Papuans residing in Jakarta, Indonesia, demand release of their political prisoners. Papuans residing in Jakarta, Indonesia, demand release of their political prisoners.  

UN experts call for probe into rights abuses in Indonesia’s east

Three UN rights experts are calling for an end to human rights violations by Indonesian security forces against the indigenous people in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. They also demand unrestricted humanitarian access to IDPs.

By Vatican News staff reporter

United Nations human rights experts have expressed serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the restive Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, citing shocking abuses against indigenous Papuans, including child killings, disappearances, torture and mass displacement of people.

The experts called for urgent humanitarian access to the region and urged the Indonesian government to conduct full and independent investigations into abuses against the indigenous peoples.

Indonesia has dismissed the experts' report as biased.


Indigenous residents of West Papua and Papua are ethnically similar. The two provinces became part of Indonesia controversially in the 1960s, despite the former Dutch colony declaring independence in 1961.  Since then, a separatist movement has been simmering in Papua, with sporadic violence.  People have been complaining of discrimination and rights abuses at the hands of Indonesian authorities.

The prospects for peace are still conditioned by the armed struggle, which has led over the years to extrajudicial killings and violence on both sides. The civilians have suffered the most, forced to flee and seek refuge wherever they can, even inside churches.

Rights abuse

"Between April and November 2021, we have received allegations indicating several instances of extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman treatment and the forced displacement of at least 5,000 indigenous Papuans by security forces," said three Special Rapporteurs who are part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.


They said estimates put the overall number of displaced, since the escalation of violence in December 2018, at between 60,000 to 100,000 people.

"The majority of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in West Papua have not returned to their homes due to the heavy security force presence and ongoing armed clashes in the conflict areas," the experts said. "Some IDPs live in temporary shelters or stay with relatives. 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."

Unrestricted humanitarian access

The experts noted that apart from ad hoc aid deliveries, humanitarian relief agencies, including the Red Cross, have had limited or no access to the IDPs. "We are particularly disturbed by reports that humanitarian aid to displaced Papuans is being obstructed by the authorities."

As a result, "severe malnutrition has been reported in some areas with lack of access to adequate and timely food and health services”.  In several incidents, church workers have been prevented by security forces from visiting villages where IDPs are seeking shelter.

The rights experts demanded that immediate “unrestricted humanitarian access” be provided “to all areas where indigenous Papuans are currently located after being internally displaced”. “Durable solutions must be sought,” they added.

Since late 2018, the experts have written to the Indonesian government on a dozen occasions about numerous alleged incidents. "These cases may represent the tip of the iceberg given that access to the region is severely restricted making it difficult to monitor events on the ground," they said.

Impartial investigation

They said the security situation in highland Papua had dramatically deteriorated since the killing of a high-ranking military officer by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) in West Papua on 26 April 2021. The experts pointed to the shooting of two children, aged 2 and 6, on 26 October when bullets pierced their respective homes during a firefight. The 2-year-old later died.

"Urgent action is needed to end ongoing human rights violations against indigenous Papuans," the experts said, adding independent monitors and journalists must be allowed access to the region.

They said investigations must be aimed at ensuring that those responsible, including superior officers where relevant, are brought to justice.

Government refutes allegations

Indonesia’s Permanent Mission to the UN denounced the Human Rights Council’s news release as “a pattern of unconstructive and baseless media attacks against Indonesia”.  It said the rights experts “have once again chosen to completely disregard the verifiable data and information that has already been submitted by the government” to them.

The Permanent Mission denied authorities had obstructed aid or carried out forced displacements, explaining security forces were needed in certain areas because of attacks against civilians by "armed criminal groups."

03 March 2022, 17:46