Indonesia: UN experts sound alarm on serious Papua abuses, call for urgent aid

GENEVA (1 March 2022) – UN human rights experts* today expressed serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, citing shocking abuses against indigenous Papuans, including child killings, disappearances, torture and mass displacement of people.

The experts called for urgent humanitarian access to the region and urged the Indonesian Government to conduct full and independent investigations into abuses against the indigenous peoples.

“Between April and November 2021, we have received allegations indicating several instances of extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman treatment and the forced displacement of at least 5,000 indigenous Papuans by security forces,” the experts said.

They said estimates put the overall number of displaced, since the escalation of violence in December 2018, at between 60,000 to 100,000 people.

“The majority of IDPs in West Papua have not returned to their homes due to the heavy security force presence and ongoing armed clashes in the conflict areas,” the experts said. “Some IDPs live in temporary shelters or stay with relatives. Thousands of displaced villagers have fled to the forests where they are exposed to the harsh climate in the highlands without access to food, healthcare, and education facilities.”

Apart from ad hoc aid deliveries, humanitarian relief agencies, including the Red Cross, have had limited or no access to the IDPs, they said. “We are particularly disturbed by reports that humanitarian aid to displaced Papuans is being obstructed by the authorities,” the experts added.

“Severe malnutrition has been reported in some areas with lack of access to adequate and timely food and health services. In several incidents, church workers have been prevented by security forces from visiting villages where IDPs are seeking shelter.

“Unrestricted humanitarian access should be provided immediately to all areas where indigenous Papuans are currently located after being internally displaced. Durable solutions must be sought.”

Since late 2018, the experts have written to the Indonesian Government on a dozen occasions** about numerous alleged incidents. “These cases may represent the tip of the iceberg given that access to the region is severely restricted making it difficult to monitor events on the ground,” they said.

They said the security situation in highland Papua had dramatically deteriorated since the killing of a high-ranking military officer by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) in West Papua on 26 April 2021. The experts pointed to the shooting of two children, aged 2 and 6, on 26 October when bullets pierced their respective homes during a firefight. The 2-year-old later died.

“Urgent action is needed to end ongoing human rights violations against indigenous Papuans,” the experts said, adding independent monitors and journalists must be allowed access to the region.

“Steps should include ensuring all alleged violations receive thorough, prompt and impartial investigations. Investigations must be aimed at ensuring those responsible, including superior officers where relevant, are brought to justice. Crucially lessons must be learned to prevent future violations.”

The experts have again raised their concerns with the Government and they acknowledge the Government sent a reply to the allegations letter AL IDN 11/2021.


**Latest letter AL IDN 11/2021 and previous letters sent to the Government regarding alleged violations in West Papua: IDN 4/2021 (reply 09 Apr 2021), IDN 2/2021 (reply 22 Mar 2021), IDN 4/2020 (reply 15 Sep 2020), IDN 5/2020 (reply 20 Jan 2021), IDN 2/2020 (reply 09 Jul 2020), IDN 7/2019 (12 Sep 2019), IDN 6/2019 (reply 04 Apr 2019), IDN 3/2019 (08 Mar 2019) and IDN 7/2018(14 Dec 2018). Allegations of forced displacement of indigenous were also raised in IDN 1/2020(reply 01 Jul 2020), IDN 8/2019 (reply 21 Nov 2019 and 14 Feb 2020) and IDN 6/2019 (reply 04 Apr 2019).

* The experts: Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that deal with specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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