua and those from Jakarta together for a peaceful dialogue in order to discuss a peaceful future for all residents of Papua remains an important initiative to reconcile the ongoing conflict. Without the freedom to articulate memories of past violations locally and opportunities for victims to heal their trauma, resentment against the Indonesians and their authority remains and this will continue to fuel the conflict. Reviewing and recognising the history of violence and its overarching effect on the relationship between Papuans and Indonesian authorities is thus a necessary step forward.
With the view to move forward in the conflict and to address the grievances of countless Papuans who suffered violence or lost family members, it is important to understand the history of mass violence experienced by the Papuans as well as the severity and background of their resentment against the government of Indonesia. Such an understanding will support solutions to the ongoing Papuan–Indonesian conflict. This report –which only covers one of the main violent events in the history of Papuan-Indonesian relations– tries to contribute to this process, seeking to acknowledge the suffering of thousands of victims and building towards a sorely needed common understanding of history.