Joint security forces dispersed civil unrest in the Sinakma Village, Wamena Town, Jayawijaya Regency, on 23 February 2023. The unrest was triggered after two non-Papuan truck drivers allegedly harassed a Papuan child. The situation escalated as security force members wanted to mediate between the conflicting parties. Video material and the high number of civilian fatalities strongly indicate that security force members used unnecessary disproportional force to disperse the crowd. Human rights observers demand an independent investigation into the incident.
The number of victims varies among sources. Relatives have called upon human rights NGOs, the media, and authorities to publish the exact number and identities of all victims. They demand justice for the killed victims. According to preliminary information received by the Wamena-based human rights organisation ‘Papuan Foundation for Justice and Human Integrity’ (YKKMP), eleven persons consisting of two migrants and nine indigenous Papuans were killed – either as a result of security force violence or subsequent ethnic horizontal violence against Indonesian migrants (see table below). Forty-seven persons, all of them indigenous Papuans, were injured by bullets during the incident.
CNN Indonesia reported twelve fatalities and 32 persons injured during the incident. Nine-hundred-twenty residents from Wamena reportedly sought shelter at the 1702/Jayawijaya Military District Command in fear of further outbreaks of horizontal violence. Police sources stated that eighteen police officers were injured during the unrest.
The police deployed an additional 100 police mobile brigade (Brimob) special unit personnel to Wamena to control the situation and prevent further violence. On 28 February 2023, hundreds of indigenous Papuans went to the streets to protest against the violent intervention by Indonesian security forces (see videos below). They demanded that all perpetrators must be held accountable.
Representatives of the police and the military declared that both institutions launched internal investigations into the allegations of non-procedural use of firearms during the crowd control operation.
Chronology of events
In the morning of 23 February, a crowd of indigenous Papuans intercepted two non-Papuan truck drivers who had allegedly tried to abduct a Papuan child in the village of Sinakma, Wamena Town, Pegunungan Tengah Province. The argument between the victim’s relatives and a group of migrants quickly drew the attention of residents and bystanders.
The local police chief and several officers reportedly reached the location around 1.00 pm to mediate between the conflicting parties. Witnesses claim that military members in civilian clothing were also present during the mediation process. Around 2.00 pm, the situation gained tension. The alleged victim’s relatives called upon the police to process the two suspects.
According to the police, people began throwing stones at the officers. Two police trucks were demolished. At 2.30 pm, police officers released warning shots using live ammunition before opening fire at the crowd. Military personnel reportedly reached the site at 2.50 pm and began to patrol through Wamena, indiscriminately firing with live ammunition at the crowd (see video and photos below).
Meanwhile, unknown perpetrators had begun setting houses and stores owned by non-Papuans in Sinakma on fire. Thirteen houses and two stores were reportedly destroyed by fire. The police arrested thirteen suspects concerning the unrest (see table below).
On 26 February 2023, two more cases of ethnic horizontal violence against two non-Papuans occurred in two locations in Wamena. The perpetrators used sharp weapons to attack the victims. Both victims sustained slashing wounds on the head (see table and photos below). It must be assumed that the attacks were still related to the outbreak of violence on 23 February.
The security force violence in Wamena is only one in a series of incidents accompanied by extra-judicial killings and dozens of civilians being injured by bullets. Similar incidents have occurred in Dogiyai and Mappi within the past three months. Another incident of this kind occurred in November 2022, again at the Dogiyai Regency.
In all of these cases, the use of excessive force by security force members triggered spontaneous outbreaks of ethnic horizontal violence in which indigenous Papuans attacked Indonesian migrants or burnt down businesses owned by non-Papuans. Statistics illustrate that the victims with bullet injuries during these incidents were almost entirely indigenous Papuans. At the same time, Indonesian migrants became victims of horizontal violence during subsequent attacks on migrant communities during the unrest.
The recent shooting marks the worst since the crackdown and subsequent outbreak of ethnic violence in Wamena in September 2019. According to police reports, 33 persons were killed (25 non-Papuans & 8 Papuans) and 82 persons injured (38 non-Papuans & 44 Papuans) during the unrest. Ten government offices, 351 shops, 15 motorcycles, 100 cars, 27 residential houses and the Mission Market burnt to the ground. The police statistics differ from the data collected by independent observers, according to which the riots cost the lives of 42 persons. Sixteen of them were allegedly ethnic Papuans, all killed with firearms. Indonesian authorities never launched any investigation into the allegations of extra-judicial killings.
Human Rights Monitor understands the outbreaks of unrest and ethnic horizontal violence in response to such incidents due to historically grown injustice and racial discrimination against indigenous Papuans in Indonesia. Recent political decisions regarding the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, economic development policies, and the growing restriction of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces are causing growing disagreement with the central government and the loss of trust in the Indonesian justice system. Many indigenous Papuans feel as 2nd class citizens who can no longer determine their future on their ancestral land.
Victims injured during the crackdown
|1||Penias Wenda+||21 years||male||Student of YPPGI Wamena Senior Highschool, bullet injury on the left thigh|
|2||Gidion Mosip+||18 years||male||Student at Yapis Wamena Vocational School, bullet injury near the armpit|
|3||Ekimo Lengka||21 years||male||Bullet injury on the back|
|4||Enegga Wenda+||27 years||male||Farmer, bullet wound in the waist, projectile exited in the lower back|
|5||Ernius Wakerkwa+||20 years||male||Farmer, bullet injury on the left hand and the right leg|
|6||Yeri Wenda+||18 years||male||Bullet injury on the right calf|
|7||Ateko Wenda+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the left leg|
|8||Fredy Yelipele+||13 years||male||Elementary school student, bullet injury on the left palm|
|9||Kalius Kogoya+||29 years||male||Bullet injury on the right thigh|
|10||Nus Kogoya+||24 years||male||Bullet wound on the right leg, projectile exited calf|
|11||Benar Wenda+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the left thigh|
|12||Erius Yoman||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the right hand|
|13||Romi Kogoya+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the back|
|14||Detias Wenda+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the left and right hand|
|15||Frianus Murib+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the left and right leg|
|16||Riko Wenda+||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the right leg|
|17||Weneluk Wakerkwa||N/A||male||Bullet wound on the right leg|
Victims killed during ethnic horizontal violence in response to the crackdown
|1||Alberth Sitorus||N/A||male||Ethnic Batak from Northern Sumatera, slashing wounds on the back of the head, multiple arrows stuck in his back|
|2||Ramota Siagian||23 years||male||Ethnic Batak from Northern Sumatera, slashing wound on the back of the head, multiple arrows stuck in his back|
Victims killed during the crackdown
Persons arrested and detained in response to the outbreak of ethnic horizontal violence
Videos and photos of security force operation
Victims killed by firearms
Victims killed as a result of ethnic horizontal violence
Burial of nine victims killed during the violence in Wamena
Victims of horizontal violence attacked on 26 February 2023
Public protest in Wamena on 28 February 2023
Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Wamena
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Province, Jayawijaya Regency, Wamena Town
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 23.02.2023-26.02.2023
perpetrator: other security forces
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: torture, ill-treatment, extra-judicial killings, indigenous peoples, arbitrary detention
Further HRM News:
|Number||Name, Details||Gender||Age||Group Affiliation||Violations|
|2||unknown, non-Papuan, merchant||male||unknown||ill-treatment|