West Papua

Australian Museum’s display

This display is in the new Pacific Gallery in the Australian Museum in Sydney.

West Papua – Why?

Click here for a four-page illustrated handout about West Papua.

The ongoing torture of Papuan people

Disturbingly graphic videos exist of the torture by Indonesian soldiers of a West Papuan man, Defianus Kogoya, in Papua’s Puncak area on 3 February 2024.

The two short videos show the Papuan man immersed in a barrel of water and being punched and kicked in the face.  The water turns red with his blood. The Indonesians chat about how easily the skin peels off his back.

The Indonesian military has said that the videos are authentic. An investigation has been promised and 13 soldiers have been detained.

It seems that intelligence had been received about a planned arson attack at a health clinic and military leaders had become “emotional” at the prospect of such an attack. Defianus had admitted to previous violence, including the wounding of a soldier.

Similar torture of Timorese people during the 24 Indonesian occupation was ignored, downplayed, denied and excused. The filming of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 (thank you Max Stahl, may you Rest in Peace) showed the world what was going on. There were photos of Timorese women being tortured in subsequent years which also showed the depravity of the military.

As Indonesia severely restricts the entry of foreign media into Papua, it difficult to independently verify and document this and other incidents. However, the speed with which the footage of Defianus’s torture has sped across the world has forced the Indonesian military into a rare, if mild, admission of authenticity.

The question is, how many incidents of torture and killing are not filmed and distributed? How many other people have died violently? Are we to believe that the more than 100,000 Papuans who have died violently since 1969 when Indonesia took over are not Indonesia’s responsibility? Those who have investigated the whole West Papua situation claim otherwise, such as Genocide Watch and Startts.

Australia and other states should start to take their responsibilities to the Papuans people seriously. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji in February this year. Why didn’t he go to West Papua? Did he ask for admittance? Was he refused?

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles recently re-affirmed Australia’s opposition to Papuan independence. Marles was visiting Prabowo Subianto, now President of Indonesia. Prabowo is an ex-general who had four tours of duty in East Timor with high command responsibility. During his military service the Indonesian military oversaw widespread displacement, torture, starvation projects and murders. The prospects for the Papuan people are dimmer by the day.

Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association Sydney says that the Australian government should immediately condemn the torture of West Papuans by the Indonesian security forces. Australia trains and holds exercises with the Indonesian military.

He asks “Do we have to remind the government of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? It states: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Collins is fearful that as more Papuans become aware of the horrific video they may respond by holding rallies and protests. “There could be more crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators,” he said. He hopes that Jakarta might realise that the whole world is seeing evidence of the military’s methods and his hope is that Indonesia will begin to control its military in the territory.

The denial of West Papuan history and the refusal to listen to the people’s rightful and long-standing claims to independence must cease.

Julie Wark of Counterpunch says “We’re all living in a Zone of Interest.” She’s referring to a current film depicting the life of the German Commandant of Auschwitz and his family who lived in comfort on the other side of the fence which separated their home from the death camp.




West Papua: The Torture Mode Of Governance

ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua)

A crime against humanity has been committed.

Sydney Morning Herald – 25 March 2024

Indonesian military confirms authenticity of torture video, detains 13 of its own
(Mention of the atrocity does not seem to appear in the print version of the newspaper.)

Radio New Zealand – 25 March 2024   

‘Committed to human rights’: Indonesia says West Papua torture incident ‘deeply regrettable’

ABC  25 March 2024

More than a dozen soldiers detained as Indonesia’s military investigates brutal torture video of Papuan man

Asia Pacific Report – 25 March 2024

Australian group warns of new ‘arrests, torture’ in Papuan crackdown 

The Guardian – 25 March 2024

Indonesian military apologises after West Papuan man filmed being tortured in water-filled barrel