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243 deaths in West Papua: the international community must call for an impartial investigation and an end to the security forces’ operations.

12 February 2020
Nduga refugees

Image: Tabloid Jubi

TAPOL is extremely concerned by reports that the Indonesian military’s operations in Nduga Regency, West Papua, cost the lives of 243 people, 45 percent of whom were children, between 4th December 2018 and 8thFebruary 2019. Several hundred civilians fled their homes on 4thDecember 2018 when a joint police and military operation launched an attack on villages in Mbuwa district, Nduga Regency, in apparent ‘retaliation’ for the killing of 18 road construction workers two days earlier by West Papuan freedom fighters, the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB) led by Egianus Kogeya. The data was collected by a West Papuan civil society organisation, Yayasan Keadilan dan Keutuhan Manusia Papua (YKKMP).

According to eyewitness accounts, the security forces used four helicopters in the operation, three of which flew low over Mbuwa, strafing villagers with machine gun fire. The helicopters are also reported to have dropped 7 bombs in the area. 

In its investigations, the evacuation team interviewed the families of victims of the violence who had tried to flee the area. Nison Umangge, a senior high school student, fled the area on hearing the attacks begin in the early hours of 4thDecember. His body was found some 9 days’ later not far from his house in a state of advanced decomposition. On the following day, the remains of Mianus Elokbere were found in the Otalama village. According to a priest who wished to remain anonymous, Elokbere had sought refuge in his Church, but fled when he heard the sound of the helicopters and was then targeted and killed.

The operation on 4thDecember was followed by several further police and military operations, allegedly with the aim of hunting down TPNPB guerrillas. However, eyewitnesses told the evacuation team that the military intended to retaliate against villagers for the killings of the road workers. 

Military and police operations that followed caused hundreds more people to flee their homes, many of which were destroyed by the security forces. As a result, several hundred more people died while internally displaced from lack of access to food, clean water and sickness. 

We call on the Indonesian government to agree to an investigation conducted and overseen by the international community to investigate these civilian deaths. We furthermore call for the immediate suspension of all military operations in Nduga until the conclusion of such an investigation.