Human Rights Update West Papua - 1st Quarter 2020

The first quarter of 2020 was marked by the outbreaks of armed clashes in multiple regencies of West Papua and multiple trials in relation to the Papua-wide anti-racism riots throughout August and September 2019, which resulted in imprisonment sentences for protesters. Lawyers deplored that the trials failed to meet the principles of a fair trial. Many defendants were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, although witness testimonies and evidence presented in court did not prove the involvement of the defendants in any criminal acts. Hence, many of the sentenced defendants have appealed against the verdicts. Moreover, human rights observers raised the concern that judges applied double standards. The verdicts for three non-Papuans who had been found guilty of hate speech against indigenous Papuans, and four migrants who collectively killed a Papuan during outbreaks of ethnic violence in Jayapura, were considered mild.

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The low number of arrests - both political and non-political - as well as the absence of violations against journalists or human rights defenders and treason charges against political activists are predominately a result of the repressive Government policies after the Anti-racism Protests in August and September 2019. The civil society in West Papua is still paralyzed. Fear of criminalisation and security force violence is prevailing. Many political figures have been arrested and prosecuted or are standing trial. The police have increased surveillance on movement organisations after the protests and heavily restrict peaceful assemblies, even those with a non-political agenda.  

Reports on shootings throughout February and March 2020 indicate a significant increase in armed activity in the regencies Pegunungan Bintang and Intan Jaya in addition to previously known hot spots of armed conflict, such as Nduga and Mimika. The scenarios usually follow a similar logic. Isolated TPN PB attacks against security force members are responded by the deployment of police and military units in the affected area. Subsequent security force operations against the TPN PB lead to further armed clashes. These security force operations frequently result in human rights violations and internal displacement of the indigenous population. Simultaneous attacks in multiple regencies of West Papua with fatalities on both sides and recent attacks against civilians in Pegunungan Bintang and Mimika underpin the observation that the level of aggression in the armed conflict is increasing.

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