Human Rights Update West Papua - 2nd Quarter 2021

Similar to previous reporting periods, human rights statistics between April and June 2021 continue to mirror the effects of the armed conflict and political tensions for Papuan civil society. The number of arbitrary arrests, political and non-political, continue to be high as the police firmly restrict the freedom of peaceful assembly and other civil-political rights. Nevertheless, Papuans voiced their discontent over the Papuan special autonomy and aspirations for self-determination in peaceful demonstrations. Papuan activist and human rights advocate, Victor Yeimo, was arrested in early May 2021 and charged with multiple criminal charges, among them treason. The police accused him of masterminding West Papua-wide protests against racism and civil unrest between August and September 2019. Three out of six reported victims of extra-judicial executions died in the context of security force raids in the Puncak Regency. All were indigenous Papuans. Observers estimate at least 31,833 indigenous Papuans internally displaced in the Puncak Regency due to the armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) and Indonesian security forces. Only a few of them have access to medical treatment and other humanitarian aid.


The armed conflict in Puncak escalated after TPN PB members killed the Papuan intelligence chief on 25 April 2021 and executed two school teachers in mid-May 2021. Following the incident, President Joko Widodo ordered the national police and the military to find and arrest all members of armed criminal groups in West Papua. In late April 2021, joint security forces launched a massive operation in the Puncak Regency, which has reportedly caused the widespread displacement of thousands of indigenous Papuans. On 29 April 2021, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Prof. Mahfud MD, announced that the Indonesian government would categorise armed separatist groups in West Papua - including their associated organisations and individuals - as terrorist organisations. The Papuan Governor and human rights observers criticised the move, arguing that the label narrows space for dialogue, allows authorities to stifle the freedom of expression and perpetuates the cycle of violence in West Papua.

Whilst the conflict in Puncak aggravated, the internet in the regencies Jayapura and Sarmi broke down between 30 April and 8 June 2021. Media observers presume that the disruption was a deliberate measure to hamper the flow of information, as happened in the past. A representative of the government-owned telecommunications company PT Telkom claimed that the disconnection of a submarine cable was responsible for the disruption.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian parliament discussed amendments to the Papuan special autonomy law. It came up with the first draft of the amended law (Rancangan Undang-undang) without prior consultation of the Papuan Peoples Assemblies (MRP & MRPB) and the provincial parliaments in Papua and Papua Barat. In response, the MRP and MRPB filed a complaint about the bill to the constitutional court. Both MRPs consider that Jakarta has violated the procedure for the amendment of the special autonomy law.

A further conflict of interest between Papua and Jakarta arose in late June concerning the temporary replacement of Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe, who has been undergoing medical treatment in Singapore since 9 May 2021. The Ministry for Home Affairs reacted upon Enembe's absence on 24 June 2021. It appointed the Papuan secretary-general, Dance Yulian Flassy, as Enembe's temporary representative. The ministry's intervention challenged Lukas Enembe's decision to appoint the regional secretary general assistant, Dr Muhamad Ridwan Rumasukun, as the new secretary-general of the Papua Province. The West Papuan Council of Churches (WPCC) criticised the ministry's move, saying it is a part of a larger government agenda to carry out divisive politics between Papuans and perpetuate the Special Autonomy Status. In early April, the WPCC had already called upon the Indonesian President to enter into a negotiation with Papuan pro-independence groups to end the long-lasting armed conflict in West Papua.