Human Rights Update West Papua - 4th Quarter 2020

Statistical data on extra-judicial killings and torture do not show significant changes throughout the fourth quarter of 2020. Both figures remain high. The majority of extra-judicial killings in West Papua are related to security force raids in the central highlands. The armed conflict entails a new pattern of violations, namely enforced disappearances, which exclusively occur with military incursions.

Human rights defenders have estimated that the armed conflicts in the regencies of Mimika, Intan Jaya and Nduga have resulted in the internal displacement of at least 60,000 persons. The vast majority of them are indigenous Papuans. The local and central government continue to neglect the humanitarian crisis in Papua's central highlands. Hence most IDPs do not have access to food, healthcare, education and other humanitarian services. At the same time, the ongoing security force operations prevent them from returning home.


The number of reported political arrests were slightly lower than in the previous quarter, but is still considerably high with 155 arrests. A growing opposition against special autonomy funding and the commemoration of the "Papuan Independence Day" on 1st December resulted in peaceful demonstrations throughout Indonesia. The police carried out mass arrests – often under the pretext of allegedly violating COVID-19 health protocols.

Law enforcement institutions continue to use treason charges to criminalise activists that organise political activities for West Papua. The transfer of court trials against indigenous Papuans under the excuse of security concerns remains a common strategy among Papuan courts and public prosecutors. Such transfers directly affect trials, as judges outside of West Papua do not comprehend the cultural context and background. The transfers also create barriers for relatives to follow the process. Moreover, they increase the court costs, violating fundamental principles of law enforcement in Indonesia which prescribe court sessions to be held cost-effectively.

The military has initiated internal investigations into multiple cases of human rights violations in Intan Jaya. Human rights defenders and the victim's relatives fear that the initiative is part of the military's strategy to pave the way for impunity among army members. They demand a settlement of the cases through the national human rights mechanisms.