On behalf of the ULMWP and the West Papuan people, I condemn the killing of one West Papuan and humiliating arrest of two Papuan children in Yahukimo.

After TPNPB fighter Okniel Giban was killed by Indonesian soldiers last Friday, the military arrested, tortured, and took trophy photos with two innocent 15-year-old boys. As always, Indonesia claimed that the teenagers were TPNPB members – a claim that was emphatically denied by the TPNPB themselves. Indonesia has a long history of lying about the affiliations of innocent Papuans who they have tortured or murdered. If any Papuan, regardless of age or gender, can be labelled a ‘terrorist’, then any Papuan can be killed like a terrorist.

The world must pay attention to this atrocity. The torture of children is one of the gravest crimes possible under international law. In West Papua, torture is so common that it is described by scholars as a “mode of governance” designed to suppress our rightful resistance.

Indonesia has repeatedly shown that they are deliberately targeting the new generation of West Papuans. This is a critical moment to reflect on the murder of 12-year-old Enius Tabuni, on the Paniai massacre, on the 2020 massacre of Puncak school children, on the many thousands of Papuan children who have been the primary victims of the internal displacement crisis that has afflicted us over the last six years. This is no different to what is happening in other parts of the world, as children are increasingly targeted by occupying armies. By arresting, torturing, and killing young West Papuans, Indonesia hopes to crush our spirit and destroy our cause. But the new generation are focused and determined, and will not be deterred in their quest for liberation.

Following the boys’ arrest, Indonesia took photos with the two boys, with one soldier pictured grinning as his victims lie face down in the mud. These ‘trophy photos’ are a common feature of the Indonesian occupation. The corpse of freedom fighter Yustinus Murib was mocked in this manner, as was the innocent farmer Wendiman Wonda.

These photos expose the vicious racism that lies at the core of Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua. By posing with tortured children in this way, these soldiers are showing that they do not consider them to be fully human. The soldiers are only young – barely adults themselves. They have been taught by the Indonesian system to think of West Papuans as ‘monkeys’ or ‘armed criminals’. Racism is a key part of Indonesia’s military culture in West Papua. It is the hidden engine of Indonesia’s genocide, driving and justifying the slaughter of West Papuan men, women, and children. All West Papuans are worried that this will only get worse with the election of genocidal criminal Prabowo Subianto.

These horrific photos also expose the failure of the world to take action on West Papua. Indonesian soldiers feel able to act with total impunity in West Papua because they are not punished for their crimes. Despite over 100 countries calling for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be allowed to investigate in West Papua, Indonesia has refused this visit for over 6 years now. All UN member states, whether in the Pacific, Africa, or Europe, must do more to force Indonesia to open West Papua to the eyes of the world, both by allowing the UN in and ending their ban on foreign and domestic journalism.

Until this happens West Papuan children will continue to be tortured and killed with impunity.

Benny Wenda