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‘Killing Us as if We Were Animals’: 12 Dead After Police Open Fire on Civilians

February 27, 2023

‘Killing Us as if We Were Animals’: 12 Dead After Police Open Fire on Civilians

The incident is the latest in a string of violence from Indonesia’s disputed Papua province, where a conflict has been raging for decades.

27 February 2023, 11:51pm

The slaughter commenced after what appeared to be the most benign of acts: a six-year-old girl trying to buy a bottle of olive oil.

On Feb. 23, the indigenous Papuan girl, who lives in the Wamena highlands of Papua, a restive province of Indonesia, was reportedly almost kidnapped when two roving grocery salesmen urged her to get into their car when she tried to buy the oil. She refused and ran away screaming for her family. Once her relatives heard what happened, they got on their motorbikes and chased the two men down.

When they reached them, a confrontation ensued and a large crowd amassed. The accused kidnappers were migrants from elsewhere in Indonesia, while the crowd were mostly indigenous Papuans. More than a dozen police appeared, some carrying assault rifles. The authorities asked the girl to recount what happened as she stood barefoot in the dirt, fidgeting and appearing fearful under the expectant gaze of the mob.

Police attempted to defuse the situation by telling the crowd there was no kidnapping threat, but the group became increasingly agitated.

“All of the people there were in a traumatic state and filled with fear,” Theo Hesegem, the director of local rights group the Papua Justice and Human Integrity Foundation, who also witnessed events that day, told VICE World News. “The situation got harder to control.

In a video viewed by VICE World News, the murmurs of the crowd grew to a collective shout before a Papuan man lunged at one of the alleged kidnappers. The crowd surged forward, and soon after, locals started throwing stones and burning the homes of the alleged kidnappers and shops thought to belong to non-Papuan Indonesians.

Responding to the violence, witnesses say Indonesian security forces sprayed tear gas at the rioters while footage shows smoke from the burning buildings darkening the sky. Yet the police reaction only sparked further anger. The melee then shifted to the sound of live gunfire cracking through the crowd. Bodies began falling.

By the end of the incident, the two suspected kidnappers were stabbed to death and 10 indigenous Papuans were killed, their bodies riddled with bullets from security forces. Another 20 Wamena residents were injured in the attack.

“I suspect this was a targeted shooting as they hit vital areas,” Hesegem said. The Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps—a paramilitary police force known as Brimob—began shooting “continuously,” he added.

“A number of people were shot in the neck, head, chest, back, as well as the thigh. Those were targeted shootings that resulted in death on the spot,” Hesegem said.

West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia after a controversial UN-sanctioned ballot in 1969, which was subsequently labeled a sham. Papuan separatists have waged an independence fight ever since, with Indonesian security forces leaving a long and well-documented record of human rights abuses against civilians and suspected fighters in their attempts to suppress the movement. Estimates for the number killed since the Indonesian takeover range from 100,000 to 500,000, in what has been described as a “slow-motion genocide.”

Papuan rights activists say the militarized presence has led to a “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset at the sign of any conflict. It’s a sentiment shared by a relative of one of last week’s victims.

Inggi Kogoya was inside his home when he first heard the gunshots ring out on Thursday. Flustered from the sudden sound of shooting, the 23-year-old ran outside to see what was happening. As soon as he exited his house he saw his older brother, Mian Karunggu, on the ground with a bullet wound in his chest.

“All they [Papuans] had was rocks in their hand to try to defend themselves, but it was the police and soldiers who started to shoot brutally at the people… It was a battle between rocks and weapons.”

Moments earlier his brother had been trying to protect the street by building a makeshift barricade, an instinctive act following years of living in conflict zones. Karunggu had fled to Wamena in 2018 to escape fighting in nearby Nduga regency, an area torn by clashes between Papuan separatist rebels and occupying Indonesian security forces. He was just one of tens of thousands displaced by the continuing conflict and made efforts to avoid the violence.

But a bullet found him anyway. “He fell straight away,” Kogoya told VICE World News.

“All they [Papuans] had was rocks in their hand to try to defend themselves, but it was the police and soldiers who started to shoot brutally at the people… It was a battle between rocks and weapons.”

Kogoya said his brother was rushed to a nearby hospital. It was too late. Gripping the side of a stretcher and clenching his teeth from the pain as one of Karunggu’s daughters stood over him, crying, he died from his wounds.

A quiet cattle farmer who had not been a part of the mob, according to his brother, the 30-year-old Karunggu left behind an infant girl and nine other children.

Karunggu’s coffin, along with eight others adorned with crosses, was lowered into the dirt of a local cemetery on Saturday as dozens of men squatted around the fresh graves beneath an overcast sky. The community remains mournful and traumatized, Kogoya said, though he has accepted his brother’s death as murder by security forces had become “normal” in his community.

“We leave all of this to God’s plan and may he punish the evil deeds,” Kogoya said.

“We are constantly living in trauma because they [Indonesian security forces] are around us and killing us as if we were animals,” Kogoya added. “As long as we’re living in Indonesia we will never have freedom as a Papua people. This massacre is not the first time. We feel anxious living our everyday lives.”

The deadly clash is the latest in a recent spate of incidents in Papua province.

According to experts, armed rebel groups in the region have become more dangerous than ever as they have adapted and modernized. Earlier this month, members of the West Papua National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, took a New Zealand bush pilot hostage to protest an influx of Western aid to the Indonesian military. In October, four construction workers were killed in a separatist attack.

At the same time, non-violent resistance movements have also sprung up calling for peace while still demanding autonomy.

Esther Haluk, lecturer at Walter Post Theological Seminary in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, told VICE World News that Wamena has experienced decades of trauma at the hands of Indonesian security forces—a history that has kept the community on edge.

“We are not heard by the government,” she said, referencing the Indonesian national government’s decision to split Papua into three more provinces last year to gain greater control over the region. “People of West Papua have dissatisfaction that can trigger bigger conflicts.”

“There is a long history of human rights violations [in Wamena], but they were never solved by the government,” said Haluk, who is also from Wamena.

“This conflict can grow bigger because there is no justice. We know we won’t get justice even though we have victims,” Haluk said.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, an estimated 11,000 people died from conflict-related causes between 1977 and 1978 in the Jayawijaya region encompassing Wamena. In 2003, after an attack on Indonesian security supplies, at least nine people were killed in Wamena and thousands fled as the police and military retaliated. In 2019, at least 33 people were killed during riots allegedly sparked when a teacher called a Papuan student a “monkey.”

