Pacific Scoop

West Papua 2017 Year in Review

Article – Australian West Papua Association

This report details incidents of human rights abuses and events that occurred in West Papua during 2017. It is by no means exhaustive. In the report AWPA uses the name West Papua to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of …This report details incidents of human rights abuses and events that occurred in West Papua during 2017. It is by no means exhaustive. In the report AWPA uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea. However, “West Papua” at this time is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

There was no improvement in the human rights situation in West Papua in 2017. Human rights abuses and incidents of intimidation and torture of West Papuan activists and human rights defenders continued to be committed by the Indonesian security forces throughout the year. A number of military operations “sweeps’ took place in response to alleged attacks on the security forces or on vehicles operated by the Freeport copper and gold mine. There are many actors involved in these attacks and the security forces use various names for the assailants from the Free Papua Movement (OPM), armed gangs, armed criminal groups, unknown assailants, separatists, and unidentified gunmen. However, these operations leave the local people traumatised and in fear for the lives. The security forces also seem to have great difficulty in distinguishing between what they term separatists and the general public.

The Year began with a number of sweeping operations in Dogiyai regency. In the period between the end of December 2016 and January 2017, sweeping operations were conducted by the security forces in Dogiyai. Two residents, Otis Pekei and Melkias Dogomo died as a result of injuries received during the operations. Dozens of residents were also beaten by the security forces. The purpose of the sweeps was to maintain security leading up to elections to be held in February.

Melkias Dogomo was detained on the 23 December and died at home on the 7 January because of injuries received in police custody. Otis Pekei was detained while travelling to Nabire. He was reportedly tortured by the police on Tuesday 10 January and died in police custody. The security forces also seized clothing with symbols of the Morning Star such as bracelets and hats and intima died local people. Because of the regular sweeping operations residents demonstrated outside the Office of Legislative districts in Dogiyai.
Dogiyai community who are uncomfortable with the sweeping action of the security forces staged a demonstration to the Office of Legislative districts Dogiyai – Jubi / Philemon Keiya

The year ended with another sweeping operation by the Indonesian security forces in the Mugi district of Nduga regency. The sweep resulted in the wounding of 5 civilians which included two high school students and the torture of four people and two houses burned.
In a press release (21st Dec.), The Coalition for Justice, Law and Human Rights in the Central Highlands of Papua, Civil Liberty Defenders and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) requested that the Indonesian security forces, military and police do not act indiscriminately in the Mugi district. The military said the incident occurred after an attack by the OPM against against TNI personnel on the 12 December resulting in the death of an excavator operator and the wounding of a security force member. The Papua Military Command Area chief Col. Inf. Muhamad Aidi, denied there was a sweep and that the security Forces had shot civilians in Mugi District. It was also reported that after the security forces conducted the operation, they blocked access to the Nduga region and anyone travelling to the area had to apply for a special travel pass which must be obtained through 5 Indonesian military/police guard posts at 5 points.

Extract from media release
“The incident caused the excavator operator Yovicko Sondak to pass away and one member of Indonesian military, Prada Didimus Abindodifu was injured. This incident led to the sweeping action by the combined Indonesian military and police apparatus. According to the information we received, the sweep was conducted at Daragma Airport, Mugi District, Nduga regency. Using two commercial aircraft, the security forces fired randomly at people coming to the airport as well as toward people’s houses and other buildings around Daragma Airport”.

We are continuously being told by governments that the human rights situation in West Papua is improving. The incidents throughout the past year prove otherwise. Unfortunately 2018 has begun with the security forces intimidating members of the KNPB. The Free West Papua Campaign reported (10 Jan) that 14 KNPB activists were arrested on 7th January for raising a KNPB flag. The activists were arrested by the Indonesian military and police in Kisor and were taken to the Indonesian police station in Aifat. They were finally released after about 5 hours in custody.

Full Report Available here

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