West Papua Annual Report 2022 – Human rights and conflict situation

Human rights situation

As in previous years, the ongoing armed conflict in West Papua caused persistent violence, particularly in the conflict areas. In 2022, Papuan human rights defenders kept reporting cases of torture, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances – many of such cases were directly related to armed conflict. The enduring practice of impunity among members of the police and military aggravated this pattern of violations. As in previous years, cases of extrajudicial killings and torture were rarely processed. Public awareness and media awareness appeared to influence holding perpetrators of the police and military accountable positively. However, perpetrators were usually charged through internal mechanisms of their institutions, which lacked transparency and independence.

Jakarta’s amendments to the Papuan special autonomy law and plans to create new provinces in West Papua in 2021 shaped the human rights landscape in West Papua in the first half of 2022. In July 2021, the central government unilaterally amended the Papuan Special Autonomy (Otsus) Law without the participation of the Papuan Peoples Assembly (MRP) and the provincial government. The unilateral adoption of laws for forming new provinces followed in April 2022. Jakarta’s political actions added to the long-lasting history of political disappointments, racism, and human rights violations.

Jakarta’s actions caused a solid civil society response across West Papua, mainly through peaceful demonstrations and public speech platforms (Indonesian: Mimbar bebas). The police forcefully dispersed numerous protests and arbitrarily arrested protesters. This caused the number of violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the freedom of expression and opinion, arbitrary arrests, and cases of torture to rise, particularly during the first half of 2022. Commonly, the police used vague criminal charges, such as Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), on treason to criminalise activists advocating the right to self-determination through peaceful means.

Human rights statistics in West Papua between 1 January and 31 December 2022, further updates possible (source: HRM)

The end of the year is usually expected to show an increase in the number of human rights violations in Papua due to the 1st of December commemorations. The Morning Star flag was officially raised for the first time on 1st December 1961, and many Papuans consider and commemorate that day as their “Independence Day”. Every year security forces disperse peaceful demonstrations and orations commemorating the historical event, and 2022 was no exception. However, the largest increase in violations of freedom of assembly, expression and arbitrary detention was caused by police intervention before and during human rights day celebrations on 10 December. The HRM has received information about 110 arbitrary arrests in four locations between 8 and 10 December 2023.

Armed conflict and internal displacement

Eyewitnesses of the aerial attack on Kiwirok by Indonesian forces on 16 September 2021 show recovered ordnance. The villagers recovered unexploded 81mm mortar rounds from across the village. Indonesian forces occupy positions close by and continue to attack and intimidate the village.

Armed violence statistics and a series of recent attacks indicate that the conflict in West Papua reached a new level of escalation throughout 2022. In early 2022, the Indonesian government changed its policies on the conflict to a more gentle approach, involving the military and police in development programs. According to that approach, the military and police are to engage in providing healthcare and education services as well as agricultural programs. The West Papua-wide operation was named “Operasi Damai Cartenz”, or the “Cartenz Peace Operation” in English. The central government hoped that security forces regain the trust of indigenous Papuans by developing friendly ties with local indigenous communities. At the same time, the government was determined to increase the security force presence and push economic growth in West Papua.

Armed violence in West Papua20182019202020212022
Number of armed attacks4433648572
Number of casualties among security forces818111819
Number of injured security forces1512103429
Number of casualties among TPN-PB fighters121414248
Number of injured TPN-PB fighters40181
Total number of fatalities among civilians during armed clashes or raids4220272843
Number of civilians killed by security force members171320125
Number of civilians killed by TPN-PB fighters25771438
Number of civilians killed (perpetrators unclear)00020
Total number of injured civilians159272021
Number of civilians injured by security force members791072
Number of civilians injured by TPN-PB fighters80161319
Armed conflict statistics in West Papua between 2017 and 31.12.2022 (Source: HRM)

The deployment of security forces, even under the new security approach, is predicted to bring a new level of tension into the conflict. Not only does it increase the potential for armed clashes near civilian settlements, but it will also inevitably limit access to healthcare and education services for many indigenous Papuans. Many indigenous Papuans are afraid of the Indonesian military and the police, responsible for atrocities and human rights violations since the Indonesian takeover of West Papua in 1969.

