ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

UN Experts’ Call Out ‘Shocking Abuses’ in Indonesia’s Papua Region

Human rights specialists noted a deterioration in the security situation since the assassination of a high-ranking Indonesian intelligence officer last April.

UN Experts’ Call Out ‘Shocking Abuses’ in Indonesia’s Papua Region
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, three independent U.N. experts said that between April and November of last year, they received reports indicating several instances of extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearances, torture, and the enforced displacement of at least 5,000 Papuans. It added that “urgent action is needed to end ongoing human rights violations against indigenous Papuans.”

Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces, which form the western half of the island of New Guinea, have seen a simmering separatist conflict since Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in a in 1969. The Indonesian state’s attempts to quash the insurgency led by the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM) has for years resulted in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, restrictions on movement and freedom of expression, and even drawn .

The security situation in the highland regions of Papua has further deteriorated since April of last year, when separatist rebels belonging to the West Papua National Liberation Army successfully ambushed and assassinated Brig. Gen. Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha, the head of Indonesia’s intelligence agency in the eastern province.

The killing led the government to formally designate Papuan separatists as “terrorists” and pour additional troops into remote highland regions of Papua and West Papua provinces. Then, in July, protests took place across Papua after the Indonesian government renewed and amended a Special Autonomy Law that local activists say will increase Jakarta’s grip over the resource-rich region.

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The past year’s unrest has resulted in deaths on both sides, dozens of arrests, and the mass displacement of Papuan villagers caught in the middle of the conflict. The experts claimed that an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people had been internally displaced in Papua since an escalation of violence that began in December 2018, when separatist fighters working on the Trans-Papua highway, which marked an escalation of the long-running conflict.

According to U.N. experts, Francisco Cali Tzay, Morris Tidball-Binz, and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the majority of those displaced in West Papua “have not returned to their homes due to the heavy security force presence and ongoing armed clashes in the conflict areas.” It added, “Thousands of displaced villagers have fled to the forests where they are exposed to the harsh climate in the highlands without access to food, healthcare, and education facilities.”

The experts’ statement also cited the example of two children, aged 2 and 6, who were shot on October 26 when bullets flew into their homes during a firefight. The 2-year-old died later, though according to a Reuters , separatists and security forces have offered differing accounts of the incident.

saying that it “deeply regrets the biased news release issued by the so-called ‘U.N. Human Rights experts’.” It denied that the authorities had carried out forced displacements and said people had been displaced by a number  of issues, “ranging from national disasters, homes being rampaged by armed criminal groups, tribal conflicts, and conflicts stemming from the results of regional elections.”