Of the eight reported cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances between January and March this year, seven were related to the central highlands’ armed conflict. There was no investigation into any of the killings because the military claimed the victims were associated with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB). The intensity of the ongoing conflict is likely to aggravate as Jakarta continues deploying additional non-organic troops to West Papua. At least 1,800 additional military personnel and 100 special police force members were transferred to West Papua in the first quarter of 2021 to fight against the TPN PB, maintain public order and secure government and military interests. The Indonesian Government continues to seek a violent solution to the conflict. In March 2021, the Indonesian Government announced its plan to add the TPN PB to the terrorist organisations’ list. This measure would make peaceful talks between the conflict parties even more improbable. The deployment of non-organic security forces and ongoing armed clashes go to the detriment of the indigenous peoples in conflict areas. The armed violence in the Intan Jaya Regency resulted in further displacements of at least 3,600 indigenous Papuans.
Fundamental freedoms such as peaceful assembly and expression are heavily restricted by security force members, mainly under the pretext of enforcing COVID-19 health protocols. If peaceful protests and public events about West Papua were planned or took place, they were impeded or immediately dispersed by security forces. The few dispersions were accompanied by arbitrary arrests and temporary detention of protesters.
Law enforcement agencies continue to counter any involvement in political activities about West Papuan independence with the law’s full severity. Prosecution patterns to silence activists have broadened and do include indictments for aiding and abetting murder, physical assault or the violation of the emergency law regarding illegal firearms. During this quarter, the ICP secretariat has documented at least four trials where judges found defendants guilty while lawyers argued that the criminal involvement was not proved in court. A judge in Merauke rejected the challenge of the legality of arrests of 13 activists, who were arrested without a warrant and tortured during police detention. The police and public prosecutors tend to push for a trial process despite the lack of evidence – a strategy that law enforcement institutions often apply to silence pro-independence activists and government critics.
The shrinking public space in West Papua also hampers a free public discourse about amendments to Law No. 21/2001 on the Special Autonomy for the Papua Province, following an Indonesian parliament debate about revising the Papuan Special Autonomy Law in January 2021. The draft amendments concern Article 76, which regulates the establishment of new autonomy regions, and Article 34(3)e about the allocation of autonomy funds. Notably, the suggested amendments to Article 76 of the law systematically aim to weaken the Papuan provincial parliament mandate (DPRP) and the Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP). Multiple demonstrations against the establishment of new provinces and the Papuan Special Autonomy’s prolongation illustrate a widespread rejection of Jakarta’s plans. The MRP and DPRP have publicly declared their disagreement with the unilateral revision of the Law. A minor political elite and nationalist groups are pushing for a prolongation of special autonomy and Papua Province’s division into five provinces.