HRM’s Papua Monitor Report for the second quarter of 2023 covers the events that happened from 1 April to 30 June 2023 regarding the conflict situation and human rights in West Papua. Below is a summary of the events.
The human rights statistics on West Papua throughout the reporting period indicate stagnation. The pattern of cases continues to be predominated by violations of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression, torture, ill-treatments, and extra-judicial killings. While the number of victims may significantly vary between incidents, the number of cases shows few deviations. The pattern of enforced disappearance has re-emerged in the reporting period. This violation is closely linked to security raids in remote areas and can therefore be considered as an indicator of aggravating conflict violence.
The police and law enforcement institutions hold on to their strategy to limit the freedom of expression in West Papua, putting restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly and media freedom. Human rights defenders and political activists are subjected to criminalisation and intimidation. Prosecutors use vague legal charges such as Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) in treason and Article 110 KUHP on criminal conspiracy against the state to silence critics. Arrests or harassment by members of the police are often accompanied by acts of ill-treatment and torture against suspects.
Prominent examples of criminalisation against pro-Papua activists are the ongoing trial against Haris Azhar and Fatiah Mulidyanti in Jakarta, or the prosecution of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson, Mr Victor Yeimo. He was charged with treason and criminal conspiracy. On 5 May 2023, judges at the Jayapura District Court sentenced Mr Yeimo to eight months imprisonment for violating Article 155 (1) of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) regarding the act of broadcasting, showing, or pasting writings or paintings in public that contain statements of hostile feelings, hatred, or contempt for the Indonesian government. The high court overruled the verdict in early July arguing that Mr Yeimo was proven guilty of treasonous acts. His sentence was raised to one year. The KNPB is a movement organisation promoting the right to self-determination through peaceful action and remains one of the most frequently targeted organisations in the region.
The aggravating conflict in West Papua continues to have a strong impact on the human rights situation in West Papua throughout the 2nd quarter of 2023. Security forces conducted raids to trace down members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in conflict-affected regencies. The raids in the regencies Yahukimo, Intan Jaya, Lanny Jaya, and Tambrauw were carried out without a warrant. The inhabitants were arbitrarily detained, and dozens were tortured.
The government keeps on deploying additional security force members to West Papua. According to national media sources, at least 4,500 additional security force personnel was deployed to West Papua during the reporting period. Human Rights Monitor (HRM) documented 25 armed attacks and clashes during the 2nd quarter of 2023, reportedly causing 24 fatalities among security forces and 3 civilians.
The Indonesian military appears to increase its presence in conflict areas. A significant part of the deployments was related to the kidnapping of New Zealand Pilot captain Philip Mark Mehrtens. A TPNPB group captured Mr Mehrtens in the Nduga Regency in early February 2023. As of early July 2023, the negotiations about Mr Mehrtens’ release have not brought about progress. The TPNPB has officially withdrawn a death threat against him dated 26 May 2023. However, the group stressed that they will only release Mehrtens under their terms. They demand the withdrawal of troops from Nduga and diplomatic talks with the New Zealand Government under the facilitation of a neutral state party or the United Nations.
HRM received a growing number of data showing military (TNI) members patrolling indigenous houses, visiting schools, and taking over medical responsibilities in remote health centres (Puskesmas & Pustu). This is part of the TNI’s strategy to transform the image of the military among the local population in West Papua. Many indigenous Papuans look back on a history of human rights violations and fear the military.
International human rights observers highlighted the aggravating human rights situation in West Papua at the United Nations. On 5 May 2023, five Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council initiated a communication with the Indonesian government regarding cases of violence, including extrajudicial killings in West Papua.