Human rights in Indonesia under review at the UPR - Eight countries address human rights situation in West Papua

  • Print

On 3rd May 2017, the human rights situation in Indonesia was reviewed for the 3rd time as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. This review was significantly different from previous reviews: Past Indonesian UPR delegations of 2008 and 2012 had tried to pull focus from the human rights situation in West Papua by addressing human rights issues of national relevance, such as the freedom of belief or migrant workers' rights. For the 2017 review, the Indonesian delegation had chosen a different strategy, by providing information on various state efforts to address the human rights situation in West Papua. At the same time, one could observe the general trend that state parties prioritized recommendations referring to national issues, such as the protection from discrimination of women, LGBTI persons (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Inter-sex), religious minorities and people living with disabilities, as well as the abolishment of the death penalty during this third review.

Read more about West Papua at UN Human Rights Mechanisms

Questions, Statements & Recommendations regarding Human Rights in West Papua

During the 3rd cycle of Indonesia's Universal Periodic Review, nine countries - namely Mexico,  Australia,  Austria,  Switzerland,  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America,  Netherlands,  Germany and New Zealand -  addressed the human rights situation in West Papua. Concerns regarding human rights violations in the provinces Papua and Papua Barat were either expressed through questions to the delegation of Indonesia, or statements and recommendations during the review. Major issues which were brought forward by country delegations referred to the deterioration of the freedom of expression and assembly, the protection of human rights defenders, widespread impunity, protection of minority rights such as women and indigenous peoples and the opening of West Papua to foreign journalists.

Four recommendations with a particular focus on the human rights situation in West Papua, which were formulated by the delegations of Mexico, New Zealand, Germany and Australia have been examined by Indonesia and enjoy the county's support. The following paragraph lists statements, recommendation and questions with particular focus on the human rights situation in West Papua:

  • "Extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to visit Indonesia, including Papua, in line with the opening of Indonesia to collaborate with special procedures." (Mexico)
  • "How does Indonesia ensure that human rights defenders are protected and allowed to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation or harassment? What measures have been taken to cease intimidation or repression against human rights defenders, journalists and NGOs including in West Papua?" (Mexico)
  • "We welcome Indonesia’s demonstrated commitment to economic development in the Papua provinces and recent efforts to investigate human rights cases there. Australia recommends Indonesia finalize the investigation of all human rights cases in Papua." (Australia)
  • "Finalize the investigation of all human rights cases in Papua" (Australia);
  • "Austria remains however concerned about the reports and findings of UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures as well as CSOs which highlight various human rights issues in the country, including […] restrictions to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, [...] lack of accountability for human rights violations committed by security forces in Papua and violence against women including domestic violence." (Austria)
  • "The  United  States  of  America  expressed  concern  about,  inter  alia,  the  lack  of  an accountability framework for abuses by the military and police and restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, including in Papua and West Papua." (United States of America)
  • "What progress has the Government of Indonesia made in implementing its plan announced by the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in May and October 2016 to investigate and address human rights violations in Papua such as the Paniai, Wasior and Wamena incidents in order to end impunity and guarantee effective prosecution of human rights violations?" (Switzerland)
  • "What progress has been made by the Government of Indonesia with regards to allowing free access for foreign journalists to Papua since President Jokowi announced the opening of Papua to foreign journalists in 2015?" (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
  • "We welcome the policy of the Government of Indonesia to increasingly focus on the eastern part of Indonesia, and the frequent visits of President Joko Widodo to, among others, Papua. Can you elaborate what have been the results in the field of human rights of these efforts?" (Netherlands)
  • "Improve training and administrative instructions for police and local authorities to ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is universally respected, including in the Provinces of Papua and West Papua." (Germany)
  • "Which measures were taken to improve the working conditions of journalists working on human rights related issues, and to lift restrictions on reporting on issues affecting West Papua, including the announcement to allow access to foreign journalists to West Papua?" (Germany)
  • "What progress has been made with regards to the plan to resolve past cases of human rights violations in Papua, which was announced by the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in May 2016?" (Germany)
  • "Ensure human rights obligations in Papua are upheld, respected and promoted, including freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the rights of women and minorities" (New Zealand)

Statements & Recommendations with relevance for the Human Rights Context in West Papua

