Police in West Papua prevent commemorations of Human Rights Day – Protesters in Timika and Manokwari face police violence and arbitrary arrests

The Human Rights Day (HRD) is celebrated every year on 10 December. All over the world, people come together in public assemblies and other forms of peaceful action to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1948.

NGOs and human rights institutions organised panel discussions and peaceful assemblies across West Papua. Protests in the towns of Timika and Manokwari were accompanied by arbitrary arrests and violence against the protesters. At least 39 protesters were arrested, and dozens were ill-treated as police officers cracked down on the protests using water cannons, teargas, and batons. The majority of public assemblies on the HRD – such as peaceful protests in the city of Jayapura as well as the regencies Yahukimo and Sorong – were not dispersed by the local police.

The ongoing police repression in West Papua and shrinking democratic space remains a constant driver of conflict in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces. Many Papuans feel like 2nd class citizens whose constitutional rights are no longer guaranteed by the Indonesian authorities.

Manokwari, Papua Barat Province

In the town of Manokwari, a demonstration in commemoration of the HRD led to a confrontation between police and protestors in the Amban area. The police forcefully dispersed the protesters with teargas grenades and water cannons (see photo on top and videos below, source: independent HRDs). Police representatives claimed that stones thrown by the crowd hit two officers. The protesters, Mr Manuel Mirin and Mr Noak Miagoni were arbitrarily detained at the Manokwari City Police headquarters. At least three other protesters were injured due to police violence (see photos below, source: independent HRDs).

The situation became tense as protesters wanted to walk from the main road to the University of Papua (Unipa) Campus to the Papua Barat Provincial Parliament and the Provincial Department for Law and Human Rights. The protestors demanded justice for alleged human rights violations in West Papua, including cases such as the Wasior incident (2001), the Bloody Wamena Case (2004), and other reported abuses in Nduga and Yaukimo Regency emphasizing the importance of an accountability process of the perpetrators. They also voiced aspirations for self-determination and called for the immediate release of political prisoners in West Papua.

Before the demonstration, the Manokwari Police Chief, Commissioner Rivadin Benny Simangunsong, had deployed 150 personnel to secure the protest. Despite tensions and police repression, the crowd persisted near the Unipa Campus, waiting for the release of the detained protesters and the return of a seized motorcycle.

Human rights organisations demanded an internal investigation against police authorities who had given the order to block and disperse the protest in Manokwari. Mr Emanuel Gobay, the director of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), declared, “The Papua Barat Police Chief should immediately initiate a legal process against officers who committed acts of violence during the demonstration on the Human Rights Day for the alleged crime of ill-treatment as stipulated in Article 351 KUHP (Indonesian Criminal Code).”

Case information: https://humanrightsmonitor.org/case/manokwari-papua-barat-province-human-rights-day-10-dec-police-violence-and-arbitrary-arrests/  

Protesters injured as a result of police violence in Manokwari, 10 December 2023

Videos of the protest in Manokwari, 10 December 2023

Photos of the protest in Manokwari, 10 December 2023

Timika, Papua Selatan Province

In Timika, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Timika University Students, the Independent Forum of West Papua Students (FIMWP), and Papuan Voices, all members of the Solidarity Movement Against Investment and Militarism in Papua, came together to commemorate the Human Rights Day.

Police officers reportedly ill-treated protesters while dispersing the demonstration.  At least 37 protesters – including women, children, and one infant – were arbitrarily detained (see photos below, source: independent HRDs). Four protesters, namely Mr Yoel Mayau, Mr Joki Sondegau, Mrs Delmince Tobai, and Mr John Tagi, were reportedly beaten by police officers with rifle butts. They sustained bruises on their heads and bodies.  All protesters were released from detention on the same day.

The Mimika District Police Chief (Kapolres Mimika), Commissioner I Gede Putra, did not respond to questions on the allegations of arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment of protesters raised by Papuan media outlet Jubi.

Table of protesters arrested in Timika on 10 December 2023

1Joki Sondegau20Yon Tagi
2Onan Kobogau21Penias Nawipa
3Jefry Weya22Samuel Degei
4Terianus Weya23Emanuel Degai
5Yosua Madai24Ronius Wandikbo
6Herman Yeimo25Petu Ukago
7Obet Tenoye26Heky Degei
8Longgi Ukago27Yonatan tenoye
9Anamince Pagai28Frans Waine
10Yeskn Boma29Helen Edogai
11Merry Pekey30Marsel Yobe
12Dermince Tobai31Pincen Gobai
13Marike Yobe32Seleni Dou
14Otolince Gobai33Tabias Bagubau
15Agusta Degei34Falen Gobai
16Domika Pakage35Mince Tebai
17Yandeni Degei36Mersel Tebai
18Delson Wandikbo37Infant, name N/A
19Riman Ondowame  

Photos of arrested protesters in Timika, 10 December 2023