The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has spoken out against the ‘alarming situation’ in West Papua in an update to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the 46th session on February 25.

Vanuatu also expressed their concern over the ‘infringement of the human rights of the people of West Papua’ in their own address to the to the UNHRC on March 3, along with a coalition of 11 international NGOs, who drew attention to escalating conflict in Intan Jaya, Nduga, Puncak and Timika.

Bachelet acknowledged the rise in peaceful demonstrations across West Papua that call for human rights, accountability, and transparency.

‘Many activists, human rights defenders, environmental actors and journalists’ were ‘subjected to arbitrary detention and arrest, harassment and violence, and have faced highly punitive criminal charges and sentences.’

The end of special autonomy in West Papua, increased military operations, and plans to divide Papua into more provinces has seen peaceful demonstrations grow with brutal responses by Indonesian police.

Nine were arrested at demonstrations on International Women’s Day in Jayapura on March 8, where Malang Police chief Sr. Come. Leonardus Simarmata was filmed threatening to shoot students, saying ‘if you go past this line then I can kill you lawfully. You are a halal target. Shoot! If you enter here, then I can lawfully kill you.

The Spanish Senate added its voice to the nations already demanding a UN investigation into West Papua, on March 18, becoming the 83rd country to do so, joining the UK, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

Military operations in the central highlands region have left thousands displaced, malnourished and injured, while many Papuan civilians have been killed, victims included a mentally disabled man, Donatus Mirip, 36,  and 17-year-old boy, Melanius Nayagau.

In Nduga alone, over 50,000 have been displaced with many more in the surrounding central highlands unaccounted for. Soldiers continue to be deployed to West Papua however, and it is estimated over 21,000 extra soldiers have been stationed there since 2018.

The recent statements by the OHCHR, Vanuatu, and the Spanish Senate have increased international pressure on Indonesia to explain the sharp increase in conflict in West Papua, as global attention is being drawn to the rise in demonstrations by Papuans calling for independence.