‘Deteriorating human rights situation’ . . .
On March 1, three UN special rapporteurs on human rights issued a statementurgently calling for an investigation into reports of severe abuse and escalating violence in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, allegations the Indonesian government was quick to dismiss. In their statement, the UN experts claim disturbing increases in extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and other abuses against Indigenous populations. They also allege Indonesian security forces forcibly displaced 5,000 Indigenous Papuans from April to November of 2021. The statement noted the need for Indonesia to grant independent monitors and journalists access to the region.
Conflict with deep roots . . .
The resource-rich Papua and West Papua provinces have never been entirely free of violence. The newly independent Republic of Indonesia annexed them following a problematic referendum in 1969, in which only about 1,000 Papuan leaders handpicked by the Indonesian army (out of about 800,000 Papuans) voted for annexation, many under the threat of violence. Since then, a pro-independence movement has clashed with Indonesian military forces. Multiple grievances have fuelled the conflict, including a history of violence and racial discrimination against Indigenous Papuans. Promises of economic development from Jakarta, which has opened the provinces to foreign investment, resource extraction, and infrastructure projects, have failed to improve the lives of Indigenous Papuans. In fact, such projects have displaced Indigenous communities from their traditional lands and have only benefited migrants from other parts of the country.
Jakarta pushes back against UN’s ‘clickbait’ . . .
The Indonesian government was quick to dismiss the UN statement, saying it was a “biased” and sensational media attack against Indonesia. Indonesia’s heavy militarization of the Papuan territories has attracted international criticism, particularly as violence escalated following widespread civilian protests in 2019. Bloody clashes between security forces and separatist rebel groups through 2021 have also displaced some 60,000 people. Indonesia believes the economic development of the Papuan provinces will eventually bring an end to the violent insurgency, a solution that fails to address the more complex issues at hand. Without investigating abuses and other historical grievances, improving equitable access to health and education, and increasing conflict-resolution efforts like negotiating cease-fires, sustained conflict and civilian displacements are likely to escalate in the future.