Amnesty International has reported cases of sexual assault and torture by Indonesian security forces, but even when investigations are launched, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

The two men suspected of last week’s kidnapping were confirmed dead by their relatives the day after the riots. “We are still grieving, there’s still an ongoing funeral for our beloved,” a relative of one of the men told VICE World News on Sunday.

Explaining the unrest that followed, Haluk said that longstanding and legitimate fears remain in Wamena over the abduction of Papuan children. For years, muslim clerics recruited Christian Papuan children in Wamena and other areas and sent them away to live in Islamic boarding schools on Java without their parents’ consent.

While the head of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission called for law enforcement officials to investigate last week’s shootings, Papuan provincial police indicated they would instead focus on finding the people who triggered the kidnapping accusations, which they have labeled false. Since the incident, more than 200 security personnel have been deployed to contain the situation.

Amnesty International released a statement condemning the violence and called for a thorough investigation. A spokesperson for the organization also told VICE World News that the incident was an “unlawful killing” by law enforcement.

However, Indonesian authorities have taken a different view.

“The news about child kidnapping is not true because those two gentlemen were salesmen who were doing their work,” said Papua Province Police Spokesperson, Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo, in a TV interview on Saturday. “There is now an investigation to look for the perpetrators who disseminated the hoax and instigated provocations that led to the riot in Wamena.”

VICE World News approached the chief of the Indonesian National Police, Listyo Sigit Prabowo, for comment, but did not receive a response at the time of publishing. However, regional police chief Hesman Napitupulu told local media that he asked residents to “not to be provoked by things that turn the situation into chaos.”

Later on Sunday night, two vendors in Wamena were also attacked, reportedly stabbed by an unidentified group. And although the violence has simmered in Wamena as of Monday, for now, many are worried that more bloodshed may be on the horizon.

“The events that occurred in Wamena indicate the repeated cases of violence that have claimed the lives of many civilians in Papua,” said Usman Hamid, executive director at Amnesty International Indonesia, in a statement. “Acts of violence, let alone causing many casualties, will only escalate the cycle of violence and armed conflict there. It’s a loss for everyone.”

Elma Nazhira contributed to reporting

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2) Interim President: A new massacre in West Papua

February 25, 2023 in Statement
I am heartbroken to hear that nine West Papuans have been murdered by Indonesian security forces after unrest in Wamena, my hometown. The shootings occurred following the abduction of a Papuan child, which saw conflict break out between the community and colonial forces. Apart from the nine dead, seventeen others have been shot. On behalf of the ULMWP Executive, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and am praying for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

This is only the latest in a long line of Indonesian massacres in West Papua. After Bloody Paniai in 2014, Bloody Abepura in 2000, and Bloody Wamena in 2003, we have now seen a new ‘Bloody Wamena’ in 2023. When will the world say ‘enough’? Where are the Pacific and Melanesian leaders? Over 500,000 of us have been killed since they invaded our lands. We are victims of a genocide. The story of Indonesian rule over West Papua is told in the blood of its indigenous people.

Words of condemnation are not enough. Without real action, Indonesia will continue to act with total impunity in West Papua. They have demonstrated over and over that we are not safe under their rule. The world must intervene: we urgently need the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as Indonesia vowed to facilitate in 2018.

This is not just my demand, but the demand of over 80 states, including the members of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States, Spain, Netherlands, and the EU Commission. If Indonesia continues to employ delaying tactics, the international community must compel them to allow the UN in. There can be no more excuses.

The only way to stop this bloodshed is to for Indonesia withdraw their troops and end their brutal occupation. So-called ‘Special Autonomy’ has only brought more killing. What kind of autonomy do we have if Indonesian soldiers can murder children in Paniai, only for Indonesian courts to acquit them eight years later? The only real autonomy that exists is the autonomy of Indonesian soldiers to murder us in cold blood. The only real justice will come through liberation.

The details of the known dead are as follows:

  • Ramot Siagian, 28, male, Batak tribe (Machete wound in back of the head, arrow wound in back).
  • Albert Sitorus, 26, male, Batak tribe (Machete wound in back of the head, arrow wound in back).
  • Stepanus Wenda, male (Village Head) in the Kelokbeam district, Lani Jaya district, gunshot to stomach.
  • Alfredo Elopete, male, gunshot wound to the neck.
  • Korwa Wanimbo, male, gunshot wound to back.
  • Tinus Yelipele, gunshot wound to right thigh.`
  • Temias Pokneagge, male.
  • Vicky Kogoya, gunshot wound to armpit.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government

West Papua group to meet Rabuka

February 20, 2023

West Papua group to meet Rabuka
MERI RADINIBARAVI20 February, 2023, 12:15 pm

United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) secretary Rex Reinakiek left, President Benny Wenda and West Papua Interim Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Morris Kaloran in Suva on saturday.Picture:ATU RASEA

A West Papua delegation led by United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda, West Papua Interim Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Morris Kaloran and ULMWP secretary Rex Reinakiek is in the country to meet with the Fiji Government and lobby for their support for West Papua’s full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The MSG is made up of the Republic Of Fiji, the Front De Liberational De Nationale Kanak Et Solcialiste (FLNKS), Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Republic Of Vanuatu.

A spokesman of the delegation said the group arrived in the country on Monday last week and might be here until the end of this week.

“The delegate is here to try and lobby to the Fiji Government that the West Papua issue can be highlighted and that they become a full member of the MSG,” he said.

“That is their main purpose here, but the bigger picture is for West Papua to gain its independence from Indonesia.

“We are here to meet with Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, other ministers whose ministries are directly linked to our struggles, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary, and other groups within Fiji who have a strong support for the independence of West Papua.”

The group is expected to meet Mr Rabuka today.


Pacific Conference of Churches

Moderator Rev. Dr. Tevita Havea

General Secretary Rev. James Bhagwan

G.P .O Box 208, Suva.
4 Thurston Street, Suva, Fiji Tel: (679) 3311 277 / 3302332 Fax: (679) 3303 205
e-mail: pacific

Visit by Benny Wenda, United Liberation Movement of West Papua.

