Violence is escalating in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, where meaningful and inclusive dialogue is urgently needed to address longstanding economic, social and political grievances, the UN human rights office said on Monday.
“We are disturbed by escalating violence over the past weeks and months in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and the increased risk of renewed tension and violence”, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said in a statement.
She said OHCHR was concerned by reports that reinforced military and security forces and nationalist militias had been involved in the violence in the region, where there had been repeated reports of extra-judicial killings, excessive use of force, arrest and continuous harassment and intimidation of protesters and human rights defenders.
“In one incident on 22 November, a 17-year-old was shot dead and another 17-year-old injured in an alleged police shootout, with the bodies found at the Limbaga Mountain, Gome District in West Papua.”
The violence and arrests are part of a trend that began when armed Papuan elements killed 19 people working on the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga regency in December 2018, and which escalated in August 2019 when anti-racism protests and widespread violence erupted following the detention and discriminatory treatment of Papuan students in Java.
In September and October this year at least eight people were killed, including two members of the security forces and activists and church workers, Ms. Shamdasani said.
“An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) found one church worker, Rev. Yerimia Zanambani, a pastor of the Protestant Evangelical Church, may have been killed by members of the security forces, and that his killing was just one ‘of a series of violence occurring across the regency throughout this year.’”, she said.
There had also been numerous reports of arrests. A well-known human rights defender and seven of his colleagues were among at least 84 people arrested and detained on 17 November as they prepared to hold a public consultation on the implementation of the ‘Special Autonomy Law’ in Papua and West Papua provinces, Ms. Shamdasani said.
Ms. Shamdasani said Indonesian authorities should pursue thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence, in particular killings, and ensure all perpetrators were held to account, regardless of their affiliation.
“We urge the Government of Indonesia to uphold people’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in line with its international obligations, particularly ahead of 1 December, when there are often protests, tensions and arrests”, she said.