Various countries made recommendations for the overall improvement of human rights in Indonesia, which are relevant for the peculiar human rights situation in West Papua, e.g. recommendations referring to the eradication of torture and impunity, or the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

Multiple states recommended the accession or ratification of additional international human rights treaties. In consideration of the human rights situation in West Papua, the most important recommended treaties for signature were the Rome Statute of the  International Criminal Code (ICC), the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (OP-CAT), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) and the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Armenia was the only country recommending the ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as well as the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Several countries suggested Indonesia to offer standing invitations to special procedures holders, among them the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Many recommendations referred to the improvement of the Indonesian justice system with a focus on repealing or reviewing those laws and by-laws with a strong tendency to interfere with the fulfilment of human rights. Multiple recommendations encouraged Indonesia to accelerate its effort to review the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP). A number of recommendations suggested to introduce acts of torture into the criminal code in accordance with binding ratified human rights treaties as one step to fight impunity amongst police and military officers. Germany and the United States of America expressed their concerns over the Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code as they are being used to restrict the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Several countries asked Indonesia to protect and respect the freedom of expression, opinion and assembly in all parts of the countries.

A third category of recommendations suggested the protection of vulnerable groups, facing a particular high risk of assault, discrimination and criminalization. In this respect, various states recommended to the Indonesian government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists in law and practice. Multiple states suggested Indonesia to combat harmful traditional practices against women and children. In the particular field of  indigenous peoples' rights, several recommendations asked Indonesia to strengthen its efforts in respecting and acknowledging indigenous communities' rights to customary land and resources.

Not all of these recommendations enjoyed the country's support. However, Indonesia will provide responses to such recommendations due to the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2017. Among these were all recommendations suggesting the accession or ratification of the ICC, OP-CAT, ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as well as the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Further recommendations that did not enjoy Indonesia's direct support were those related to the improvement of the Indonesian justice system as well as recommendations demanding legal measures against harmful traditional practices against women and children.

Indonesia reports Human Rights Progress since 2012

The UPR of Indonesia was launched with a presentation of the national report by the Indonesian delegation, which was headed by minister of foreign affairs, Mrs. Retno Marsudi and minister for law and human rights, Mr. Yasonna Laoly. In its national report the Indonesian delegation emphasized the existing human rights challenge in relation to its heterogeneous population with more than 300 ethnic groups. According to the delegation, continuous improvements of the human rights situation in Indonesia would be implemented through a national action plan between 2015 – 2019 with a particular focus on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. The foreign affairs minister further stated that the protection and promotion of human rights in Indonesia was guaranteed by multiple national human rights mechanisms and institutions.

Apart from national efforts in the field of human rights, minister Marsudi elaborated that Indonesia had cooperated with various UN human rights mechanisms throughout the past five years, such as the special procedures holder on adequate housing and the special procedures holder for the right to health, which visited various parts of Indonesia including Papua province. The delegation also stressed President Joko Widodo's efforts in ensuring economic development and social welfare in all parts of Indonesia through provision of health care and education services for all population segments. Retno Marsudi claimed that the government had distributed family welfare cards, smart cards as well as health cards and introduced a health insurance scheme in 2014.

In its presentation, the delegation also spoke about particular human rights improvements in its easternmost provinces Papua and Papua Barat. In this particular regard, Marsudi stated that the Indonesian president Joko Widodo himself had repeatedly visited the province in order to monitor development projects and enter into direct dialogue with the Papuan people. She claimed that the prosperity of Papuan people is being increased through the acceleration of projects in the field of infra-structure and economic development. According to Marsudi, approximately 2.8 million residents in Papua Province had received health cards, while 936.000 students had been supported through the government's SMART education program. The delegation further mentioned the Trans-Papua Road from Merauke to Sorong with an entire length of 4.325 km as part of the government's effort to expand the infrastructure in West Papua.

The delegation further asserted that the government had allegedly addressed past human rights abuses in West Papua, mentioning the establishment of an integrated team in 2016. Marsudi explained that the team was set up to investigate human rights abuses under the lead of the Minister for internal, legal and security affairs and the national Human rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM). According to this ad-hoc team, only three out of twelve investigated cases between 1996 and 2014 – namely the cases in Wasior, Wamena, and Paniai – were identified as serious human rights violations which would be processed by KOMNAS HAM and the General Attorney. Marsudi claimed that the remaining nine investigated cases were of pure criminal nature and will be prosecuted by the Papuan Regional Police (POLDA Papua) as the responsible state institution in charge. However, it is interesting that the minister for law and human rights in his subsequent presentation stated that his government supports the settlement of past human rights violations through non-legal and reconciliatory means, making it questionable whether the perpetrators of past abuses will ever be brought to justice.