PCC Statement

The Pacific Conference of Churches has concluded a series of meetings with Benny Wenda and other representatives of the united liberation movement of West Papua during his visit to Fiji.

We reiterated our support for the ULMWP in its continued bid for the self-determination of the West Papuan people and their desire for an end to the human rights abuse at the hands of Indonesian security forces.

The PCC continues to support the ULMWP’s bid for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group along the lines that the Kanak Socialist National Liberation front (FLNKS) in Kanaky – New Caledonia was admitted to the regional bloc.

The PCC renews its position that the ULMWP must be consulted by governments, the United Nations and the European Union on West Papua issues as a recognised representative of the Papuan people.

With the endorsement of pacific church leaders, the PCC calls for a boycott on the purchase of all Indonesian products sold in the pacific and engagement in activities and programmes organised or supported by the Indonesian government, as a means to draw attention to the plight of the Papuan people.

The ULMWP delegation was hosted to a lunch by the PCC for a moment of prayer and fellowship during their schedule of meeting other Fijian dignitaries in Suva.

Reverend James Bhagwan General Secretary
FEBRUARY 20, 2023

Politics holds Papua hostage

February 16, 2023

Politics holds Papua hostage

Editorial board (The Jakarta Post)
Jakarta ● Thu, February 16, 2023

Alas Papua has yet again come under international scrutiny amid the latest chapter in the violence that the country’s easternmost territory has grappled with for decades. This time around the West Papua National Liberation Army (TNPB), an armed wing of the Free Papua Organization (OPM) rebel group, has taken hostage a pilot working for Susi Air, Phillip Mark Mehrtens of New Zealand, after burning his aircraft in Nduga regency last week.

As security forces deploy to track down the armed group, the TNPB released on Tuesday photos and video, which appeared to show that the foreign pilot was alive and well. "He is safe with our boys in the field, and everything is okay. He’s staying with our friends and family at the […] headquarters. He has good skills, and we will look after him and he will train our soldiers how to fly an aircraft," a spokesman for the group, Sebby Sambom, told RNZ Pacific.

At one point in the video sent to the media, including The Jakarta Post, the pilot said the rebel group would keep him in captivity for the rest of his life unless Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel are withdrawn from Papua. Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said the government was seeking every path to release Mehrtens.

Mahfud asserted that the government would take a persuasive approach in dealing with the abductors, but would remain open to “other options”. A team comprising the Nduga regent and several members of the local legislative council have been dispatched to the outlying district of Paro to negotiate with the group for the pilot’s release, with the police expecting the mission to be accomplished sooner rather than later.

But looking back at the way the government has dealt with the OPM, or popular dissent in general in Papua, there are reasons for us to worry about the endgame of this hostage taking. In 1996 the government entrusted the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), led by their commander at the time Brig. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, to launch a military operation to release 11 researchers, including four Britons and two Dutch, in Mapenduma district in the Jayawijaya highlands, now part of Nduga. Two of the hostages were killed in the operation, which marked a bloody end to a 130-day drama.

To quell the low-intensity rebellion in Papua the government, except under then-president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid who briefly served in 1999-2001, has consistently maintained a security approach, which is marked by the deployment of military and police.

With two military commands (Kodam) and an Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) brigade, plus military taskforces assigned along the borders with Papua New Guinea and a number of vital state facilities, such as a gold mine and gas refinery, the military deployment in Papua far exceeds that in other provinces.

At the same time, the government has continued to force its will on the Papuans, as most recently evident in the formation of new provinces and regencies there without proper and meaningful consultation with local people. Unless this decades-long approach changes, conflict will continue to plague Papua and other hostage takings will recur and the cycle of violence will persist.

Last November, without much fanfare the government reached an agreement in Geneva with the rebel groups on a humanitarian pause in Papua. But the deal, which aims to temporarily stop hostilities and violence in Papua, has not worked, which rights groups have blamed on a lack of transparency and a failure to involve all stakeholders.

The negotiations to release the Susi Air pilot should serve as a precursor to another initiative toward a dialogue to end the ongoing violence in Papua and bring peace back to the land.

One of the conditions for such dialogue to take place must be the government’s willingness to curtail its ego and listen to the grievances of the local people. For a long time Jakarta has opted to make compromises with the local political elites, which has meant that Papua remains mired in poverty despite the billions of dollars in special autonomy funds transferred to the territory. A genuine, dignified dialogue will free Papua from poverty and hence violence.

2) Police dispatch local team to negotiate New Zealand pilot’s release

News Desk (The Jakarta Post)
Jakarta ● Wed, February 15, 2023

The Papua Police said on Wednesday it had sent a team to negotiate the release ofNew Zealand national Phillip Mehrtens, a Susi Air pilot who was being held hostage by an armed separatist group in the restive province.

On Tuesday, Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Matthius D. Fakhiri said the team consisted of local politicians, and that he expected the team to make contact soon with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in the remote district of Paro in Nduga regency. "The team, consisting of the [Nduga] regent and several members of the local legislative council, is on the way and there will be communication soon," Matthius said in a video released by state-run news agency Antara.

The police chief also claimed that the Papua Police had managed to track down the location where Mehrtens was being held, especially after the separatist group released photos of the pilot allegedly taken by its members. "We want everyone to pray that we can finish the job without causing another incident, [that] we can get the pilot released and everything goes back to normal," Matthius said.

Mehrtens was abducted by fighters from the TPNPB last Tuesday after landing a plane operated by Susi Air in Nduga. TPNPB spokesman Sebby Sambom sent The Jakarta Post video footage and photographs of a man wearing a denim jacket and surrounded by a group of around a dozen men, some armed with guns and bows and arrows.

"The Papuan military that has taken me captive to fight for Papuan independence, they ask for the Indonesian military to go home to Indonesia and if not, I will remain captive for my life," Mehrtens says in the video.

AWPA West Papua Update No 1/ 2023

February 13, 2023

AWPA West Papua Update No 1/ 2023
14 February 2023

Two recent incidents in West Papua received a large amount of coverage in the main stream media .

