Security forces raid villages in Omukia and Gome, Puncak Regency – 3 villagers tortured, one killed

Security forces raided the villages Manggume and Aminggaru, Omukia District, as well as in the villages Yenggernok and Agiyome in the Gome District, following the theft of an automatic firearm by members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) on 1 February 2024. According to information received, on 3 and 4 February 2024, security force members burnt houses in various villages to the ground (see images, source independent HRDs) and arbitrarily tortured villagers.

Reports indicate that security force members carried out a raid in the Eromaga Village, Omukia District, on 3 February 2024, around 10.00 am. Mr Andinus Murib, 21, and Mr Werinus Murib, 19, were covering the roof of a house with straw as the security forces arrived in the village. Residents fled to the forest frightened while Mr Werinus Murib and Mr Andinus Murib were caught on top of the roof construction, unable to flee. They were arrested and taken to a military post in Gome district on 3 February.

The third victim Mr Devius Kogoya, 20, was met by security forces on 3 February around 11.00 am as he was walking with a friend to the Wako Village, Gome District, where they wanted to buy betel nuts. His friend flew the scene, but Mr Kogoya was arrested because he was carrying a machete, a tool used by all Papuans in the highlands for gardening. According to Mr Kogoya the military members collectively punched him during the arrest while tying a plastic rope around his neck and both hands behind his back. He was then brought to a military post in the Gome district.

All three victims were detained separately from each other and tortured by military members at the Gome military post. The military members reportedly applied the same methods of torture to the three arrestees. They were forced to enter a barrel filled with water. Their hands were tied to the back while security force members would take turns to beat, punch, and kick their heads and bodies using bare hands and blunt objects. Military members also used their knives to stab and slash the victims. Witnesses reportedly saw joint security forces tying Mr Werinus Murib’s feet to a car and dragging him for about one kilometre.

According to one of the victims, the military commander arrived at the site and put three weapons on the ground. He reportedly asked Mr Kogoya to admit that the weapons belonged to the arrestees. Mr Kogoya twice replied that he did not know these weapons and that the weapons did not belong to him. Thereupon, military members brought him to another post near the Ilaga School of Excellence, where he was tortured again. Military members kicked him four times to the head until Mr Kogoya fainted. He gained consciousness again at the Ilaga hospital.

The military members conceded that the three men were taken to the general hospital in Ilaga (RSUD Puncak) for medical treatment on 3 February. Mr Werinus Murib died on the way to the hospital due to the injuries he sustained as a result of the torture. His body was cremated in the late afternoon of 3 February 2024.

Police interrogations of Mr Devius Kogoya and Mr Andinus Murib, which took place at some point between 3 and 5 February, did not reveal incriminating evidence for their involvement in a criminal act. Accordingly, the police did not press criminal charges against Mr Kogoya and Mr Murib.

On 5 February 2024, military members suggested transferring both patients from the hospital in Ilaga to the town of Timika, Mimika Regency, where the hospital is better equipped. However, the relatives rejected the offer. On 7 February 2024, the relatives brought Mr Murib and Mr Kogoya from the hospital back to the village. They treated them with traditional medicine because they feared further violence or criminalisation by the authorities.

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The pattern of attacks involving killings, torture, the destruction of houses, and the killing of livestock was also observed in the regencies Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Pegunungan Bintang, all located in the central highlands. This pattern indicates that these procedures are part of the security forces’ counterinsurgency strategy against guerrilla fighters. Armed resistance members hide among civilians and need the villages to supply their members with food and other essentials. The fighters are indigenous locals. Many are related to civilians living in the conflict areas. However, the presence of combatants among civilians is not sufficient reason to justify indiscriminate attacks directed against civilian settlements. Particularly in the case of air raids against small villages, a clear separation between civilians and targets can no longer be guaranteed. Strategies involving the deliberate destruction of civilian settlements and livestock cannot be justified under international law.

The use of extra-judicial execution, torture, and forced displacements during such raids amount to crimes against humanity as defined under the Rome Statue. While Indonesia has not yet been willing to become a party to the Rome Statute, the definitions provided in it are internationally recognised legal norms. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) into allegations of crimes against humanity is necessary and mandated by Indonesian law to reveal command structures, determine who authorised the attacks, and what security force units carried out the raids.

Devastated and burnt houses during the raid in Puncak Regency, Papua Tengah Province, on 3 and 4 February 2023