Security forces alleged of arbitrarily arresting residents and burning houses in Dekai, Yahukimo

Joint security forces reportedly raided residential houses near the Kali Bonto Estuary in the district of Dekai, Yahukimo Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province, on 21 August 2023. The raid was carried out in response to an attack against a military post by members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). The attack resulted in the death of one military member. The residents in Kali Bonto were relocated in 2018 due to tribal conflicts. They have experienced recurring acts of intimidation and harassment by security force members since 2021, causing them to live in constant fear.

Reports reveal acts of arbitrary arrests, torture, burning of houses, and killing of livestock during the raid on 21 August 2023. Security force members reportedly burnt twelve residential houses to the ground (see photo on top, source: Suara Papua) and killed livestock. Dozens of people fled their homes to avoid arbitrary arrest. Those detained described being beaten, tied up, and tortured without understanding the reasons behind their arrests. According to information received, dozens of residents were arrested and detained at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Dekai. Later, some of them were transferred to the Yahukimo District Police Station. The police officers failed to show a warrant at the time of arrest.

Mr Yohan Payage and his son, Oska Payage, were reportedly beaten during and after the arrest. Police officers tied their hands and feet. According to Mr Yohan Payage, he and his son were gagged before being able to speak with the officers. They were brought to the Brimob headquarters. Both were separated from the other detainees and subsequently transferred to the Yahukimo Police Station after Mr Payage explained to the officers that he was a tribal chief. Both were released on 24 August 2023.

The Kali Bonto community has called for attention from the local government and the Yahukimo Parliament (DPRD) to prevent civilian victimisation. On 28 August 2023, community members from Kali Bonto came to Kodim 1715 Yahukimo Military Command (see photo below, source: Suara Papua) to demand a guarantee for their safety, calling upon authorities to ensure they would not be arrested if they returned to their homes to pick up personal belongings and valuables they had left behind.


People in West Papua, particularly the indigenous population, face harsh consequences of the armed conflict that has been ongoing for more than 50 years in the region. Security operations against the TPNPB are often accompanied by arbitrary violence against the indigenous population, including house burnings and fear. The situation has led residents in conflict areas to seek refuge and safety at other locations. Observers say that more than 60,000 people in West Papua have been internally displaced due to the armed conflict since 2019.  

Human rights organisations have been raising concerns regarding excessive violence against civilians during security raids across West Papua. Torture, extrajudicial executions, internal displacements, and the destruction of private property, including burning residential houses and killing livestock, often accompany the raids. The same patterns of violations have occurred during similar raids in the regencies Intan Jaya, Puncak, and Pegunungan Bintang.

Most victims during such security raids are indigenous Papuans. The police and military members often stigmatise indigenous villagers as TPNPB members or collaborators. The TPNPB fights consist of armed guerrilla groups across all regencies in West Papua, who fight for the political independence of West Papua from the Republic of Indonesia.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Around Dekai (-4.8593756769409735, 139.48006465581577)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Pegunungan Province, Yahukimo Regency, Dekai District
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 21.08.2023
perpetrator: other security forces
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: arbitrary detention, torture, indigenous peoples, ill-treatment
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Yohan Payagemaleunknownindigenousarbitrary detention, torture
1Oska Payagemaleunknownindigenousarbitrary detention, torture
dozensunknown unknown unknownindigenousarbitrary detention

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