There was an attack on the home of Journalist Victor Mambor on the 23 January when an unknown person threw a bomb near his house in Jayapura City, West Papua. Although no one was injured in the blast Victor told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ ) that he has faced persistent harassment over his reporting on human rights issues associated with the long-running conflict between Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army. Victor said he frequently receives threats and hate speech on his social media accounts and his witter account was hacked and deleted last year after he posted a video showing Indonesian security forces allegedly abusing a disabled civilian. …………………………………

Commemorating Papua Land of Peace Day

February 7, 2023

Commemorating Papua Land of Peace Day

Ridwan (The Jakarta Post)
PREMIUM Jakarta ● Mon, February 6, 2023

On Feb. 5 each year in Papua, people commemorate the day the Gospel was spread in Papua and the declaration of Papua Tanah Damai (Papua as Land of Peace, or PTD). The day represents a distant hope for many people in the restive region, which is still experiencing a protracted violent conflict, where blood and tears of sorrow are shed.

We know that since being incorporated into Indonesia via a United Nations-sponsored Act of Free Choice (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat) in 1969, the mountainous half-island of Papua has had a troubled relationship with the Indonesian government. Local opposition to the widely criticized referendum led to the emergence of the Free Papuan Organization (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM) in 1965, which has led to a low-level armed insurgency over several decades. In response, the government has suppressed the separatist movement with violence.

Other causes for resentment on the part of the indigenous population include Papua’s poverty relative to other parts of the archipelago, as well as the large-scale influx of Muslim migrants that have tipped the demographic balance in some areas against the predominantly Christian Papuans. Various efforts to comprehensively solve the Papuan problem have not yielded results.

The non-security approach also fails to make a difference. Infrastructure development to improve welfare, from the reform era of 1998 until the reign of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, along with the implementation of special autonomy and regional expansion, have yet to ease the level of violence in the region. Recent data on violent conflicts show an upward trend, with no sign of easing.

It is also worth noting that the rate of violence has escalated even after the signing of a humanitarian pause agreement in Geneva last year. This essay looks into the origin of Papua’s Land of Peace declaration, from which we can learn about ways to make the idea of Papua as a land of peace and harmony a reality. To understand the PTD framework holistically, it is important to understand its genesis.

The PTD peace framework, which was launched on Feb. 5, 2003, did not emerge in a historical vacuum. It is rooted in the experience of Papuans who have a real desire for peace. At the outset, the indigenous Papuan youth, including students, wanted to nurture a culture of peace by promoting the idea that Papua is “a Zone of Peace”. At that time, they did not use the term PTD, or “Papua the Land of Peace”.

The initiative was broached in a meeting in Serui, Yapen Waropen, in June 1999 because Papuan people wanted peace in Papua. I contend that the violent approach by the Indonesian government during the New Order regime against Papuans, including the Biak massacre, which had happened only 11 months earlier (July 6, 1998), gave impetus for that meeting.

The participants wanted to ensure their meeting was not regarded as subversive against the Indonesian government. In a ceremonial meeting, Marthen Tanawane, a Papuan tribal leader, declared Yapen Waropen as “a Zone of Peace” on Sept. 17, 2000. In 2001, Theo van den Broek and his companions reflected on the Papua Zone of Peace concept in Jayapura.

Forty organizations representing almost all government and civil-society stakeholders met to explore the philosophical aspects of the Papua Zone of Peace. At the end of the conference, the participants agreed with the slogan “Papua as a Zone of Peace”, referring to a situation in Papua where its people feel free from physical and psychological conflicts.

The notion of “Papua as a Zone of Peace” received a good response from various parties, including religious leaders in Papua. The religious leaders, including Muslims represented by MUI Papua, church leaders, Hindu and Buddhist leaders, strongly supported the notion of Papua as a Zone of Peace due to the Papuans and Indonesian migrants’ mutual desire for peace. However, in the later reflections, those religious leaders considered that the concept of Papua as a “zone” of peace might be misused or misunderstood.

For instance, they considered that several regions in Papua could be categorized as peace zones, while other regions could be deemed war zones. Instead, they proposed a more accurate term, the “land of peace”. It is useful to note that the historical and political context of the PTD declaration, especially the communal conflicts that erupted in some areas in Indonesia (such as in Ambon, Sambas, and Sampit). In 2001, a Peace Agreement was reached to resolve the conflict in Ambon, the Moluccas, causing Laskar Jihad to lose its influence.

It was reported that Ja’far Umar Thalib, a commander of Laskar Jihad, had initially sought to wage jihad in Papua, taking advantage of the turmoil that had arisen because of the call for self-determination for Papua. The PTD project aims to respond to the absence of civil and political rights (CPR) and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), excessive security approaches and welfare gaps in Papua. Because the concept of PTD can be interpreted differently by community organizations, it can be used to achieve different goals by different organizations.

As dialogue is key to overcoming political conflict in Papua, Neles Tebay, for instance, developed the framework of PTD through a program called “Jakarta-Papua Dialogue”, elaborating on elements of “truth and justice” under the architecture of Papua Land of Peace by promoting the idea of dialogue to make the slogan a reality. Dialogue, for Tebay, is a way to erode the culture of violence.

Tebay not only articulated his ideas through writings but also translated his ideas by establishing Papuan Peace Network (Jaringan Damai Papua, JDP) in 2010, in collaboration with the Indonesian Institute of Science (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia, LIPI) led by Muridan Widjojo. JDP has been the architect of numerous initiatives to promote dialogue.

Unfortunately, their activities are viewed by the Indonesian government as a guide for the Papuan independence movement. In an ironic twist, the OPM suspects JDP of working for the Indonesian government. As a result, suspicions about the intentions of JDP have severely undermined its efforts.

In this light, Tebay noted that the Indonesian government often fell into the trap of viewing peace initiatives in Papua as part of the broader struggle for Papuan independence. On April 14, 2019, Neles Tebay died, making the future of “Jakarta-Papua Dialogue” and JDP’s mission increasingly blurred.

To conclude, PTD day should not be a ceremonial event only. There should be a political will from the warring parties to engage in a dialogue for peace and finally bring a lasting peace to the Land of Papua.
— The writer is a faculty member at the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII)

Papuan journalist Victor Mambor wins “Oktovianus Pogau” journalism award

February 1, 2023

Papuan journalist Victor Mambor wins “Oktovianus Pogau” journalism award
News Desk – Journalism Award
1 February 2023

Victor Mambor in Jayapura (Engelbeth Wally/Jubi)

Jakarta, Jubi – Victor Mambor, a journalist born in Muara Enim, Sumatra, the chief editor of Papuan newspaper Jubi who often covers discrimination against indigenous Papuans, received the Oktovianus Pogau Award from the Pantau Foundation for courage in journalism.

