This report, based on research conducted by the Institute for Human
Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM) together with the International
Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), contributes to ongoing
discussions on the steps required to achieve a sustainable peace in
Papua. Based on more than 100 interviews carried out in 2011 in Sorong,
Manokwari, Biak, and Paniai, the report reviews Papua’s recent history,
including the Special Autonomy Law, within a transitional justice
Indonesia’s eastern-most provinces of Papua and West Papua are ethnically and historically distinct from the rest of the country and possess natural resources such as gold, timber, and oil. These provinces (collectively referred to in this paper as Papua) are the site of significant continuing conflict and discontent. When the Dutch government recognized Indonesia’s independence in 1949, the territory of Papua was not included within the borders of the new country and remained under Dutch authority until it was transferred to Indonesian control in 1962 as part of an agreement brokered by the UN, with the requirement that a referendum on self-determination take place in 1969.
From the early 1960s through the present, Papua has been the site of numerous human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces in the context of both military operations against a small armed separatist movement and the suppression of nonviolent independence activists.
Papua is one of many parts of Indonesia where demands for justice for past large-scale human rights violations have not been addressed by the government. The local population is deeply suspicious of the national government, which maintains a heavy military presence that has increased tensions. The scale of the territory’s natural resource wealth contributes to both interest and discontent in the region.