_The [Papuan] reform movement has removed the lid and released a lot of smoke. The problem now is that many people are still too preoccupied with the smoke. They forget that the smoke is there because there is a fire.... The fire is injustice._
Barnabas Suebu, former Governor of Irian Jaya, current Indonesian Ambassador to Mexico, interviewed in Tempo, October 23 - 29, 2000.
The political situation in Irian Jaya (also known as West Papua or Papua), Indonesia_s easternmost province, is fundamentally unsettled. Papua is remote from Jakarta and home to only two million of the country_s more than 200 million inhabitants, but what happens in the resource-rich province is likely to have great importance for Indonesia. Like Aceh, Papua is home to an armed insurgency against the Indonesian government. Although far less violent than Aceh at present, the province is seen in Jakarta as a front line in national efforts to defend Indonesia_s territorial integrity against newly energized separatist movements and growing communal conflict.
On the surface, Indonesian security forces appear to be in control, having forcibly subdued the broad independence movement that emerged into public view in the province after the fall of Soeharto in May 1998; below the surface, however, Papuan sentiment remains overwhelmingly opposed to rule from Jakarta. Tensions are high and recent months have seen an escalation in violence, including at times lethal security force operations against independence supporters as well as several ugly attacks on migrants by Papuan militants, a disturbing development that suggests more trouble ahead.
Segments of the Papuan population have been demanding independence for decades, but, until recently, resistance to Indonesian rule was limited to small bands of guerrillas loosely organized under the names Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) and National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional or TPN). The insurgents have mostly staged relatively small-scale hit and run attacks on Indonesian military posts and, on a few occasions, have taken hostages to draw attention to their cause. In the three years since Soeharto fell, however, a broad, civilian-based Papuan independence movement has emerged along side the guerrilla fighters and, for the first time, poses a serious challenge for Indonesia.
The Indonesian government has made important political overtures to Papuan leaders since the ouster of Soeharto and has promised, though not yet delivered, substantial autonomy for the province (Otonomi Khusus, literally _Special Autonomy,_ to distinguish it from the devolution of central authority now taking place across Indonesia). At the same time, military and police authorities have returned to a hardline approach. Since June 2000, authorities have sent thousands of new troops to the province, intimidating and at times attacking civilians in areas where rebels are believed to be active; the government has banned even peaceful expression of support for Papuan independence; security forces have moved aggressively against independence demonstrators, in many cases killing or seriously injuring them; key Papuan leaders have been arrested; and prominent civil society groups, including human rights organizations, have been subjected to increased surveillance and harassment.
With the crackdown has come a return to many of the abusive practices of the past. For nearly thirty years, from 1969, when the territory was formally incorporated as part of Indonesia in a still controversial U.N.-supervised process, until October 1998, five months after the fall of Soeharto, the province was formally designated a Military Operations Area (Daerah Operasi Militer, or DOM). Under the DOM, in effect in Papua far longer than anywhere else in Indonesia, security forces were given a free hand to combat the guerrillas. Papuans claim that thousands of civilians were terrorized and often tortured and killed during counterinsurgency campaigns. Not only did the army_s heavy-handed tactics fail to extinguish the guerrilla struggle, but, as in East Timor and Aceh, they created made many new enemies among the civilian population.
Indonesian authorities have justified the recent return to a high-profile military presence in the province as necessary to curb the growing demands for independence that have emerged since post-Soeharto civilian adminstrations began adopting more tolerant policies. As indicated above, however, current Papuan demands are themselves rooted, among other things, in past military abuses and pervasive mistrust which the recent build-up has only made worse. The crackdown has also elicited an increasingly violent response from armed Papuan groups, which have stepped up attacks on security posts, with major incidents resulting in casualties in December 2000 (Abepura), February 2001 (Betaf) and June 2001 (Wasior). As this report was being prepared, militants were also reported to be holding hostage two Belgian filmmakers who had first been reported missing on June 7, 2001.