“Victor Mambor’s decision to return to his father’s homeland and defend the rights of indigenous Papuans through journalism, as well as being steadfast in the face of intimidation after intimidation, made the jury agree that he was a courageous journalist,” said Andreas Harsono from the Pantau Foundation.

Victor Mambor’s name was recently mentioned in the media after a bomb was detonated outside his house on January 23 in Jayapura. Mambor suspected the terror was related with Jubi’s coverage of the murder and mutilation of four indigenous Papuans from Nduga in Timika in October 2022, wherein four soldiers were charged with “premeditated murder”.

Victor Mambor was born in 1974. He is the son of Rachmawati Saibuna and John Simon Mambor, a poet from Rasiey, Wondama Bay and a leader of the Papua Council Presidium, who died as a political prisoner in Jakarta in 2003 at the age of 55. Presidium Chairman Theys Eluay who was killed by Indonesian soldiers in November 2004 in Sentani, Papua, was a colleague of John Mambor.

Victor Mambor grew up in Muara Enim until he graduated from SMAN 1. In 1992, he moved to Bandung, where he later worked as a journalist for Pikiran Rakyat daily. In Bandung, he was mentored by Suyatna Anirun, an actor and director from the Bandung Study Theater Club.

In 2004, after his father died, young Victor Mambor decided to work as a journalist in Jayapura. He was appointed editor of Jubi, later general manager, expanding into television and using drones.

On his blog, Victor Mambor posts important texts he created or translated between 2005 and 2017, including the abduction of Papuan children to Java and his criticism towards Jakarta journalists’ perspectives, which often only talk about Indonesian nationalism and not giving much space for Papua’s perspectives.

In May 2015, Victor Mambor interviewed President Joko Widodo in Merauke about restrictions on foreign journalists entering Papua since 1967. Jokowi replied that all foreign journalists are free to enter Papua without restrictions. Ironically, to this day, President Jokowi’s statement has not come true. Foreign journalists are still restricted from entering Papua.

In 2019, together with several journalists in Pacific island countries, he founded the Melanesian Media Freedom Forum. Mambor has also increased coverage of the Pacific region through Jubi, a natural thing for Papuan media, as well as working with media outlets such as Radio New Zealand, Solomon Star, Vanuatu Daily, Melanesia News, Fiji Times, Islands Business, Cook Islands News, Post Courier, and Marshall Islands Journal.

Victor Mambor was one of three producers of an investigative video entitled “Selling Out West Papua” broadcast by Al Jazeera in June 2020. He collaborated with Mongabay, The Gecko Project and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism. It was about how a South Korean company, Korindo, seized land and destroyed Papua’s forests. He received the Wincott Award for Video Journalism.

On May 21, 2021, Mambor was intimidated. His car glass was broken, and the door was spray-painted, while parked at night in front of his house in Jayapura. The police have yet to find the perpetrators of this vandalism.

In September 2021, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued an annual report on international cooperation in the field of human rights. Guterres named Victor Mambor as one of five human rights defenders who frequently experience intimidation, harassment and threats in covering issues in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Yayasan Pantau calls on the Indonesian police, especially in Papua, to keep Victor Mambor safe, and to find the people who damaged his car and placed a bomb in front of his house.

As a person with a Palembang mother and Papuan father, Mambor is both Indonesian and Papuan, and he could see human rights violations and environmental destruction in Papua. Mambor often quotes his father saying, “Be proud of yourselves as Papuans who have never begged on their rich land.”

In Papua, Victor Mambor is also often accused of not defending the non-Papuan people who have come to Papua since the 1960s. However, Mambor once wrote on Facebook, “My mother is Sumatran, my wife is Sumatran, in my workplace there are more non-Papuans than Papuans. We work in harmony, there is no different treatment. Am I racist and discriminatory when I am outspoken about fighting for the rights of Indigenous Papuans?”

Victor Mambor certainly knew the late Oktovianus Pogau. When Pogau died on January 31, 2016, Mambor wrote, “Oktovianus Pogau was not just a friend and brother to me. He was both a partner and a rival to me. He was my ‘left brain’ in journalism. He is ‘half of my soul’ in journalism. He has no equal. He has no match. He opened the eyes of many people to what was really happening in Papua. He deserves to be remembered as a liberation fighter, because he is a legend.”

According to Andreas Harsono, Victor Mambor not only closely knew Oktovianus Pogau but also supported and continued Pogau’s ideals about the responsibility of indigenous Papuan journalists, Indonesian journalists and international journalists to be brave in reporting what is happening in Papua.

About the Pogau Award

The award is named after Oktovianus Pogau, a Papuan journalist and activist born in Sugapa on August 5, 1992. Pogau died at the age of 23 in Jayapura. The award is given annually to commemorate Pogau’s bravery.

In October 2011, Pogau reported on violence against hundreds of indigenous Papuans during the Third Papuan Congress in Jayapura. Three Papuans died and five were jailed on treason charges. Not a single Indonesian official was questioned or punished. Triggered by the condition that not many Indonesian media were reporting these violations, Pogau launched Suara Papua on December 10, 2011.

Pogau is a writer and activist who uses words to discuss and hone his political ideas. This choice has often gotten Pogau into trouble. He was sympathetic to the West Papua National Committee, a Papuan youth organization, which challenged Indonesia’s control of West Papua. He was once a member of this organization while studying at the Indonesian Christian University in Jakarta, but knew he had to maintain his independence.

Pogau also frequently wrote about restrictions on international journalists covering West Papua and helped translate a 2015 Human Rights Watch report, “Something to Hide: Indonesia’s Restrictions on Media Freedom and Human Rights Monitoring in Papua.”

He also protested restrictions on Papuan journalists as well as the use of journalists’ work for spying. He indirectly led President Joko Widodo in May 2015 to ask the Indonesian bureaucracy to stop restrictions on foreign journalists covering West Papua. Unfortunately, Jokowi’s order has not been fully complied with.

His courage in journalism and siding with marginalized people led the Pantau Foundation to recognize Oktovianus Pogau as a model for brave Indonesian journalists covering human rights violations and environmental destruction. The award has been given annually since January 2017.

