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West Papua 2019 Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly Report by TAPOL

12 August, 2020

Between August and September 2019, students, political activists and civilians held mass demonstrations in West Papua, and in Indonesia, against racism and in favour of West Papuan self-determination. These events, collectively known as the ‘West Papua Uprising’ were triggered by racism from state security ser- vices and nationalist groups directed against West Papuan students in Java during August 2019. This led to an exodus of West Papuan students who returned from other provinces in Indonesia to West Papua.

The Indonesian Government responded to the West Papua Uprising by deploying more than 6,000 additional security force personnel, dispersing rallies and demon- strations, conducting mass arrests, and levelling charges against those arrested, in- cluding ‘treason’. Violent response by the state security services against protestors, and between civilians, resulted in killings and internal displacement of civiliansin West Papua. Furthermore, the security services and intelligence agencies con- ducted campaigns of intimidation and harassment against political activists and students in both Indonesia and West Papua.

In this report, we describe the patterns of violations of freedom of expression  and freedom of association during 2019 that took place both in and outside West Papua. We argue that a broad pattern of violations had preceded the Uprising in August 2019, albeit at lower levels. State security services and state-supported nationalist groups were often deployed before then to disperse gatherings and demonstrations, arrest protestors, gather intelligence, and conduct campaigns of intimidation and harassment and criminalisation against West Papuan students and supportive political activists in West Papua and Indonesia more broadly. What happened in 2019 is therefore consistent with broad patterns of violations in the years before then, in particular the authorities’ willingness to commit violations of freedom of expression and assembly.

Here, we present data related to arbitrary arrests, dispersals and violence in 2019, collected mainly from protestors and witness accounts, as well as media reports and reports from human rights defenders’ organisations that monitor and advo- cate for human rights issues in West Papua and Indonesia.

Download the full report below.