Retno Marsudi also talked about the alleged opening of West Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations. According to government data, 90 International organisations and CSOs had visited Papua between 2012 and 2016. Marsudi further elaborated that 39 foreign journalists had allegedly come to West Papua in 2015, resembling an increase of 41% in comparison to 2014. Mr. Yasonna Laoly later on asserted that the Indonesian Government was respecting and protecting media freedom as well as related freedoms like the freedom of expression and the freedom of opinion allover the country, including Papua province. In this respect, he claimed that 190 demonstrations had taken place throughout 2015. In addition, a current revision of the National Penal Code by respective legislative bodies was supposedly going to strengthen civil and political rights, so Laoly. In relation to the situation of indigenous peoples in Indonesia, the delegation referred to the presidents effort to introduce a normative framework for the recognition of indigenous land rights, which was currently in the making.

Achievements and Failures in addressing human rights issues in West Papua since the UPR in 2012

During the 3rd cycle of its UPR review, the Indonesian delegation reported a large number of alleged achievements in the protection and promotion of human rights in West Papua. However, the fact that various recommendations of the 2nd UPR cycle were re-issued during the 3rd cycle already indicates that most achievements did not reflect the situation on the ground.

Development of infrastructure and the Healthcare and Education System

In the context of West Papua, the Indonesian government has followed a development approach which emphasizes physical development with a particular focus on economic development. The government’s plans for the development of infrastructure are supposed to improve the local economy, reduce the price of basic goods and increase access to remote areas of West Papua. The reality has shown that large scale government project like the MIFEE project may lead to human rights violations and the marginalization of indigenous communities in West Papua. The Trans-Papua Road for instance, is also part of such a government-driven development agenda. Parts of the duty and authority for the completion of the road were handed over to the Indonesian military, whereas the rest of the road system will be established under the responsibility of the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works. Violence related to land rights is expected, particularly in indigenous communities which reject the government’s plans. The involvement of the Indonesian military in such development projects is widely criticized amongst civil society in West Papua, because military members continue to be responsible for numerous human rights violations in West Papau.

The government's efforts to provide health care and education services have revealed some positive results. Data on education from 2015 and 2016 indicates that the government has put some efforts into improving the physical infrastructure of the education system in West Papua. Local government education agencies have increased the number of teachers in both provinces, causing pupil-teacher ratios to drop to an average of 22 primary school students per teacher. However, the allocation of funds for education by provincial governments is still less than one percent of the special autonomy fund. Both provinces keep struggling with the same issues that have already been identified for many years, such as the lack of a special curriculum adapted to the indigenous culture of West Papua, inadequate competencies and high absentee rates amongst teachers. Furthermore, the quality and availability of educational facilities varies significantly between different regions and among different levels of the education system.

In the field of health care, the Indonesian government has issued Presidential Regulation No. 19 / 2016 regarding the Second Amendment to Presidential Regulation No. 12 / 2013 on the Establishment of Health Insurances, as it was mentioned in Indonesia's National UPR Report. This policy constitutes the legal foundation for the government's health insurance program (BPJS) which is ensuring access to health services. It is expected to improve the general quality of health services for all people in Indonesia. The Health care system in West Papua is supposed to provide free basic services for the prevention and treatment of sicknesses to indigenous Papuans. However, such programs are rare, in particular in rural areas, coastal areas, islands and the highlands of West Papua. Other problems are the shortage of medical personnel, mismanagement, poor accountability, and a culture of mistrust between indigenous people in West Papua and the government. So far the government has not come up with effective strategies to address the health problems associated with maternal mortality, infant mortality, child mortality and malnutrition prevalence. Moreover, the prevalence of HIV / AIDS in the provinces Papua and Papua Barat are still amongst the highest in Indonesia (Electronic data source: In some rural areas of public health programs, health centers (Puskesmas), and hospitals have been entirely abandoned. Most doctors, nurses, and midwives work in urban areas, where the government is still able to process salaries and allowances. Considering the number of 20 General Hospitals in comparison with the 28 regencies and one municipalities in the province of Papua, it becomes obvious that in average nine regencies in the province do not have a general hospital.

