West Papua: Bloody crackdowns on protests of indigenous Papuans

Indonesian security forces use excessive violence against Papuans – human rights violations are increasing (Press Release)

The arbitrariness of the security forces and the judicial authorities is fueling the tensions between the indigenous population and the state of Indonesia. Photo: Dominic Hartnett via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) raises serious allegations against Indonesia’s security forces. “In West Papua, the police and the military forces are using excessive violence against the Papuan natives – as if they had a license to kill,” criticized Ulrich Delius, the STP’s Asia-expert, in Göttingen on Tuesday. The human rights organization is calling for an independent investigation into the brutal crackdown on the protests of Papua-activists in the city of Manokwari last Thursday. One Papuan was killed and ten people were injured. The police had randomly opened fire at a group of protesters who had gathered in front of their office. The 45-year-old Onesimus Rumayom took a shot to the thigh and bled to death.

The local human rights organization “Manokwari Research, Study and Legal Aid Development Institute” described this incident as very serious and has reported it to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Indonesian National Human Rights Commission expressed concerns as well. Dominggus Sani, a member of the Regional Parliament of West Papua, has called for an independent investigation.

“Unfortunately, the tragic death of Onesimus Rumayom is not an isolated case,” Delius reported. “It is especially young Papuans between the ages of 14 and 19 who are likely to become victims of excessive violence by policemen and soldiers.” At least 18 young Papuans were shot by the police or the armed forces since January 2015, and eight of them died from the serious injuries. For example, emergency policemen killed the 16-year-old Otinus Sondegau in front of his home on August 27, 2016. He was suspected of being involved in the blockade of a market in Sugapa. In most cases, the security forces don’t have to take responsibility for their actions later on, so they often go unpunished. “The arbitrariness of the security forces and the judicial authorities is fueling the tensions between the indigenous population and the state of Indonesia, thus leading to more and more calls for a referendum on the independence of West Papua,” Delius warned.

According to information from the STP, the human rights violations in the two Papua provinces are clearly increasing. The number of arrested Papuans is now ten times as high as it was two years ago. In 2014, around 300 Papuans had been arrested for political reasons, then 1,083 in 2015 – and more than 4,000 Papuans were arrested in 2016. The population of the former Dutch colony of West Papua is predominantly Christian. The country, which is rich in raw materials, was annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s – and the Papuan people have been calling for an independent state of West Papua for decades.

Header Foto: Dominic Hartnet via Flickr