INDONESIA: Indonesian Government irresponsibly denies human rights violations in Papua

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is very disappointed at the Indonesian government’s irresponsible denial of human rights violations in Papua and West Papua province. Far from taking steps to improve the human rights condition there, the government consistently denies the existence of any problem. At the recent 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the first right of reply, Indonesian diplomat Ms. Ainan Nuran stated that human rights violations in Papua is nothing but a hoax (the related video is available here). In the previous 71st session, junior Indonesian diplomat, Ms. Nara Masista, also denied the occurrence of various human rights violations in Papua. (The AHRC’s previous statement is available here.)

The AHRC strongly condemns the government’s stance and statement, as human rights violations in Papua are a reality. By only focusing on infrastructure and economic development, and not resolving human rights issues over the past 10 years, the government has only strengthened impunity for the perpetrators, while failing its duty to protect the victims. Furthermore, the government continues to ignore the Papuan voices stating that economic development has yet to bring changes in Papua; rather, such development is merely enjoyed by migrants from other islands in Indonesia.

Many cases of human rights abuse in Papua are well documented and reported. Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has also conducted investigations into some of these cases, such as the Paniai case, where the police and military attacked and killed five teenagers, while injuring 17 others (please see the AHRC’s Urgent Appeal AHRC-UAC-089-2015 for more details of the case).

Other clear examples of serious human rights violations in Papua which remain unresolved are the gross violations of human rights in Wasior and Wamena Papua in 2001 and 2003, Abepura Papua in 2000, the enforced disappeared of Mr. Aris Toteles Masoka, and the murder of prominent Papuan activist, Mr. Theys Hiyo Eluay, committed by special armed forces (Kopassus).

Besides these cases, there are also various instances of torture and ill-treatment, some of which were brought to court and resulted in light punishment, such as the brutal shooting committed by a police mobile brigade in Deiyai regency, Papua on 1 August 2017. The AHRC also documented and reported on the cruel assault of 15-year-old Albert Nawipa, an indigenous Papuan teenager committed by the police, and the torture of Mr. Niko Hisage by Army personnel from the sub-district military command of Wamena city.

During Indonesia’s last Universal Periodic Review, human rights violations in Papua were a serious concern for many countries. The United States of America raised concerns about freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Papua and West Papua province, while Austria expressed concern about undue restriction on freedom of expression and lack of accountability of security forces.

President Joko Widodo’s government has clearly not fulfilled its commitment to strengthen human rights protection in Papua. The AHRC respectfully requests the Indonesian government to properly resolve human rights cases in Papua. Rather than subjectively refusing suggestions proposed by some pacific countries, the Indonesian government should begin to deal with human rights cases. The government should ensure that Papua is accessible to journalists and the international community. The government should also reduce the number of soldiers in Papua, and increase police accountability, as the military and police are the two most frequent perpetrators of human rights violations in Papua. Lastly, the government must incorporate human rights into its development perspective, as any development policies lacking human rights protection will only create further problems for Papua.