This year’s Pogau Award jury consists of Andreas Harsono (Jakarta), Alexander Mering (Pontianak, Bogor), Coen Husain Pontoh (New York, Bolaang Mongondow), Made Ali (Pekanbaru), and Yuliana Lantipo (Jayapura). (*)

2) Benny Wenda’s daughter in Port Vila

  • By Len Garae
  • Jan 31, 2023

Left to right: West Papua’s Interim Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Morris Kaloran, Koteko Wenda, Koteko’s dad Benny Wenda and Head of Mission Freddy Warome inside Terminal

Koteko Wenda was invited to a Tannese community at Teouma Bush for lunch on her first arrival in the country last week. As the main guest at the time, she was asked to serve her lunch before anyone else. She did by serving all those present first and herself last. She is a true Melanesian!

The guest is the first born daughter of the Global Lobbyist for the freedom of West Papua and now Interim President of United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda.

Koteko Wenda, 21, is his first born daughter who was born in a refugee camp at Vanimo in Papua New Guinea.

Wenda has three daughters and two sons who are all British citizens and live in London with their mother and father, after he was granted political asylum by London following his escape from 25-year prison sentence in Jayapura.

His crime – raising West Papua’s Morning Star Flag.

Asked how his daughter travelled to Port Vila, her father said she was in Australia attending an international conference when she decided to join him in Port Vila.

“I was in prison and never met her until she was about nine months old when I asked the guard to allow her in to see me and they agreed and she came and was playing in prison for about two hours, without knowing why I was in prison,” he recalled.

“My life in prison changed when Indonesia wanted to assassinate me so I escaped at night. My daughter and her mother did not know anything and even with the news that Benny Wenda had escaped, my wife refused to believe the news after my other colleague was killed.

“I escaped across the border into Papua New Guinea and my people smuggled my wife and daughter to PNG too and hid them in the bush for six months. I wrote a note and sent it to my wife saying I was safe in England. She recognized my handwriting and believed that I was still alive.

“In 2003, one of my friends smuggled my wife and daughter who was then one year three months old to UK. Gradually I groomed her to understand why I am always away from her and her mother, that it was not money or a better life that I was searching for but, that I was on a mission.”

In 2004, the Global Campaigner again left them to come to Vanuatu. “When she grew up then she started asking, ‘Why daddy, are you always going to Vanuatu?’ he said.

“I started to explain to her that Vanuatu understands our struggle in line with our godfathers’ promotion of our struggle.”

She has arrived in Vanuatu to connect to understand the Vanuatu struggle and how it is linked to the West Papua struggle.

Asked what message he has for parents in Vanuatu, Wenda replied, “I am not in England because it is a good place or I am looking for money, but because my people are oppressed and people like me need to tell the world what is happening at home in West Papua.

“In the same way, I am telling my children to understand my mission so that when they grow up then they will continue the struggle.

“My first born daughter is already representing the next generation in the struggle, and I am proud of her every time I see her address an international forum in London or wherever concerning the plight of the West Papua people. She is telling her story and I am proud of her.”



3) Melkias Ky Trial Verdict Due

31 JAN 2023. By: TAPOL & PAHAM

Melkias Ky (23), a civilian who lives in Insum Village, Maybrat District, West Papua, has become the victim of a wrongful arrest by the police, during the trial surrounding the events that took place in Kisor, Maybrat, on 2nd September 2021. For more information on the background of this event and the broader situation in Maybrat, please take a look at our video series and our briefing.

He has already gone through four months of the trial session at Sorong District Court from October 2022 to January, and this happened after his arrest and detention, which has been since 31st January 2022.

During the trial, when called to give evidence, none of the witnesses testified that they had seen Melkias Ky directly involved in the killings. The testimony of witness IW was changed and should not be trusted.

Melkias Ky testified that during the detention and investigation in the police station, he was not accompanied by his legal team, and also that the investigator threatened him with force to confess to being an perpetrator and to sign a police investigation report that was made by the investigator. Under this threat, Melkias signed the report.

During the session, although none of the evidence produced was valid or strong, the Public Prosecutor called for a sentence of life in prison.

The defendant’s legal team asked for the judge to free him, as he had not been proven to have been guilty of the crime.

The sentencing will take place on Friday 3rd February 2023.

The arrest and trial process for Papuans are often arbitrary, showing bad practices in law enforcement in Papua. Bad practices in the law underline and strengthen the discriminatory policy of the state against the people of Papua, contributing to an increase in violence against the Papuan people, and in the conflict in Papua.


‘Terror’ bomb explodes near Papua journalist Victor Mambor’s home

January 31, 2023

‘Terror’ bomb explodes near Papua journalist Victor Mambor’s home

By Pacific Media Watch – January 24, 2023

By Dandy Koswaraputra and Pizaro Gozali Idrus

A veteran journalist known for covering rights abuses in Indonesia’s militarised Papua region says a bomb exploded outside his home yesterday and a journalists group has called it an act of “intimidation” threatening press freedom.

No one was injured in the blast near his home in the provincial capital Jayapura said Victor Mambor, editor of Papua’s leading news website Jubi, who visited New Zealand in 2014.

Police said they were investigating the explosion and that no one had yet claimed responsibility.

“Yes, someone threw a bomb,” Papua Police spokesperson Ignatius Benny told Benar News. “The motive and perpetrators are unknown.”

The Jayapura branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned the explosion as a “terrorist bombing”.

In Sydney, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) and Pacific Media Watch in New Zealand protested over the incident and called for a full investigation.

Mambor said he heard the sound of a motorcycle at about 4 am and then an explosion about a minute later.

‘Shook like earthquake’
“It was so loud that my house shook like there was an earthquake,” he told Benar News as reported by Radio Free Asia.

“I also checked the source of the explosion and smelt sulfur coming from the side of the house.”

The explosion left a hole in the road, he said.

The incident was not the first to occur outside Mambor’s home. In April 2021, windows were smashed and paint sprayed on his car in the middle of the night.

Mambor is also an advocate for press freedom in Papua. In that role, he has criticised Jakarta’s restrictions on the media in Papua, as well as its other policies in his troubled home province.

The AJI awarded Mambor its press freedom awardin August 2022, saying that through Jubi, “Victor brings more voices from Papua, amid domination of information that is biased, one-sided and discriminatory.”

“AJI in Jayapura strongly condemns the terrorist bombing and considers this an act of intimidation that threatens press freedom in Papua,” it said in a statement.