Revision of Penal Code (KUHP)

During the presentation of its national report, the minister of Law and Human Rights underlined Indonesia's effort to review the national penal code in accordance with international human rights treaties. In fact, the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) is deliberating a draft Penal Code which will substitute the existing one. However, to Papuans’ and West Papuan supporters’ dismay, the draft contains treason provisions that are as vague as what the Penal Code has at the moment. The draft revision also carries a minimum imprisonment of 5 years – in addition to the existing life and maximum of 20 years of imprisonments – for anyone violating the provision equivalent to Article 106 (To access the draft Penal Code in Indonesian, visit Article 223 of the draft Penal Code is equivalent to Article 160 of the existing Penal Code). Similarly, the draft Penal Code does not sign any meaningful improvement on incitement provisions, one of which is currently set out in Article 160 of the Penal Code. Like the treason provisions, Article 160 is overwhelmingly vague – the Penal Code offers little guidance what incitement means. Like the treason provisions, Article 160 is often used by the Indonesian authorities to restrain Papuans from expressing their supports for West Papua independence. At times, if not often, Article 160 is used together with the treason provisions as grounds for arrest and prosecution. The provision in the draft Penal Code equivalent to Article 160 carries a lighter penalty: a maximum punishment of four – as opposed to six – years imprisonment (See Article 290 of the draft Penal Code). A closer look, however, reveals that the incitement provision in the draft Penal Code is not much of an improvement.

In addition to ensuring that treason and incitement provisions are revised (or formulated) according to international human rights standards, efforts to reform the Penal Code should be focused on the criminalization of torture. Torture is still commonly experienced by Papuans arrested and detained by the authorities. Most of the time, public officials engaging in torture and ill-treatment are not criminally punished and only subjected to administrative punishment for breaching their code of conduct. The impunity is in part attributed to the fact that torture, as defined under the UN Convention against Torture, is not a crime under the existing Indonesian Penal Code. The draft Penal Code being deliberated by the House of Representatives has a provision on torture almost identical to that of the UN Convention (See Article 669 of the draft Penal Code). It carries a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment. However, the provision also carries a minimum punishment of three years imprisonment which, for a crime as grave as torture, is arguably lenient. While the draft Penal Code is being deliberated by the DPR, there have been no signs of the Government and the DPR taking any meaningful steps to revise the Criminal Procedure Code.

Settlement of Past Human Rights Violations and Combating Impunity

In 2016, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs formed a team to investigate past and recent cases of human rights violations in West Papua, as explained by Foreign Affairs Minister during the UPR presentation of the national report. he formation of the team was severely criticized and does not meet general human rights criteria: high ranking police and military members were appointed to the team whilst victims and their families were excluded from compensation and participation. Furthermore, the establishment of this team was widely considered to weaken the position of the National Commission on Human Rights, which has the legal mandate to investigate and process human rights cases in Indonesia. Many Papuan intellectuals, human rights defenders and victims hold the position that the establishment of this team has no legal foundation and is contrary to Law No. 39 / 1999 on Human Rights and Law No. 26 Year 2000 on Human Rights Courts.

Moreover, minister for law and human rights, Mr. Yasonna Laoly, stated during the presentation of the national report that the government supports a non-judicial approach for the settlement of past human rights violations in the country. It remains highly unclear how this approach is in line with the foreign affairs minister's previous statement, that the past human rights violations in West Papua will be processed by KOMNAS HAM and the General Attorney, since this procedure would result in the legal prosecution of perpetrators at the national human rights court in Makassar.

The majority of extra-judicial and arbitrary executions remain not investigated by the national human rights commission KOMNAS HAM RI or legally processed by the national human rights court (Pengadilan HAM). This is related to its mandate, stating that only cases which have been part of a systematic, structured and widespread attack against civilians may be processed. This definition is stated in article 9 of regulation UU No. 26 tahun 2000 tentang pengadilan Hak Asasi Manusia. For this reason, cases of extra-judicial and arbitrary executions by police members are regarded as common criminal offenses and are therefore investigated by the police itself. In this regard it is interesting that the Foreign Affairs Minister classified nine of the investigated cases as criminal offenses during the UPR presentation. She further stated that these cases will be prosecuted through the respective law enforcement institutions such as the Papuan Regional Police (POLDA Papua). It is very unlikely that these cases will result in a law enforcement process because the investigations may not be considered as independent and impartial since security force perpetrators enjoy the protection of their respective state agencies.