Throughout 2022, there were no signs of a rapprochement between the Indonesian government and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). The TPNPB has repeatedly declared its openness to talks with Jakarta under mediation by a neutral party. However, Jakarta is not supporting peace talks in this format, neither with the TPNPB nor with the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). According to a ULMWP Press Release of 14 November 2022, a series of meetings between ULMWP, MRP, West Papuan Council of Churches and Komnas HAM took place between June and November 2022, aiming at a rapprochement. The third meeting in Geneva led to a memorandum of understanding between those parties for a temporary ceasefire to allow humanitarian access to one region in Papua. A TPNPB Spokesperson later explained that TPNPB was not part of the agreement. Until February 2023, the ceasefire has not been implemented.

The information on armed violence showed that the conflict turned more violent in 2022. Both Indonesian security force members, as well as the TPNPB, repeatedly launched attacks at civilians. While TPNPB fighters burnt down public facilities and attacked migrants whom they alleged of working undercover for the military, security forces often directed air and ground raids at indigenous settlements. In contrast to the previous years, the armed conflict has reached the Papua Barat Province, with armed attacks reported from the regencies Maybrat and Teluk Bintuni.

While the number of attacks in 2022 does not indicate a substantial increase in armed clashes compared to the previous year, the aggravation of the conflict is reflected in the number of killed civilians. In 2020 and 2021, the number of fatalities among civilians during armed clashes or raids was 27 and 28 civilians, respectively. In 2022, the number of killed civilians was 43, and only five were killed by security force members – a relatively small number compared to the 38 civilians killed by the TPNPB (see table above and graphic below).

The lack of common ground for a peace dialogue has fuelled the conflict. The TPNPB is highly determined to fight for political independence and prevent the expansion of security force structures in West Papua. The increasing number of violent attacks against civilians indicates that TPNPB attacks have reached a new level of violence. The organisation has repeatedly published warnings, calling non-Papuans to leave the conflict areas because they will no longer guarantee their safety.

NoRegencyIDPsdisplaced sinceAdditional info
1Nduga46,000[1]02 Dec 18more than 615 IDPs reportedly died since being displaced
2Puncak2,724[2]27 April 21at least 16 IDPs have reportedly died during displacement
3Intan Jaya5,859[3]26 Oct 21at least 126 IDPs face health issues, and 11 IDPs reportedly died
4Maybrat1,836[4]02 Sept 21IDPs originated from 5 districts, 40 IDPs reportedly died, the local Govt reportedly facilitated the return of 353 IDPs from nine villages in November 2022[5]
5Pegunungan Bintang (Kiwirok)2,252[6]10 Oct 21about 200 IDPs fled to PNG, 50 IDPs reportedly died, at least 39 IDPs suffered from sickness
6Yahukimo (Suru-Suru)1,971[7]20 Nov 21IDPs from 13 villages sought shelter in 15 temporary camps, 16 women gave birth without medical attention, and 13 IDPs reportedly died
 T O T A L60,642  
Reported displacements related to armed conflict in West Papua as of November 2022 (source: HRM)

[1] JPIC Kingmi Papua (22.11.2021): Laporan  Pelanggaran Ham dan Operasi MIliter di Tanah Papua 

[2] Jubi (9.11.2021): SORAKPATOK: 300 tewas dan 50 ribu warga Papua mengungsi, available at: https://jubi.co.id/sorakpatok-300-tewas-dan-50-ribu-warga-papua-mengungsi/

[3] CNN Indonesia (30.10.2021): Ribuan Warga Papua Mengungsi Usai Pecah Kontak Senjata, available at: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20211030195433-12-714496/ribuan-warga-papua-mengungsi-usai-pecah-kontak-senjata

[4] The number was compiled by local church workers and represents the number of IDPs as of early December 2022.

[5] Jubi (12.11.2022): Pemkab Maybrat pulangkan 353 pengungsi Kisor, available at https://jubi.id/tanah-papua/2022/pemkab-maybrat-pulangkan-353-pengungsi-kisor/ 

[6] The number was compiled from multiple lists with names of IDPs which local human rights defenders compiled in Pegunugan Bintang in April 2022

[7] The number is based on data compiled by local church workers. The information was received in February 2022

Thousands of indigenous Papuans from the regencies Nduga, Puncak, Intan Jaya, Maybrat, Pegunungan Bintang and Yahukimo have been internally displaced due to security force raids, some of them since December 2018. in 2022, the Indonesian government continued to ignore the presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in West Papua. Data compiled by solidarity groups, churches and independent media suggest 60.642 IDPs (see table above).

There are no humanitarian programs or strategies to guarantee minimum standards concerning the availability, accessibility and quality of education and healthcare services for IDPs. Accordingly, the death toll among IDPs keeps increasing, particularly among infants, children, elderly persons, and pregnant women. Government institutions have failed to collect data on the number and position of IDPs available.