‘Voice the truth’ call
“AJI Jayapura calls on all journalists in the land of Papua to continue to voice the truth despite obstacles. Justice should be upheld even though the sky is falling,” said AJI chair Lucky Ireeuw.

Amnesty International Indonesia urged the police to find those responsible.

“The police must thoroughly investigate this incident, because this is not the first time … meaning there was an omission that made the perpetrators feel free to do it again, to intimidate and threaten journalists,” Amnesty’s campaign manager in Indonesia, Nurina Savitri, told BenarNews.

The Papua region, located at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, has been the site of a decades-old pro-independence insurgency where both government security forces and rebels have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.

Foreign journalists have been largely barred from the area, with the government insisting it could not guarantee their safety. Indonesian journalists allege that officials make their work difficult by refusing to provide information.

The armed elements of the independence movement have stepped up lethal attacks on Indonesian security forces, civilians and targets such as construction of a trans-Papua highway that would make the Papuan highlands more accessible.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, has accused Indonesian security forces of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and mass forced displacement in Papua.

Security forces kill 36
Last month, Indonesian activist group KontraS said 36 people were killed by security forces and pro-independence rebels in the Papua and West Papua provinces in 2022, an increase from 28 in 2021.

In Sydney, Joe Collins of the AWPA said in a statement: “These acts of intimidation against local journalists in West Papua threaten freedom of the press.

“It is the local media in West Papua that first report on human rights abuses and local journalists are crucial in reporting information on what is happening in West Papua”.

Collins said Canberra remained silent on the issue — ‘the Australian government is very selective in who it criticises over their human rights record.”

There was no problem raising concerns about China or Russia over their record, “but Canberra seems to have great difficulty in raising the human rights abuses in West Papua with Jakarta.”

Republished from Free Radio Asia with additional reporting by Pacific Media Watch.

Indonesian army major gets life for role in murder of Papuan civilians

January 25, 2023

Indonesian army major gets life for role in murder of Papuan civilians
Victor Mambor and Dandy Koswaraputra
Jayapura, Indonesia, and Jakarta
Papuans cremate relatives who were allegedly killed by Indonesian soldiers, in Mimika regency, Papua province, Sept. 16, 2022. Six Indonesian soldiers were arrested after being accused of killing four indigenous Papuans and mutilating their bodies, authorities said on Aug. 30.

The Indonesian military said on Wednesday that a tribunal sentenced an army major to life in prison for his involvement in the murder of four Papuan civilians, whose mutilated bodies were found in August in the restive region.

Human rights activists and victims’ relatives welcomed the conviction of Maj. Helmanto Fransiskus Dakhi before the military tribunal in Surabaya as progress in holding members of security forces accountable for abuses committed in Papua.

“The defendant … was found guilty of premeditated murder,” Herman Taryaman, spokesman for the Indonesian military command in Papua, told journalists. The tribunal also dismissed Helmanto from the military, he said.

Four other soldiers charged in connection with the killings are being tried by a tribunal in Papua province’s capital, Jayapura. A sixth military suspect – a captain – died in December after falling ill, Herman said.

Four civilians are also facing trial in a civilian court in the case, police said.

The four victims were beheaded and their legs cut off before their bodies were placed in sacks and tossed into a river in Mimika Baru, a district in Mimika regency.

Activists had said the violence degraded the dignity of indigenous Papuans amid allegations of ongoing rights abuses by government security forces in Papua.

The largely underdeveloped and impoverished region at the far-eastern end of Indonesia is where a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades. Both the Indonesian security forces and rebels have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.

Helmanto is the third Indonesian Armed Forces member to be sentenced to life by a military court in a murder case since June.

In September, police said that the killings were linked to an illegal arms purchase and that the motive was “economic.” The suspects were posing as gun runners and the victims came to them with 250 million rupiah (U.S. $16,500) in cash to purchase the weapons, officials had said.

However, rights advocacy group KontraS said that the police’s allegation that the victims tried to buy firearms was not backed by evidence because a homemade rifle, which was cited as evidence, was missing.

Police investigators had said that the suspects threw the gun into a river along with the victims’ bodies.

‘Good decision’

A spokesman for the victims’ families, Aptoro Lokbere, said he was “satisfied” with the conviction and sentence.

“On behalf of the victims’ families, I would like to thank the panel of judges for handing the sentence in accordance with the wishes of the families,” he said.

Gustaf Kawer, an attorney for the victims’ families, said the life sentence for Maj. Helmanto was a “brave” decision that should be emulated by military and civilian courts in similar cases.

“I think that a good decision will certainly positively affect the image of the state, the TNI [armed forces], and the public’s trust in the judiciary,” Gustaf told BenarNews.

The verdict could raise public confidence that perpetrators of rights abuses could be held accountable, said Atnike Nova Sigiro, chair of the National Commission on Human Rights.

“This decision also shows that the public’s wish for justice in Papua is beginning to become a reality,” she told BenarNews.

“This can increase public confidence in military justice.”

Pizaro Gozali Idrus in Jakarta contributed to this report.


2) Papuan journalist Victor Mambor says bomb attack likely due to his reporting
By Pacific Media Watch
January 25, 2023

Pacific Media Watch

A prominent Papuan journalist has said a recent bombing near his home is the latest in a string of attacks against him, reports ABC Pacific Beat.

Victor Mambor said he heard motorbikes ride past his home before a bomb exploded about 3 metres from his house on Monday.

He suspects his attackers wished to scare him.

“It’s not the first time, I have had more threats before,” Mambor said.

“They broke my my car, they threatened me through SMS texts and WhatsApp messenger.”

Mambor, editor of the Papuan news website Jubi, suspects the work he has done reporting on Indonesian-ruled West Papua has led to these threats.

I think they think I’m a journalist who supports the West Papua freedom movement,” he said.

Presenter: Prianka Srinivasan

Lukas Enembe’s Arrest Prompts Riot; Papua Police Arrest 19 People

January 11, 2023

Lukas Enembe’s Arrest Prompts Riot; Papua Police Arrest 19 People
Translator Dewi Elvia Muthiariny Editor Petir Garda Bhwana
11 January 2023 14:44 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Papua Regional Police Chief Ir. Gen. Mathius D Fakhiri confirmed that at least 19 people were detained in riots following the arrest of Governor Lukas Enembe on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.

