The Yahukimo Police are investigating the rape and murder of two Papuan women in a garden area near the Kampung Baru, Dekai District, Papua Pegunungan Province, on 11 October 2023. Both women belonged to an indigenous community of more than 500 people from the Kali Bonto Estuary, Dekai. They have been internally displaced since security forces raided and burnt residential houses on 21 August 2023 in response to an armed attack by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in the Kampung Baru Village.
The perpetrator(s) ambushed Mrs Aminera Kabak and Mrs Riana Ima Selepole in nearby locations at different times, as they wanted to harvest vegetables for their families. According to the information received, he wore a balaclava and tried to rape the victims. They died due to stabbing and slashing wounds they sustained on various body parts. The perpetrator mainly targeted the women’s genital area (see photos below, source: independent HRDs). Both bodies were examined at the Dekai General Hospital. However, the post-mortem examination results were not shared with the relatives as of 20 October 2023. A solidarity group for violence against women filed the case to the Papuan Representative Office of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).
The military has declared the garden area near the Kampung Baru Village a conflict red zone, prohibiting civilians from entering the site. The severe brutality with which the crime was committed and the location raises questions about the identity of the perpetrator(s), who had been hiding in the area since the early morning. According to local informants, male civilians are prohibited from entering the area, where security forces could mistake them for TPNPB members. Only women are allowed to enter the area to harvest sweet potatoes and taro after they have reported to the military.
Despite the risk of being killed, the women went to the gardens because their families lacked sufficient food. The IDPs have not received sufficient humanitarian attention from the local government after security force members reportedly burnt twelve residential houses to the ground and killed the livestock. The people living in the Kali Bonto estuary belong to various indigenous groups. Their livelihood depends on their gardens and livestock. They have been cut off from their lands and been left to themselves since 21 August 2023.
Since then, at least thirteen IDPs have fallen ill, highlighting the health challenges they are currently facing. A one-year-old baby named Yulian Matuan reportedly died on 13 September 2023. Local government representatives have promised to relocate the IDPs for their safety and well-being. However, the authorities have failed to provide the IDPs with sufficient food, forcing them to risk collecting food in their gardens. Despite a visit by local parliament members and several meetings between communal leaders from Kali Bonto and government authorities, the IDPs have not received medical attention as of 15 September 2023.
Chronology of events based on relatives’ testimonies
11 October 2023, Mrs Aminera Kabak left her temporary accommodation at 6:00 am. She walked to the garden to collect vegetables for her family and for sale on the local market. The family’s garden is located near the Kampung Baru Village, an area the military has been heavily monitoring since the TPNPB attack. The way to the garden takes about one hour to walk. Relatives assumed that the murder must have occurred around 10:00 a.m. after Mrs Kabak had finished harvesting the vegetables. Another indigenous woman who found Mrs Kabak’s body at the site of the crime instantly informed her relatives.
Thereupon, Mrs Kabak’s relatives reported the incident to the police. At 1:00 p.m., police officers and relatives found Mrs Kabak’s body and her net bag with the vegetables near their garden. The relatives believe the perpetrator approached the victim from behind and used a tree vine to strangulate her (see photos below, source: independent HRDs). The victim’s hands were tied on the back, and her trousers had been stripped off. The perpetrator used a sharp object to slash and stab the victim’s genitals. The police and relatives brought the body to the General hospital in Dekai for a post-mortem examination.
Mrs Ima Selepole and her child left the temporary shelter in the Dekai district at 7:00 a.m. She wanted to walk to the gardens cultivated by the Yali People to harvest vegetables. The garden is located near the Kampung Baru Village. They reached the garden around 8:00 a.m., as a man wearing long trousers, a black shirt, and a balaclava approached Mrs Selepole and her child.
The man reportedly strangulated Mrs Selepole with a rope and subsequently tried to rape her. As Mrs Selepole physically resisted the assault, the perpetrator took her gardening knife and repeatedly stabbed her on the thigh, the ribs, the head, the hand, and multiple times to the genitals. Witnessing the attack against the mother, Mrs Selepole’s child escaped the crime site and ran back to the family’s shelter to inform the relatives about the ambush.
At 9:00 a.m., Mrs Selepole’s husband and several other community members rushed to the crime site and found his wife lying in a drainage ditch. The men built a carry and brought Mrs Selepole to the General hospital in Dekai, where she received medical treatment. She eventually passed away in the hospital due to the injuries she sustained during the assault.
In recent years, killings accompanied by acts of mutilation against Papuans -including women – have increased significantly in West Papua. Cases of a similar pattern in West Papua have been attributed to the military and the TPNPB. The mutilation cases indicate an aggravation of the armed conflict in West Papua, which has been ongoing for over 50 years.
The most recent case occurred in the Pemebut Village, Puncak Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province, on 3 March 2023. According to information received, joint security forces indiscriminately opened fire at villagers, leaving eight persons injured with bullets. An indigenous woman named Mrs, Tarina Murib was reportedly shot during the raid and died. Villagers claim they found her body beheaded shortly after the raid. The Legal Aid Agency Talenta Keadilan Papua (LBH TKP) has filed a complaint regarding the killing and mutilation of Mrs Tarina to Komnas HAM.
On 22 August 2022, six military members and four civilian perpetrators killed four indigenous Papuans in the town of Timika. The victims had reportedly agreed to buy two firearms from the perpetrators. The perpetrators lured the victims into an ambush, killed them, dismembered the bodies, and disposed the body parts in plastic bags in a nearby river. All perpetrators were arrested and found guilty in a civilian trial and two military tribunals. The sentences ranged between 15 years and life imprisonment.
On 19 July 2022, TPNPB combatants killed and beheaded an Indonesian migrant working as a gold panner in the Awinbon District, Pegunungan Bintang Regency. The TPNPB claimed the victim was a spy.