Military members arrest two Papuans after armed clash in Yahukimo – One TPNPB member killed

Military members arbitrarily arrested Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere while bathing in the Brazza River in Dekai District, Yahukimo Regency, on 22 February 2024. According to the information received, both arrestees are below the age of 18 years. Human rights defenders in West Papua have raised allegations of torture during arrest and concerns regarding further acts of torture during police detention. Photos of the arrest show bleeding cuts on both of Melianus Baye’s arms (see photos below, source: independent HRDs), supporting the allegations of torture during the arrest.

The arrest occurred shortly after the military members killed Mr. Otniel Giban, 20, a member of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), in an armed clash near the Braza River (see video below, source: independent HRDs). The TPNPB later confirmed in a media release that the victim killed was one of their combatants. In the same statement, TPNPB spokesperson, Mr Sebby Sambon, underlined that the two minors arrested are not affiliated with the TPNPB.

The two suspects are detained at the Yahukimo District Police Station (Polres Yahukimo). In a media release to CNN Indonesia, XVII/Cenderawasih Lieutenant Candra Kurniawan confirmed that both suspects had been handed over to the police for interrogation. Police officials stated that the two suspects had been detained as witnesses. However, given the context of the arrest, it is likely that the police will press charges against the minors even though the incriminating evidence for their involvement in the shooting is insufficient for a prosecution. Moreover, it is still being determined whether the police have given access to legal counsel for Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere by a lawyer.

Human Rights Monitor calls for immediate access to legal aid for Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere as required under the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).  According to Article 56(1) KUHAP, “if a suspect or defendant is suspected or charged with a criminal offence punishable by death or a sentence of fifteen years or more or for those who are incapacitated punishable by a sentence of five years or more who do not have their legal counsel, the relevant official at all levels of examination in the judicial process shall be obliged to appoint a legal advisor for them.”

Military members arrest Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere at the Brazza River

This video was allegedly taken during the armed clash with TPNPB fighters, resulting in the death of Mr Otniel Giban (see photos below)

Evidence allegedly found at the shooting location

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Polres Yahukimo (-4.865875524497293, 139.48718210604824)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Pegunungan Province, Yahukimo Regency, Dekai District
total number of victims: two
period of incident: 22.02.2024
perpetrator: police, other security forces
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: indigenous peoples, arbitrary arrest, torture, ill-treatment
Further HRM News: 

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Melianus Bayemaleunknown indigenousarbitrary detention, torture
1Benny Eloperemaleunknownindigenousarbitrary detention, torture