Mathius explained that the arrest of the governor prompted riots in two locations, namely Papua Mobile Brigade HQ (Mako Brimob) and Sentani Airport, Jayapura.

“There were small incidents due to yesterday’s [incident] arrest. But we managed to quell the riot,” he said in an online press conference, Wednesday, January 11, 2023.

He outlined that two people were detained in the riot in Mako Brimob, and the rest 17 people were secured at Sentani Airport. “They are being questioned by the police,” he added.

One of the protestors, he went on, died from a gunshot wound. “We offer condolences to the family. We are also taking measures to handle it,” Mathius said.

According to him, the riot was a response act of the public because the governor is one of the respected figures in the country’s easternmost province.

“I think it’s reasonable considering bapak (Mr.) Enembe has many sympathizers, supporters, and family,” Mathius said.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Lukas Enembe as a suspect in the alleged bribery case related to a number of infrastructure projects in Papua. To date, the anti-graft body has named two suspects in the case, the governor and Rijanto Lakka.



2). Government to name acting Papua governor following Enembe’s arrest
7 hours ago

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD stated that the government would name an acting official to succeed Lukas Enembe as Governor of Papua following his arrest on corruption charges.

"Yes, there will be alternative measures. In principle, the government must not stall and its continuity must be assured," Mahfud noted at a press conference, as observed through the coordinating ministry’s YouTube channel here, Wednesday.

He made assurance that the government is ready to take judicially appropriate alternative measures to respond to Enembe’s legal cases.

"We have discussed this issue with the Home Affairs Ministry, the TNI commander, the police, the health ministry, and others. We have talked about this, just wait for the next step," the coordinating minister remarked.

Earlier, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Enembe and Director of PT Tabi Bangun Papua (TBP) Rijatono Lakka as suspects in bribery and gratification cases pertaining to infrastructure development in Papua where Enembe served as governor.

Lakka is suspected of providing Rp1 billion (US$64 thousand) for Enembe after winning the tender for three infrastructure projects organized by the Papuan provincial authority.

The three projects are the Entrop-Hamadi road improvement project valued at Rp14.8 billion (US$947.2 thousand), Rp13.3-billion (US$851.2 thousand) rehabilitation of integrated early-age educational institutions (PAUD) facilities, and the Indonesian Air Force outdoor shooting range facility improvement valued at Rp12.9 billion (US$825.6 thousand).

The KPK also suspected Enembe of receiving gratification valued at billions of rupiah. Investigations into the gratification are ongoing.

The anti-graft agency arrested Lakka on January 5, and he is expected to remain behind bars for at least 20 days until January 24.

Related news: Papua conducive after Governor Enembe’s arrest: National Police
Related news: Enembe’s arrest a legal process, must be respected: Widodo
Related news: Government officials must abide by national laws: VP Amin

Reporter: Syaiful Hakim, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Sri Haryati

Weapons export permits granted by Defence to send lethal technology to accused human rights violators – ABC News

January 6, 2023

Weapons export permits granted by Defence to send lethal technology to accused human rights violators

Exclusive by defence correspondent Andrew Greene
Posted 15m ago

The Defence Department has granted dozens of weapons export permits over the past two years to nations accused of mass human rights violations and war crimes.

The ABC can reveal approval is routinely given for Australian-made lethal technology to be sent to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia, but the federal government insists careful consideration has been given to each decision.

Official figures from Defence confirm 200 permits for "military or dual-use" exports were issued in total for the three nations between 2021 and 2022, although during the same period thousands of approvals were also given to countries such as the US and New Zealand.

Number of permits issued for military or dual-use exports

Country 2021 1 January 2022- 9 November 2022

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 17 21

United Arab Emirates 36 25

Indonesia 52 49

Greens senator David Shoebridge, who has pursued details of the deals during budget estimates, claims Australia is doing business with "some of the worst human rights abusers on the planet".

"Australian weapons are helping to fuel the brutal war in Yemen, causing the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe forcing millions of children into hunger," he said.

"It’s a war on children and these shocking new weapons export figures show Australia has blood on its hands."

Defence has declined to offer any other details of the weapon sales to the Middle East and Indonesia, but the ABC understands they include remote weapon stations, small arms, ammunition and armoured transport equipment.

"What is concerning is just how little transparency there is on Australia’s defence exports. We’re told almost nothing," Senator Shoebridge says.

Human rights activists have long accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of committing mass atrocities while leading a coalition fighting a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, one of the poorest nations in the Middle East.

For decades evidence has also emerged of alleged torture and massacres of innocent people by Indonesia’s military while trying to suppress the West Papuan Independence movement.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy says all exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia have been dutifully "assessed against Australia’s export controls legislative criteria".

"The Australian government takes its export control obligations seriously, including as a member of the international export control regimes," he said.

"The Department of Defence assesses all defence export applications on a case-by-case basis.

"This includes careful consideration of a broad range of factors, including Australia’s international legal obligations, as well as human rights, regional and national security, and foreign policy considerations."

During 2021 and 2022 Defence Export Controls approved close to 3,500 military and dual-use export permits to multiple destinations around the world, with the top five recipients being the US, New Zealand, UK, Germany and Canada.

Mr Conroy insists "if overriding risks to Australia’s security, defence, or international relations had been identified, the permits would have been refused".

Calls for Australia to follow US and Europe to increase transparency

The Defence Department consistently refuses to release details of individual weapons exports citing "commercial sensitivities", despite Australian defence companies regularly promoting their overseas sales, and other comparable nations publishing data.

Across Europe and the United States governments have moved to publish detailed information about their weapons sales, often including the precise arms involved, and their value.

John Blaxland from the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre argues the new figures on weapons exports are not surprising given the existing economic and security cooperation this country has with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Indonesia.

"Australia trades with these countries, there’s aspects of the trade that some people aren’t going to be all that comfortable with, but this is standard fare," he said.

"We can’t help but do business with these countries. To pretend that we are going to engage with them on one level and then disengage with them on another is not realistic."

However, Professor Blaxland says he shares Senator Shoebridge’s concern about the lack of transparency over Australia’s global arms industry.

"Australia can afford to be a lot more open and transparent about its transactions, absolutely," he said.

"We have a bit of a complex, we’re a middle power with small power pretentions and we sometimes need to get over ourselves."