Opening of West Papua

The minster for foreign affair. Mrs. Retno Marsudi provided various numbers to validate the opening of West Papua for foreign journalists and CSOs. According to government figures, 90 International organisations and CSOs had visited Papua since 2012. Furthermore, 39 foreign journalists had come to West Papua in 2015, which equals an increase of 41% in comparison to 2014. However, these figures have not been validated or elaborated, e.g. by stating the names of visiting organisations or media outlets taking coverage in West Papua. In fact, the figures are not reflecting the reality on the ground. Throughout 2015 and 2016, authorities used various repressive strategies against foreign journalists including intimidation, bureaucratic obstruction  and physical attacks to prevent journalists from covering politically sensitive events. the Indonesian government required foreign journalists to fulfill a large number of requirements. The so called “clearing house process” was supervised by the Indonesian ministry of foreign affairs. The mandatory bureaucratic procedures were not transparent and involved 18 working units from 12 ministries, including intelligence agencies from the military and the police. The requirements included detailed information on persons, to be interviewed, time schedules and locations. Moreover, government agencies made it clear that reporting on human rights-related or political issues in West Papua was prohibited (Human Rights Watch, November 2015: Something To Hide? Indonesia's Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua, p. 14f).

President Joko Widodo announced the opening of West Papua during his official speech on Indonesia's Independence Day on the 14th August 2015 (Detik, 14.08.2015: Ini Pidato Kenegaraan Perdana Presiden Jokowi Selengkapnya, e-document: President Joko Widodo’s statement was not elaborated through a presidential instruction, which may be a major reason for the ongoing confusion regarding the implementation of President Widodo’s statement. Contradictory information given by multiple state representatives and security force commanders indicate a lack of coherent and unified government policy to repeal restrictions on foreign media access to West Papua. The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mr. Tedjo Edhie Purdijatno stated on the 11th May 2015 that foreign correspondents would continue to require special access permits to Papua and that foreign journalists working in the region would be screened. On the 19th May 2015, the commander of Indonesia's armed forces, General Moeldoko, publicly stated that foreign journalists still need access permits for West Papua from the clearing house. On the 26th May Minister of Defence, Ryamizard Ryacudu said that foreign media access to West Papua was conditional on an obligation to produce “good reports”, that would not contradict the government's position regarding the Papua conflict.

In contrast to the previous statements, the general director of information in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Esti Andayani, said during an interview with Radio New Zealand on the 17th June 2015, that the government had abolished the clearing house system, without providing any clear information on the new procedures which had replaced the former control mechanism. She further stated that foreign journalists would still be screened with regard to the fulfillment of visa requirements. The Foreign Ministry emphasized that all foreigners including foreign correspondents would still need a permission letter (surat jalan) from the police intelligence unit, if they intend to travel to West Papua (Human Rights Watch, November 2015: Something To Hide? Indonesia's Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua, p. 24f). In fact, the change in bureaucratic procedure had little impact on the situation in the field. If foreign journalists receive permission to cover West Papua, they still face obstructions by local government agencies and strict surveillance by the local police and intelligence. Persons interviewed by foreign journalists are at risk  of being  interrogated, arrested and prosecuted, particularly if journalistic coverage includes political and human rights-related issues.
Promotion and Protection of the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly

