INDONESIA: West Papua case requires HR Court judgement


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-23-2001
ISSUES: Impunity,

UA-23-2001 – Abepura case requires Human Rights Court judgement 

INDONESIA: Impunity for police brutality and killings 

Indonesia’s history of heavy-handed tactics in battling separatist movements in East Timor, Aceh, and West Papua is well documented, as is Indonesia’s failure to place responsibility for the systematic human rights violations involved. Impunity continues as the Indonesian government approves and encourages brutal counter-revolutionary military and police operations. 

While the violence may still continue, there now appears a chance to curb impunity. The development of an Indonesian Human Rights Court signifies a willingness to assign appropriate responsibility for past atrocities. Shortly, the new Attorney-General, Marsillam Simandjuntak, will decide if the Abepura case, one of West Papua’s worst and most well chronicled cases of police excess and discrimination, will be the first case to go before the new Human Rights Court. Because Mr. Simandjuntak is due to make his decision in mid-July, it is of urgent importance that the human rights community show their immediate support for justice in the Abepura case. 

THE ABEPURA INCIDENT (information provided by Human Rights Watch) 

Abepura is a college town about ten kilometers from the provincial capital, Jayapura. Shortly after 1:00 A.M on 7th December 2000, unidentified attackers believed to be pro-independence guerrillas killed two police officers and a security guard. The assailants escaped, one to a nearby college dormitory where he tried to encourage several students to join his cause. The students refused and the man ran away. Soon thereafter, Brimob (Mobile Police Brigade) forces entered the dormitory, gathered 23 students, some having just been roused from bed, and began savagely beating them. The students were taken to the police station where they were further beaten. In the next 22 hours other dormitories and local residences were raided and people detained and beaten. In all, 100 people were detained, dozens severely beaten and tortured, and 2 students (Johnny Karunggu and Orry Doronggi) were beaten to death and one shot and killed. 

Almost all of those people detained were from the highlands of Papua. Students who were later interviewed indicated that the police were not interested in their guilt or innocence. Few questions were asked of the detainees regarding the attack of December 7th. Rather, the officers verbally abused the students, berating them for being highlanders. This is representative of the discriminatory abuse that frequently happens to highlanders in West Papua. 


Formerly a Dutch colony, West Papua was handed to Indonesia in the 1960s despite the extensive protest of the Papuan population. Since that time, small bands of pro-independence guerillas have continually launched minor attacks on Indonesian troops stationed in the region. In response to the small-scale attacks, Indonesia increased their security presence and used the attacks as an excuse for military and police operations. In addition to the armed struggle, there is a widespread, grassroots independence movement for peaceful resistance to Indonesian rule, but even this has been subject to heavy policing and punishment. 

For much of Suharto’s regime, traditional culture in West Papua was stifled (including the renaming of the region to ‘Irian Jaya’), and the area designated a \”Special Combat Zone\” and a target of the ‘transmigrasi’ program. A large military presence was introduced to provide security for large international mining companies such as the Freeport Indonesia gold and copper mine. Pro-independence thought was suppressed and punished, and sporadic, but brutal military operations made sure that the local population was kept in hand. Suharto’s successor, B.J. Habibie, made overtures of apology for his predecessor’s human rights record, but did little in the way of redressing past or addressing current problems. When the current president, Abdurrahman Wahid entered office, he moved quickly to initiate reform, but his policy towards West Papua has been inconsistent and undermined by powerful military and business interests. Brutalities, discrimination, and other abuses, continue to persist in West Papua and little has been done to curb the violations. 


(1)Write a letter to the Attorney-General of Indonesia, 
(a) Illustrating your support for the adjudication of the Abepura case and others like it. 
(b) Expressing your outrage at military and police excesses and the unwillingness to make guilty parties accountable. 
(2)Write a letter to President Wahid and the head of the National Human Rights Commission regarding the points made in the letter to the Attorney-General as well as 
(a) Condemning the lack of political will in resolving difficulties in West Papua in a humane and just fashion. 

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear Attorney General 

It is my understanding that before long you are to decide if the occurrences of violence and unlawful detention against innocent civilians in Abepura, West Papua is to be the first case to go before the new Human Rights Court in Indonesia. I write to you to express my support for the immediate and fair adjudication of this case. 

The people of West Papua have long endured the injustices and indignities inflicted upon them by military and police forces that commit atrocities without fear of accountability for their actions. If adjudicated, The Abepura case, in which police viciousness is well recorded, will indicate motivation to battle impunity, an objective to promote justice throughout all of Indonesia, a desire to discourage violence, and a willingness to resolve the conflict in West Papua through fair and more peaceful means. 

I hope that shortly the Abepura case will be go before the judge and that similar litigation regarding military and police abuses will follow it in the near future. 

Thank You, 

Marsillam Simandjuntak, SH 
Attorney General of Indonesia 
Attorney General’s Office 
FAX: (62 21) 720 8557 
SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General 

Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid 
President, Republic of Indonesia 
Presidential Palace, Jakarta 
Istana Negara, INDONESIA 
Fax: 62-21- 345 7782 
SALUTATION: Your Excellency 

Mr. Asmara Nababan 
Secretary General 
Komnas HAM 
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng 
Jakarta Pusat, INDONESIA 
FAX: (62 21) 392 5227 
SALUTATION: Dear Mr. Nababan 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-23-2001
Countries : Indonesia,
Campaigns : End Violence in West Papua
Issues : Impunity,