Human Rights Watch believes that continuing human rights abuses have contributed to the increasing violence and political impasse in Papua today, and that addressing the abuses is a precondition to any long-lasting solution. The abuses include:
_ a ban on even peaceful expression of pro-independence sentiment and symbols;
On the Papuan side, there has been little public condemnation of recent violence, directed against non-Papuan migrants and settlers, with which some Papuan militants have responded to the crackdown. On June 13, 2001, church leaders from Papua condemned the increase in violence by all parties, but other community and political leaders have not spoken out forcefully. This silence undermines the expressed commitment of the civilian leadership to lawful and peaceful struggle and has increased the likelihood of more such incidents.
This report, based on a visit to Papua in March 2001 and follow-up interviews by phone through mid-June, looks at the situation in the province and recommends steps that should be taken to address human rights abuses. The report looks in greatest detail at the nationally significant Abepura case from December 2000 but also describes other major cases and provides an overview of human rights developments in Papua from June 2000 to June 2001.
The Abepura Case
The Brimob response to the attack on the Abepura police post is an example of the kind of abuses that all too often accompany security "sweeps." Many of the people we spoke to in Irian Jaya, both Papuan and non-Papuan, claim that such "sweeps" often turn into indiscriminate army retaliation in which civilians are the victims. As this report was being prepared, four Papuans were reported to have been killed in another Brimob sweep near Wasior, in Manokwari district. Such criminal retaliation may be common, but it rarely occurs in a setting as urban and open as Abepura and rarely with students - articulate and able to shape public opinion -- as the target. Although the Abepura case has attracted widespread attention to the brutality of Indonesian security forces in Papua, the very high profile of the case and clear evidence of egregious wrongdoing offer Indonesian authorities an opportunity to conduct a broad reassessment of where responsibility lies for this and related cases and to take steps to prevent such violence in the future.
Prosecution of the Abepura case is important nationally as the first case due to be prosecuted under the new Human Rights Court law, adopted in November 2000. At the national level, it is also critical in order to expose the role of human rights abuses in generating support for independence movements. This is true not solely for the sake of Papua or because of the disastrous effects of similar army behavior in Aceh. It is also important because the separatist wave likely is not over -- new troubles can be expected in future years in other regions (e.g., nascent Dayak nationalism in Kalimantan). To ensure that the failures of Aceh and Papua are not repeated, the government should take decisive action against military and police officials responsible for unlawful violence and killings. The Abepura case will be an important test of the government's commitment.
Drawing on Indonesian-language sources, this report also provides a description of the Wamena case, in which a series of police raids on pro-independence community centers in the central highland town of Wamena were followed by one of the worst riots in Papua's history. On the early morning of October 6, 2000, joint security forces in Wamena moved aggressively against Papuan community centers where the Papuan flag was flying. In one incident, ten Papuans were wounded by bullet fire, at least one of whom died, a fifty-year-old man who had been hit by a stray bullet while walking with his eight-year-old son. In response, an angry Papuan mob gathered and eventually began burning and looting shops. Confronted by gunfire from security forces, the mob went on a rampage, venting their anger in a residential area that is home primarily to migrants from other parts of Indonesia. In the ensuing melee, at least seven Papuans were shot and killed and twenty-four non-Papuans were killed.
Following the Wamena violence, twenty-two Papuans, including five locally prominent independence leaders who had not taken part in the attacks on migrants, were arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced. Army and police commanders who directed the violent assault on the posts that preceded the rioting, however, were not punished. For many Papuans, this is a clear example of how Indonesian government decisions are still based on understandings, perceptions, and versions of events that are absolutely at odds with those of Papuans. The government appears alien, hostile, and unresponsive. This in turn plants the seeds of distrust and future conflict: in Wamena, none of the underlying grievances have been addressed and inter-ethnic and Papuan-government relations have been set back.
This report begins with a brief survey of the evolution of Papuan political demands in the post-Soeharto period and an overview of human rights developments following the pro-independence Papuan _Congress_ held in June 2000. Separate chapters are devoted to the Wamena and Abepura cases. The report concludes with an overview of key human rights developments in Papua as of June 2001, including the government_s on-again, off-again ban on independence symbols; continued security force assaults on community posts where such symbols are displayed; the arrest and trial of key community leaders; intimidation of civil society actors by the security forces; and, increasingly, anti-migrant violence and raids on police and army posts by Papuan guerrillas.