Papua Quarterly Report Q1 2024: Unrest and Impunity: Human Rights Abuses Persist

This report details the ongoing human rights crisis in West Papua during the first quarter. While there were some positive developments, such as convictions for police brutality, the overall situation remains grim.


Human rights

The human rights situation in West Papua during the 1st Quarter of 2024 was overshadowed by the release of two videos showing a Papuan man being tortured in the Puncak Regency on 3 February 2023. These videos sparked public outrage and raised questions about military operations in West Papua. It is evident that a significant number of human rights violations, particularly killings and torture, occur during these raids.

The trend of documented cases throughout the 1st Quarter of 2024 continues to show these violations. They have become common as Indonesian security has increased its presence in conflict areas and escalated operations against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). Reports of such operations came from the regencies Puncak, Yahukimo, and Intan Jaya between January and March 2024. Raids in Nduga at the end of March and early April 2024 reportedly involved air raids, possibly part of a larger military effort to free a pilot who had been held hostage by a TPNPB group since February 2023. There was a glimmer of hope when the TPNPB announced the pilot’s release, but the New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens remained in TPNPB custody.

On 8 January 2024, judges at the Jakarta Timur District Court ruled that Indonesian human rights defenders Fatia Maulidyanti and Haris Azhar were acquitted of defamation charges in the trial against the incumbent Minister for Investment and Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. The decision caused celebrations and public appreciation in West Papua. The verdict represents a significant victory for human rights defenders and activists in Indonesia.

However, the struggle against the criminalisation of activists in Indonesia persists. On 1 February 2024, the Jayapura District Court ruled on the case of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Chairman, Mr Agus Kosay, and KNPB Numbay Secretary, Mr Beni Murib, finding them guilty of incitement and the persecution of Mr Ones Kobak on 18 August 2023. Mr Kosay received a sentence of 1 year in prison, while Mr Murib was sentenced to 10 months.

Another legal setback occurred in the trial of two military members responsible for the killing of Mr Eden Babari and Mr Ronny Wandik in the Mimika Regency on 13 April 2020. A Supreme Court verdict overruled the Military Court III-17 Manado court verdict against two of the perpetrators, highlighting the issue of impunity in West Papua. Lieutenant Inf Gabriel Bowie Wijaya’s sentence was reduced from seven to two years while Private Sugi Harnoto’s sentence was reduced from six years to 1,5 years. In a second court process against the two other perpetrators in Denpasar, the Military Oditur III-13 Denpasar prosecutor withdrew the appeal against the ruling, which had acquitted both defendants of all charges.

Legal concerns also apply to cases of land conflict involving indigenous communities. The Tenure Coalition revealed that indigenous communities have lost 8.5 million hectares of land. According to records from the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), this land was seized between 2017 and 2022. The Awyu tribe in South Papua Province is claiming their land rights against a palm oil permit on their indigenous land in the Boven Digoel Regency at court. The Awyu filed a cassation against the Manado Administrative High Court’s decision to the Indonesian Supreme Court. On 1 March 2024, the Manado Court rejected the Awyu people’s appeal regarding the environmental feasibility permit issued to the palm oil company PT Indo Asiana Lestari PT (IAL).

In early February 2024, heavy rain caused landslides in the regencies Intan Jaya and Puncak Jaya, Papua Tengah Province, destroying residential houses, livestock, and gardens. The flash flood in Gurage District, Puncak Jaya Regency, on 3 February 2024, destroyed one bridge and severed road access between Kalome-Tinggi Nambut District and Mulia Town. Additionally, landslides in Wandoga and Yokatapa Villages, Sugapa District, and Intan Jaya Regency on 6 February 2024 washed away gardens and livestock, leaving residents devastated and displaced.


As of April 2024, an estimated minimum of 76,919 people in West Papua, mostly indigenous Papuans, remain internally displaced due to the armed conflict in the region. While some two to three thousand people in the Maybrat Regency have reportedly returned home, new internal displacements have occurred in response to the assassination of a military member in the Paniai Regency on 11 April 2024. The local government facilitated a meeting between IDPs from Maybrat on 11 January 2024, which appeared to have the primary purpose of relocating the IDPs before the election on 11 February 2024 instead of finding a sustainable solution to the IDP crisis.

Human Rights Monitor documented 34 armed attacks and clashes between TPNPB and Indonesian security forces between 1 January and 31 March 2024, resulting in 14 security force members killed and seven injured. Four TPNPB members were killed and three wounded during the same period. Six civilians were killed and ten injured during shootings, raids, and arbitrary acts of violence against individuals by either party. The most armed clashes and attacks throughout the reporting period occurred in the Intan Jaya regency, with 13 reported armed clashes. The Indonesian military launched a more extensive military operation in the Nduga Regency between late March and early April 2024, reportedly involving air raids by combat aircraft, drones, and helicopters.

Political developments

Indonesia conducted its national elections in February 2024. The elections proceeded peacefully, with only a few isolated incidents of violence between supporters. In West Papua, many observers expressed concerns regarding the underrepresentation of indigenous Papuans running for legislative candidacy. This underrepresentation has already become a reality in many local Papuan parliaments, such as in the regencies Sorong, Merauke, and Jayapura – to list only a few examples.

Prabowo Subianto was formally confirmed as Indonesia’s next president in late March 2024. Defence Minister Prabowo and his vice presidential running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, won with a majority of 59% of votes. The change of government under Prabowo is predicted to have negative implications for the general human rights situation in the country, particularly in the context of the armed conflict in West Papua. During the campaigning process, Prabowo restated that the Government should hold on to a security-based approach in West Papua instead of seeking peaceful solutions to the conflict.

Prabowo Subianto is a former member of the Indonesian special forces. He was involved in military operations that were accompanied by human rights violations and atrocities against civilians in West Papua and East Timor. Prabowo will be inaugurated as president in the new capital, Nusantara, on 17 August 2024.


On 8 February 2024, the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), with co-claimant the London Mining Network, filed a lawsuit against the London Metal Exchange (LME or Exchange) at the UK High Court. The organisations argue that the Exchange breaches UK anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime legislation by enabling the global sale of’ dirty metals’.

The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights completed its review of the report submitted by the government of Indonesia and adopted its concluding observations on 1 March 2024. In the concluding observations, the Committee addressed human rights grievances in various fields. The urgent issue of armed conflict-driven internal displacements in the Papuan Provinces was mainly addressed in the section on the rights to physical and mental health.

The UN Human Rights Committee reviewed Indonesia’s report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) at Palais Wilson, Geneva, on 11-12 March 2024. During the review, the HRC questioned the President’s neutrality in the election process, alluding to the decision of the Constitutional Court (MK) regarding changes to the age requirements for presidential candidates (presidential candidates) and vice presidential candidates (vice presidential candidates), which were changed at the “last minute” of registration of presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The concluding observations on Indonesia’s second periodic report, adopted on 28 March 2024, addressed human rights grievances in West Papua in the fields of Impunity and accountability for past human rights violations, Torture, and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, Participation in public affairs, and Rights of minority groups and Indigenous peoples.