The last quarter of 2019 was dominated by the aftermath of the Papua-wide anti-racism riots that took place throughout August and September 2019 and the exacerbation of the armed conflict in the central highlands. The trials in relation to the anti-racism riots and the subsequent political prosecutions during the previous quarter have been launched. Some lawyers attempted to raise criminal procedure violations in pre-trial hearings – none of the pre-trial hearings were successful. The statistics clearly reflect the continuing prosecution of political activists, as Government authorities keep on restricting civil society space for peaceful protest, freedom of assembly, media freedom and freedom of expression in West Papua. While the number of arrests have significantly decreased compared to the third quarter, the figure is still considerably high and the main reason is that the 1st December, which many indigenous Papuans regard as the ‘Papuan Independence Day’, was marked by a high number of political arrests and treason charges against indigenous Papuans participating in the commemoration.
The Government deployed additional security forces in the central highlands and launched two operations against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) in the regencies of Lanny Jaya and Intan Jaya in December 2019. Representatives of the police and the Indonesian military (TNI) argue that the security force presence should guarantee safety and order in these regencies. Observations by human rights defenders and local media indicate the opposite. Shortly after the security force deployments, armed clashes occurred in the regencies. They resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples in the areas. The number of indigenous internally displaced persons (IDPs) is currently not known. In Lanny Jaya, the security force raids allegedly caused the deaths of two Papuan men while seven houses were set on fire. The raid in Intan Jaya reportedly proceeded without civilian fatalities. Human rights defenders report that the ongoing military operation in Nduga has cost the lives of 238 indigenous civilians between 4 December 2018 and 31 December 2019 – they were killed or displaced and died due to sickness, malnutrition, hypothermia or exhaustion. All cases of extra-judicial killings throughout the reporting period except one occurred in the context of the armed conflict.