Benny Wenda: New massacres in West Papua show urgency of UN intervention

The Indonesian military have intensified their campaign of brutality across West Papua over the past week. I am calling on all human rights groups, NGOs, and international journalists to closely monitor this ongoing escalation. My people are being slaughtered like livestock, while Indonesia hides their crimes from the world. 

Over the last few days, Indonesian soldiers have committed massacres in Yahukimo and Fakfak, as well as torturing elders in Manokwari and displacing hundreds across the highlands. In March 2022, UN human rights experts stated that between 60,000 and 100,000 West Papuans had been forcibly displaced since 2018. This number will be even higher now, after many more mass displacements like those in Nduga and on Yapen Island. Earlier in September, 674 West Papuans were forcibly displaced, also in Yahukimo, as soldiers burned houses to the ground, tortured residents, and slaughtered livestock. 

Darnius Heluka, Musa Heluka, Man Senik, Yoman Senik and Kaраі Payag – the five Papuans murdered in Yahukimo – were all between 15 and 18 years old. Indonesia have consistently shown they will target the new generation, who have already been the main victims of mass displacement and violence over the past five years. This new killing is a repeat of the 2014 Paniai massacre and the 2020 murders in Puncak, where three schoolchildren were executed by a military death squad. Video evidence shows soldiers using drones and bazookas to fire at the teenagers – modern weapons, being used on villagers tending their gardens or hunting in the forest. 

In the Yahukimo case, the military immediately blamed the murders on the victims themselves, saying that all five teenagers were members of the TPNPB. This lie has already been debunked by local church leaders and the TPNPB themselves. It is the same lie Indonesia told about Enius Tabuni, the 12-year-old boy whose dead body was humiliated, mocked, and wrongly labelled as ‘OPM’ in a shocking video.  

In Fakfak, Indonesia murdered five civilians while conducting a sweep in Mamur village. Twelve West Papuans, including women and children, were arbitrarily arrested and taken to Fakfak police station, where they still remain.  

We welcome the MSG Communique calling for Indonesia to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate in West Papua. But these killings show that any delay will be fatal for West Papuans. Indonesia can commit two massacres so soon after the MSG Communique only because they know they will face no international sanction. This is what must change.  

Melanesian leaders have to ask themselves: are we trying to save West Papuan lives, or are we allowing Indonesia to wipe out our Melanesian family? They should remember the words of the UN Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention, who recently spoke out about the human rights situation in West Papua at the Human Rights Council. As she said in July, the international community must act to stop the genocide of my people. 

The demand we are making of President Jokowi is clear: Indonesia must withdraw their troops from the occupied areas, if people are to be able to safely return to their homes. Indonesia must also respect the wishes of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), and now the MSG, by urgently allowing the UN to investigate in West Papua. If there is nothing to hide, then why deny the UN access?  

Lastly, Indonesia must come round the table and discuss an internationally-mediated independence referendum: this is the only long-term path to a peaceful solution. Our struggle will continue until we are free.

Benny Wenda
West Papua Independence Leader
ULMWP Executive