Multiple indigenous Papuans subjected to intimidation and torture since establishment of new military bases in Tambrauw

  • Print

Human rights defenders have raised allegations on multiple cases of intimidation and violence against indigenous Papuans since two military bases are being built in the regency of Tambrauw, Papua Barat Province. A bystander recorded a video in the village of Orwen, Kwoor district, showing four military members of the Kwoor Sub-District Command (KORAMIL) intimidating and shouting at four indigenous Papuans. Some of the villagers appear not to speak Indonesian. Even though the video does not show acts of physical violence, human rights defenders claim that the military members repeatedly kicked the villagers during the incident. The Head of the Information Department of XVIII Kasuari Military Command, Colonel Andi Gus Wulandri, downplayed the acts as coaching (Bhs Indonesia: ‘pembinaan’). He claimed in an interview with media outlet Jubi that indigenous leaders had asked the soldiers to discipline the four men.

The first acts of intimidation and ill-treatment were already reported in March 2020 after indigenous communities launched a campaign against the construction of the military bases in Tambrauw. On 25 and 26 July 2020, a group of at least eight military members came to the villages Werbes and Werur in the Bikar District. They brought pictures showing a group of students who had participated in the campaign against the military command (see intro image, source Jubi). The soldiers questioned the villagers about the campaign and the whereabouts of the students. They requested their parents to come to the military base for a meeting on 30 July 2020. All interviews were reportedly recorded on video. The villagers understood the visits as an act of intimidation.

On 28 and 29 July 2020, four members of the Kwoor Sub-District Command allegedly tortured four indigenous Papuans in the village of Orwen, Kwoor District. According to information received, three of the four perpetrators were identified as Akmal, Sabrianto and Dedi. The military members were in the area attending a customary reconciliation meeting to settle a dispute that occurred in the village of Kosyefo several months ago. The dispute was successfully resolved. After the meeting, around 1.00 pm, the military members called Neles Yenjau (35), Karlos Yeror (35), Harun Yewen (30) and Piter Yengres (27), forced them to take off their shirt and squat in front of the other villagers. Subsequently, the soldiers shouted at them and kicked each of them three times to the chest and stomach. The torture was meant as an act of punishment for allegedly harassing other villagers while being drunk. One of the villagers reportedly vomited blood after the torture and had to be treated by relatives for several days at home.

Henki Mandacan Kwoor Military Violence CaseOn 29 July 2020, the villagers Soleman Kasi and Hengky Mandacan were tortured by military members after local residents had thrown stones at a COVID-19 control post in the Mubrani district. The day before the incident, military members had dispersed a peaceful protest because the protesters were disrupting the traffic. In response, the villagers demanded the removal of the roadblock at the COVID-19 control, as it also disrupts the traffic. The military members arrested Soleman Kasi and Hengky Mandacan (see image on the right) and repeatedly punched them in the face.

Indigenous Papuans from Tambrauw have been protesting against the presence of military bases in their regency. The Indonesian military (TNI) has been building two military bases in the regency of Tambrauw, Papua Barat Province since September 2019. Local residents claim that military members have pressured them to release 5 hectares of customary land for the construction of a Military District Command (KODIM) and a Military Sub-District Command (KORAMIL) in the Kwoor District. The residents urged the government to improve health care and education in Tambrauw instead of facilitating the establishment of military bases in the regency. Many feared that the presence of the military in the regency will lead to cases of military violence against local residents. According to local informants, the military began with the construction of the bases without consulting the indigenous land rights holders.