Security force crackdown in Wamena responded with an outbreak of ethnic horizontal violence – 11 persons killed, 47 injured, 13 arrested

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

NoNameAgeGenderAdditional information
1Penias Wenda+21 yearsmaleStudent of YPPGI Wamena Senior Highschool, bullet injury on the left thigh
2Gidion Mosip+18 yearsmaleStudent at Yapis Wamena Vocational School, bullet injury near the armpit
3Ekimo Lengka21 yearsmaleBullet injury on the back
4Enegga Wenda+27 yearsmaleFarmer, bullet wound in the waist, projectile exited in the lower back
5Ernius Wakerkwa+20 yearsmaleFarmer, bullet injury on the left hand and the right leg
6Yeri Wenda+18 yearsmaleBullet injury on the right calf
7Ateko Wenda+N/AmaleBullet wound on the left leg
8Fredy Yelipele+13 yearsmaleElementary school student, bullet injury on the left palm
9Kalius Kogoya+29 yearsmaleBullet injury on the right thigh
10Nus Kogoya+24 yearsmaleBullet wound on the right leg, projectile exited calf
11Benar Wenda+N/AmaleBullet wound on the left thigh
12Erius YomanN/AmaleBullet wound on the right hand
13Romi Kogoya+N/AmaleBullet wound on the back
14Detias Wenda+N/AmaleBullet wound on the left and right hand
15Frianus Murib+N/AmaleBullet wound on the left and right leg
16Riko Wenda+N/AmaleBullet wound on the right leg
17Weneluk WakerkwaN/AmaleBullet wound on the right leg

Victims killed during ethnic horizontal violence in response to the crackdown

NoNameAgeGenderAdditional information
1Alberth SitorusN/AmaleEthnic Batak from Northern Sumatera, slashing wounds on the back of the head, multiple arrows stuck in his back
2Ramota Siagian23 yearsmaleEthnic Batak from Northern Sumatera, slashing wound on the back of the head, multiple arrows stuck in his back

Victims killed during the crackdown

1Wais Aspalek
2Feredi Elopere
3Korwa Kogoya
4Semias Yelipele
5Nikos Yanengga
6Fiki Kogoya
7Yan Murib
8Mian Karunggu
9Tepanus Wenda

Persons arrested and detained in response to the outbreak of ethnic horizontal violence

1Yotius Wanimbo
2Sial Pagawak
3Yompi Yelipele
4Hekena Hilapok
5Herman Elopere
6Tinus Kogoya
7Olonu Enumbi
8Mindiler Wenda
9Ruvan Wenda
10Peis Wenda
11Yekson Asso

Videos and photos of security force operation

Joint security force members shooting live ammunition and smoke grenades at the crowd.

Victims injured

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:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
17unknownmaleunknown indigenousill-treatment
11unknown maleunknown indigenousexecution
2unknown, non-Papuan, merchantmaleunknown ill-treatment
13unknownmixed unknownindigenousarbitrary detention