During the presentation of the national report, Indonesia's minster for law and human rights stated that the number of 190 demonstrations throughout 2015 in Papua Province was a proof that the government would hold up to its human rights obligations with regard to freedom of assembly, expression and opinion in West Papua. In fact, the Indonesian  government continues to place strong restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in West Papua, particularly with regard to demonstrations on politically sensitive issues, but also to Papua-related political demonstrations outside of the provinces Papua and Papua Barat. Between 2012 and July 2016 the number of political arrests has drastically increased from 223 arrests in 2012, to 548 arrests in 2013 and to 1083 arrests in 2015. Out of these 1083 political arrests in 2015, 1015  were related to participation or engagement in peaceful demonstrations. In 2016 the number of arrests related to peaceful assembly peaked at a record high of 5361 between 01 January and 20 December 2016. Indonesian law, guarantees freedom of assembly for demonstrations. It requires demonstrators to inform the police beforehand but does not require a permit from the police. However, in West Papua, the police usually uses the lack of a “police acknowledgement letter” (“Surat Tanda Terima Pemberitahuan” STTP) in response to a “notification letter for a demonstration” as reason to declare demonstrations illegal. Human rights activists reported a large number of cases, in which the police did not issue a “police acknowledgement letter” (STTP) in order to prevent particular Papuan civil society groups from the enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression. If demonstrations take place without the ”acknowledgement letter”, security forces frequently disperse protests with the reason that the organizing entity did not receive the STTP. Throughout the past two years, police officers repeatedly refused to issue approval letters to Papuan civil society groups.

On the 1st July 2016, the Papuan Regional Police (POLDA Papua) issued an edict (Maklumat) to limit democratic space and freedom of expression for indigenous Papuans. The edict categorizes various Papuan civil society organizations as separatist organizations in an attempt to criminalize members and supporters of the listed groups (Nabire.Net, 04.07.2016: Inilah Isi Maklumat Kapolda Papua Tentang Penyampaian Pendapat Di Muka Umum Yang Resmi Berlaku 1 Juli 2016,  Link: POLDA Papua listed the following organizations: Komite Nasional Papua Barat (KNPB), Parlemen Rakyat Daerah (PRD), Negara Republik Federal Papua Barat (NRFPB), Parlemen Nasional West Papua (PNWP), Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM), Tentara Pembebasan Nasional (TPN)  and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The edict states that anyone who participates in a demonstration with separatist content may be charged with treason and will receive a criminal record in cases where there is a legal process. The edict has far reaching consequences, particularly for high school or university students, where a criminal record may seriously limit future opportunities with regard to education and employment. The aggravation of the government's security policy in West Papua has affected Papuan student movements such as the Alliance of Papuan University Students (AMP) and the Movement for University Students and the Papuan People (GEMPAR), whose supporters and leaders have repeatedly become victims of intimidation and arrest.

Acknowledgement of customary land rights

Minister for law and human rights "praised" the government's commitment in the legal acknowledgement of customary communities and indigenous peoples' land rights. In the context of West Papua, the government had legally approved 3,545 hectares collectively owned customary land to the Knasaimos tribe in Sorong Selatan Regency. This was the first time Indonesia’s national ‘Village Forest’ scheme has been implemented in West Papua and must therefore be regarded as a great success in the long struggle for the acknowledgement of indigenous land rights in Indonesia. This achievement might become a great future opportunity for indigenous communities in West Papua, whose legal stance during the past decades was considerably weak.

Under the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, if a company wishes to use land on which indigenous people hold a collective title (ulayat rights), the land can only be surrendered after agreement is reached in a musyawarah, or decision-making council. Although companies in general do reach some arrangement with certain communities, the procedure often falls far short of standards of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Major issues in relation to private companies are broken promises, fraud, as well as inadequate compensation payments for land. Indigenous land rights are frequently ignored during the establishment of new plantations. Although some indigenous groups have successfully resisted estate plans, the majority of indigenous communities which  come to an agreement with investors have collected multiple bitter experiences. They have been intimidated, manipulated by fast cash payments and other strategies, or have become victims of fraud due to lack of legal understanding and professional assistance by lawyers.

The presence of private companies in certain areas is often facilitated by the government as part of a larger development plan. According to the government's “Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development” (MP3EI), West Papua is supposed to become Indonesia's center of production for food, fishery, energy and national mining. The term MP3EI was introduced under the former president Susilo Bambang Yudoyono (SBY). Jokowi's government doesn't use the term, probably because many of the social movements which supported him had campaigned against the MP3EI in 2014. However, Jokowi's policies for economic development are broadly similar to those by the former president SBY. The recent past has shown that the program has caused lots of damage in West Papua. There are a number of issues related to the development of industrial estates and agricultural projects in West Papua. Amongst the most important stakeholders in terms of land grabbing are the police and military. Both state institutions often play an additional role as security personnel for private companies. Other stakeholders are companies, which commonly lack respect for the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

Read more about West Papua at UN Human Rights Mechanisms