Some IDPs have received occasional support, mainly provided by local governments. Most of them have been untouched by government aid. Hence, many IDPs live without access to education and healthcare in forest shelters under bad hygienic conditions. IDPs from Maybrat testified that the local government distributed rice and other food supplies to the IDPs. However, the funds used for the aid were deducted from the funds the village administration receives regularly.

On 14 November 2022, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) published in a press release the success of a joint humanitarian pause in certain areas of Papua. One objective of the agreed humanitarian pause was to allow humanitarian assistance to internally displaced indigenous Papuans in one specific region. The second objective was to ensure the fulfilment of basic human rights for political prisoners in Papua. The specific region to receive humanitarian assistance was not mentioned in the press release, but later communications referred to the Maybrat Regency.

In mid-February 2023, the mentioned agreement known as JKB (Joint Humanitarian Pause), dated 11 November 2022, signed by Komnas HAM together with Papuan representatives from the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) is coming to an end without being implemented. The ULMWP criticises the Indonesian government, including relevant governmental agencies, for their lack of commitment to the agreement. “The real reason the JKB has not been implemented is the lack of seriousness and sincerity of the Government of Indonesia, which is evident in the lack of implementation or follow-up of any of their commitments under the agreement”.

In its press release, the ULMWP expressed disappointment that “unfortunately, Komnas HAM and relevant agencies have not shown any commitment to the agreement”. Komnas HAM, on the other hand, has issued a letter addressed to the ULMWP, the West Papua Council of Churches (WPCC) and the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) explaining that “based on the documents received, Komnas HAM for the 2022-2027 period internally traced the decision-making process of the Humanitarian Pause MoU and found that the decision was not an official decision of Komnas HAM, because it was decided outside the decision of the Plenary Session of Komnas HAM for the 2017-2022 period”. It also mentions that “Komnas HAM is not a party to the conflict in Papua. Therefore, it is not appropriate for Komnas HAM to sign the Humanitarian Pause MoU as one of the parties”.

Indonesia’s report at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN

On 9 November 2022, Indonesia passed the periodic monitoring of the promotion of human rights at the UPR session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. In this 4th UPR round session, the Indonesian government reported on its achievements in fulfilling human rights, including passing the Omnibus Law on the Job Creation Law, the Sexual Violence Crime Act (TP-KS), infrastructure development and increasing the budget for autonomy. areas in Papua, as well as the successful handling of COVID-19. Indonesia’s report has been generally criticised. The Civil Society Coalition for UPR Reporting considers that what is delivered by the Indonesian government does not reflect the actual situation in the country. During this review, seven states raised the issue of West Papua explicitly, while nine raised issues related to West Papua without explicitly referring to it.

Human rights court trial on the 2014 Paniai case

On 3 December 2021, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) gave the official order to form a team of 22 prosecutors under the lead of the Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes to investigate allegations of gross human rights violations in the Paniai Regency.  On 1 April 2022, the OAG only identified one suspect, which contradicted the findings of the investigation carried out by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and the victims’ testimonies. The human rights court trial against the single defendant, the former military commander Major Isak Sattu, was launched at the Makassar District Court on 21 September 2022. After a long and controversial trial, the defendant was found not guilty. In this ruling of 8 December 2022, there were disagreements between two of the five judges who heard the case. The two judges with different opinions saw the responsibility of the command, or it could be proved that there was responsibility by the defendants for the incident. The ruling considered the killings committed by military members against civilians in Paniai to be systematic attacks, thus including crimes against humanity; therefore, this case is still open, and further investigations should take place.

Recommendations to the Indonesian Authorities:

  1. Ensure full access to independent observers, in particular the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in order to reduce violence and promote accountability in West Papua;
  2. Engage is dialogue with with all conflict parties including the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to resolve the political and historical conflict peacefully;
  3. Allow humanitarian access for aid organisations like the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) to West Papua and refrain from any involvement of the Indonesian military in humanitarian missions;
  4. Stop further deployment of troops to and expansion of military infrastructure in the Papuan Provinces; Withdraw all non-organic police and military forces deployed in West Papua; Facilitate and guarantee the safe and voluntary return of the IDPs to their villages;
  5. Ensure that the Attorney General’s office re-conducts an impartial, systematic and efficient investigation into the Paniai case in order to reveal all perpetrators in the lower and higher command structure.