Papua Quarterly Report Q4: Rising public activism met with force: Torture, ill-treatment and continued impunity

HRM’s Papua Monitor Report for the fourth quarter of 2023 covers the events that happened from 1 October to 31 December 2023 regarding the conflict situation and human rights violations in West Papua. Below is a summary of the events.

Human rights

Human rights statistics indicate an increase in public political activity through the 4th quarter of 2023. Activists and Papuan solidarity groups carried out peaceful demonstrations and worship ceremonies in commemoration of Human Rights Day on 10 December, and the 1st December, which marks a historic date for many Papuans. The Morning Star Flag, which many Papuans consider the most important symbol of cultural identity, was first raised on the 1st of December 1961, before the territory came under the administration of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on 1 October 1962. Security forces dispersed most of the protests and reportedly ill-treated protesters.

The police continue to target members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). Between October and December 2023, various KNPB activists were being tried in criminal proceedings or awaiting trial. Several KNPB members were arrested in relation to the killing of Papuan activist, Mrs Michelle Kurisi.  Mr Agus Kosay, KNPB Chairman, and KNPB Numbay Secretary, Mr Beny Murib, were both named suspects in a case related to incitement and physical assault that occurred on 18 August 2023, in Jayapura. The trial was launched at the Jayapura District Court on 23 November 2023. Another KNPB activist, Mr Kamat, was reported suffering from a deteriorating health condition while incarcerated in the city of Sorong, Papua Barat Daya Province. Lawyers succeeded in arranging medical treatment for him.

West Papua witnessed ongoing human rights violations during the reporting period. Torture, ill-treatment, extra-judicial killings, and enforced disappearances occurred, particularly in conflict zones. Security forces conducted frequent raids in indigenous villages, often shortly after clashes with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). Human rights observers, victims, and their families criticized the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) for its inaction. In Mappi, victim solidarity groups demanded an investigation into the shooting of nine civilians by Komnas HAM. After ten months, neither the police nor Komnas HAM conducted a thorough investigation into the incident, raising concerns about justice and accountability. In October 2023, Komnas HAM members went to the Dogiyai Regency to investigate a series of violations there.

Despite the ongoing human rights crisis in West Papua, the Government’s efforts to address the situation appear weak and meaningless. A meeting between Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin and a group of human rights defenders and Papuan businessmen in Papua on 10 October 2023 drew criticism for being one-sided and failing to address the root issues of human rights violations in the region. The meeting excluded a broader representation of stakeholders, including various human rights activists, churches, NGOs, and victims’ families. On 13 November 2023, the Non-Judicial Settlement Team for Past Gross Human Rights Violations (PPHAM) held its fourth meeting in Wamena without involving the victims’ families of human rights violations in Wamena.

However, the reporting period was also marked by several positive human rights developments. In Manokwari, five police officers were sentenced to six months in prison for ill-treating and extorting Mr Ahmad Widodo in the town of Manokwari, Papua Barat Province. The judges found the officers guilty of committing theft with violence under aggravating circumstances. Meanwhile, The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the cassation filed by four TNI soldiers accused of the murder and mutilation of four Nduga residents in Mimika Regency.

In late October 2023, residents in Amuma District faced hunger and starvation due to crop failure, and 11 people, including infants and adults, died due to famine and a lack of food. The Yahukimo Regency Government declared a Disaster Emergency Response status in response to the famine crisis and provided humanitarian support to affected communities.


Most incidents of armed violence during the 4th quarter of 2023 were reported from the regencies Nduga, Maybrat, Intan Jaya, Yahukimo, and Puncak. According to data compiled by human rights defenders in various regencies across West Papua, a total of 76,228 people, most of them indigenous Papuans, remain internally displaced because of the armed conflict as of September 2023.  Many IDPs continue to suffer from various health issues due to a lack of access to medical services and sufficient food. The Catholic Church urged the government to return the internally displaced persons to their hometowns. The urge was conveyed through the Pastoral Appeal of the SKP of the Catholic Church throughout Papua issued in Sorong, West Papua Province, on 12 October 2023.

Political developments

The government pursues its plan to exploit natural resources through mining agricultural mega-projects in West Papua. The Indonesian government has announced its intention to designate the Merauke Food Estate in South Papua (Papua Selatan Province) as a Special Economic Zone (Kawasan Ekonomi Khusus (KEK)) to bolster food production and address potential food crises. The failure to integrate indigenous Papuans into the government’s economic development strategy adds to the disappointment regarding the government’s intentions among many indigenous Papuans. Many indigenous communities in West Papua, such as the Awyu Tribe in the Boven Digoel Regency, have in vain tried to protect their ancestral land against palm oil companies’ interests, filing their case to the court. The Jayapura State Administrative Court (PTUN Jayapura) rejected a lawsuit filed by the indigenous Awyu Tribe in Papua Province  

This distrust and disappointment became obvious during spontaneous outbreaks of civil unrest in response to the death of former Papuan Governor, Lukas Enembe. He passed away in the Gatot Subroto Military Hospital (RSPAD) in Jakarta on 26 December 2023 during detention after being sentenced to eight years imprisonment in a corruption trial. Many Papuans believe that the trial was highly political, as Governor Enembe was commonly perceived as committed to protecting the interests of indigenous Papuans against the central government. Mr Enembe’s health condition repeatedly dropped during the trial process while Indonesian authorities did not allow him to undergo intense medical treatment in Singapore as requested by his lawyers. 


After five Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council had written to the Indonesian Government in May 2023 raising questions about several human rights violations, the Government of Indonesia has replied to the allegations.