Sharp rise in Papuan mass arrests during military operations, says ICP

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Arrested Papuan activists protest 30-09-2021
Arrested Papuan activists protest from an Indonesian police truck during a rally at US Embassy in Jakarta on 30 September 2021. Image: IndoLeft News/CNN Indonesia

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) says there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary arrests in its latest report on human rights violations in Papua between July and September 2021.

The ICP found that mass arrests took place during military security operations in response to attacks by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), reports Suara Papua.

The increase in arrests was also related to the spread of protests opposing the extension of Special Autonomy for Papua and calling for the release of Papua activist and human rights defender Victor Yeimo.

“The mass arrests were reported to have been accompanied by violence by security forces which resulted in a significant rise in cases of torture and abuse,” the ICP report said.

“In unison with this the number of extra-judicial killings declined to only two, which were related to excessive use of force during law enforcement operations.

“This decline, however, does not mean that the armed conflict in West Papua lessened over the last three years.”

According to the ICP, violence related to the armed conflict has now spread to the regencies of Yahukimo and Star Highlands.

Armed clashes
Prior to this, the two regencies were largely unaffected by the impact of the armed conflict.

In August 22, 2021, TPNPB members killed and set fire to the bodies of two construction workers near the Kribu village in Yahukimo regency.

On September 2, 2021, TPNPB members killed four people and injured two TNI (Indonesian military) officers at the Kisor village in Maybrat regency.

On September 13, 2021, the TPNPB also attacked a sub-district military command (Koramil) post in Kiwirok sub-district in Star Highlands regency.

It was reported that a healthcare worker fell into a ravine and died during this attack and several public facilities were burnt to the ground. A joint security force responded by conducting raids in the three regencies which resulted in arbitrary arrests and torture.

The statistical figures show that the number of armed clashes that were reported increased threefold in late 2021 compared with 2017, increasing from 24 in 2017 to 44 in 2018 and 64 in 2020.

As of September 30, 2021, the ICP documented at least 63 armed clashes in West Papua since the start of the year.

Papuan pleas rejected
On July 15, the House of Representatives (DPR) revised the Special Autonomy Law. In doing so, the government ignored calls by the Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), the Papua People’s Council (MRP), the West Papua People’s Council (MRPB) and thousands of West Papuans who rejected and protested against these unilateral revisions.

The revisions made 19 amendments to the existing Special Autonomy Law related to articles which regulate the allocation of Special Autonomy funds and the establishment of new autonomous regions.

Meanwhile, the establishment of a Papua Human Rights Court and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) were sidelined.

During the time that the Special Autonomy Law was being revised, security forces forcibly broke up protests by West Papuans in various parts of Indonesia on the grounds that they violated covid-19 health protocols.

A new report on freedom of expression and assembly in West Papua published by the UK based human rights group TAPOL describes how these protests were violently repressed by Indonesian security forces using the regulations on controlling the spread of covid-19.

During the period of the report, many countries declared their support for a fact-finding mission led by the United Nations to investigate allegations of human rights violations in West Papua.

Call for urgent mission
In September, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS or ACP) sent a letter to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) calling for, “an urgent mission to West Papua to provide an evidence based information report on the human rights situation”.

Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu also declared their support for a similar mission during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

On September 17 the UN published a new report on cooperation with representatives and its mechanisms in the field of human rights.

The report was drafted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and referred to five cases of criminalisation and intimidation against West Papua human rights activists.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “ICP Melaporkan Terjadi Peningkatan Penangkapan Sewenang-Wenang di Papua”.

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